Let me state this first: I am a massive Hitchhiker fan. Not to the point where it becomes sad-loner going to a convention level, but damn close – I’ll probably take my wife. I first read the initial trilogy when I was ten and Life, the Universe and everything had just been published. I immediately wanted to become a writer and started to write my first ever novel right then. I still have it at my parents house.
I have since read everything Douglas Adams has written. Several times.
So when I first heard that a new Hitchhiker book was being written I was initially excited. Then I thought about it and started to worry. How would someone go about this? Try and mimic Adams exactly? Surely that wouldn’t work, as he had such a unique voice. Try their own style? Too distinct and it would hardly be book six, more an adventure ‘in the world of Hitchhikers’. I was concerned.
Unbelievably, in my humble opinion, Eoin Colfer somehow managed to get it pretty spot on. It feels like a continuation of the series but is clearly not written by Adams.
The characters are well done and are the people (and aliens) we all know and love. Arthur Dent, with his quintessential English-ness and obsession with tea and baths, was pretty much modeled on Adams himself. Colfer wisely moves him from the centre of attention. Most of the main protagonists seem to share the limelight fairly equally with perhaps Zaphod Beeblebrox edging slightly ahead. Which is never a bad thing. The first three books didn’t really flesh out the characters much and it never really felt all that necessary. The latter two had a bit more characterization but not as much as this.
The original books were more about character types progressing through a series of adventures and ideas. This is more about the characters. Fortunately they are all familiar and enjoyable characters. In addition to the usual cast of Arthur, Ford, Trillian, we have Random Dent (who first appeared in Mostly Harmless), Thor (yes the god who appeared in The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and Norse mythology), Wowbagger the infinitely prolonged (that guy who accidentally became immortal and is now trying to insult the universe in alphabetical order), and a load more. They are all good.
It is here that I noticed the biggest difference. Colfer spends a lot more time on the characters and description of places than Adams ever did. Consequently the pace feels slower. Mr Colfer is a great writer so this never feels too detrimental to the book but you get the feeling that if Douglas Adams had written the same sequence of events it would have comprised about half the number of pages with no loss.
Another difference is that the original felt a lot more philosophical. It had a lot more epic ideas dealing with, for example, life the universe and everything. The scope felt bigger somehow. And Another Thing… follows a lot more of a linear narrative without so many of the huge ideas tackled in the originals. Taken as an episode, this doesn’t matter all that much, it just felt different.
The book is thankfully, very funny. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments and by that I mean I actually laughed out loud – as opposed to an internet buffoon in a forum typing LOL each they come across something mildly amusing. As I stated above, Mr Colfer is a great writer and fortunately, he is also a funny one. The little asides as the ‘Guide’ interrupts the narratives are there although at times they veer dangerously close to being slightly formulaic and this was never the case with the original. They never quite cross that line though, and are generally amusing and add to the novel.
So was I disappointed? No. Not at all. This is a superb book. Not as good as the originals, but I guess I was always going to say that. As an episode of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy it works well. It is just a bit different. The difference is that of an awesomely funny philosopher/sci-fi writer (Adams) compared to a more modern but almost as funny sci-fi writer. It is not quite as good or far reaching as the originals but it is certainly a welcome addition to the series. The title is apt. Highly recommended.