Fearful Symmetries

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09 June, 2010

And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer



When I first heard that Eoin Colfer was to pen the sixth installment of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, I was ambivalent. On the one hand, he wasn't Douglas Adams and messing with books that helped lay the groundwork of my geekness back in the early 1980s seemed like sacrilege. But on the other hand, nothing is sacred so I thought it only fair to wait for the finished product. I mean, why being prejudiced when Colfer might actually come up with a winner?

As time went on the book finally got published and I ignored it. While I didn't rush out and buy it, neither did I trash it or ostracize it. Actually, I had no plans to read it but this changed after I found a copy in the bargain bin for $4.98, I couldn't resist. I found it to be, like Capital Supper Club, not bad.

And Another Thing begins with Ford, Arthur, Trillian, and Random on Earth Mk II in Club Beta. They are living in holographic worlds, essentially, leading separate lives. The Vogons, wishing to make sure they do their job of destroying the Earth right, have the Grebulons destroy the second incarnation of our lovely blue-green ball. An appearance by Zaphod in the Heart of Gold almost saves the day except that Ford engages in a debate with the ship which renders it useless. Luckily Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged shows up to finish insulting the human race and gives our heroes a lift.

However, Wowbagger insults Zaphod by saying multiple times that he has a fat arse. This results in the President of the Galaxy seeking out Thor to kill Wowbagger, who is immortal, while the rest of the crew head off to the planet Nano on which resides the last outpost of humanity who were put there by the Magratheans. Now, when the Vogons get wind of this, they seek out the planet to finish off humanity so they can finish the job they started at the beginning of the series and finally lay some paperwork to rest.

While the story is not bad, it does retread a lot of old ground – Zaphod to the rescue, Vogons intent on destroying humanity, the Heart of Gold getting stuck in the face of peril, et al. I wish Colfer had made up his own scenarios and actions instead of going over the same old ground. As far as his writing goes, he certainly does a decent imitation of Adams but he goes over the top. The first half or so of the book reads like he's trying to prove that he's up to the task instead of simply plying his trade. There are too many entries from the book early on. Indeed, it seems like there's one every other page so Colfer can demonstrate just how funny he is and how many wacky alien races he can conjure. When he stops this and gets down to letting the characters interact, he writes some damn fine dialogue. I think he captures the characters well and Zaphod is a blast.

Reading the book I was reminded of one of the things I really didn't like about the Hitchhiker's movie. The film version of Zaphod is just a big dunce whereas the literary character is over-confident and a bit hapless, yet lucky, determined, and charming in his own way. Sam Rockwell's President of the Galaxy gets 0 out of 10 for style. Colfer, to his credit, gets Zaphod right.

A few other things. Firstly, Arthur kinds of disappears towards the end of the book. He should have been more actively involved in bumbling and almost screwing things up. Secondly, Random, a teenager, is pretty annoying. (A tautology, I know.) On the flipside, I appreciated the scene where Hillman, the leader on Nano, is interviewing deities for his people and invites Chtulhu in for a chat. Lastly, I commend Colfer for sticking to some of Adams' themes, namely raking on bureaucracy, religions, etc. He over does it occasionally but, for the most part, the satire was effective. He even updates the series by equating the Sub-Etha with the Internet, which I'm sure DNA would have done himself.

Like I said above, And Another Thing is not bad. It's just not particularly good. It leans towards the pastiche heavily when I think it would have been better served by Colfer injecting more of his own voice and creativity into the mix. Despite all its flaws, it was fun reading about Zaphod, Ford, Arthur, and Trillian again. May they rest in peace.
|| Palmer, 11:30 AM

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