16 March, 2010

Book 49 - "The thunder grumbled over the hills, like a man saying "And another thing…" twenty minutes after admitting he's lost the arguement."

Title: And Another Thing (2009)

Author: Eion Colfer

Why this book:
Because it is the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, and I have read every other of the five books.
What's it about?
At the end of the last book, written by the series' original author, Douglas Adams, Arthur Dent (the hero of the long-running series) died.

Well, sort of. Despite the Vogon's best efforts to eradicate the entire human race, Arthur, his daughter from another reality, and Trillian (also from an alternate reality, but not particularly different to the one Arthur had previously known and been in love with) are saved at the last minute (possibly accidentally) by the formerly two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox.

If you haven't read the Hitchiker's Guide series, you are no doubt by now incredibly confused. Basically, here is what you need to know: Arthur Dent is, entirely by accident, frequently one of the last human beings left in the universe. This time, he finds that there is a human settlement left on a distant planet - that's good news. The bad news is that the Vogons - a bureaucratic and murderous alien race - are already on their way there to kill them. Meanwhile, Zaphod is having a little trouble with some Ancient Greek Gods, and Trillian has fallen in love with an immortal alien who would really like to die.

Can Arthur save the rest of his race? Can his daughter come to terms with her mother's new boyfriend? Can Zaphod make some serious money? And can Ford Prefect realise his dream of being seriously froody? Or is this the end for everyone... er, again?

The Good and the Bad
I was a little skeptical about this book, but only a little. The ending of its predecessor, Mostly Harmless, was so depressing that even if this book had been written by George Orwell during a particularly bad bout of toothache it could only be an improvement. My biggest worry was that Colfer would try too hard to ape Adams' writing style, and it would come out as flat and uninspired. Because that's happened to me once or twice before. I was only familiar with Colfer from his Artemis Fowl series, which was sci-fi, yes, and a lot of fun, but definitely aeons away from Adams' work.

Luckily, my fears were never to be realised. Colfer revels in a style that is entirely his own, but with a sense of humour which matches Adams' exactly. I actually laughed out loud while reading, which isn't exactly a frequent occurrence for me. He also manages to inject a small amount of humanity into the Vogons - well, into one of the Vogons - without it feeling like he's destroyed something that Adams created. Rather, Colfer has added something new and creative to the legion of Hitchhiker's canon.

The biggest problem I had with the book was to do with the actual layout of the text, not the writing itself. In Hitchhiker's tradition, the story is interspersed with excerpts from the famous intergalactic traveller's companion, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But in my copy of And Another Thing - I don't know if it was like this in every edition - the excerpts were only distinguishable from the story in that they were italicised. Reading that much italicised text was a little painful, and it actually felt like the story was being interrupted, rather than supplemented. Hopefully they'll do something a little different with it in future editions.

So should I read it or what?
There isn't any point reading it if you haven't read the rest of the series, of course, but a. you should read the rest of the series, and b. if you have, but you've been avoiding this one because it's not Adams, let go of your anger, young padawan, and give it a go. It's worth it.