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It's life, Eoin, but not as we know it...

Entry 1613 posted in: 2. DNA

You are in this city, that isn't your own but that you visit once or twice a year, and you know this nice little resto where they serve an excellent spaghetti carbonara. Let's have a spaghetti carbonara you hear yourself say and you stroll towards the square where the bistrot is located. The house is still there but instead of Il case di Vitollino (or something similar as you have a problem remembering the exact positions of vowels in Italian names) the place has now been called The Bull's Bollocks.

When you enter the restaurant the walls no longer depict frescos from past Italian pastimes, including wrong anatomical representations of fishermen and their fishes, but stuffed goat heads and other satanic paradigms. But the menu, probably out of habit, still has spaghetti carbonara and so that is what you are heading for.

The meal arrives and you start eating, as you are very hungry, which is why you entered the restaurant at the first place. The bites go in smoothly and it is only after a while that you remark a foul aftertaste in your mouth. The taste grows with every chew until you are so disgusted that you slide the plate apart swallowing down the bad taste with the cheap Chianti that was probably left over by the previous owner.

You pay, say that the food was delicious out of politeness and hastily leave the place.

The city will never be the same again.

The above tale allegorically recounts what I felt on page 134 of the sixth part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, originally written by Douglas Adams, and now continued by Eoin Colfer. I quit reading the book and turned the volume of my iPod a bit higher. Tomorrow's just another day.

My conclusion was, so you fast-paced readers do not have to delve deeper in this post, that And Another Thing was like going to a tribute band gig but that deep down inside you wished you had listened to the greatest hits cd instead.

Now for some fine-tuning.

Douglas Adams was of course victim of his own overnight H2G2 success. We all know that he started writing a radio series that became a major cult hit (isn’t that a contradiction?) and from then on the guide would guide his life.

The first two books were a more or less accurate rendition of the radio series (omitting, for copyright reasons, the two episodes that had been devised by John Lloyd). In the third novel Adams recycled a Dr. Who script that had never made it to the screen and although the result was rather messy its many anecdotes only added to the legend.

By then Douglas Adams was larger than life, the universe and everything and people, wearing digital watches and thinking they were very important, just started to wave blank checks in front of him.

Waving with blank checks in front of him had a certain effect on DNA as well (it has to be said, even Adams’s cool initials had market value). In one of the biographies (Hitchhiker, by M.J. Simpson, page 233) the story is told how Target Books wanted Adams to novelize his three Dr. Who scripts presenting him the usual fee of 600£, not fully realizing that the author would only reluctantly start his Mac word processor after an advancement of one million pounds – per book.

The fourth novel in the increasing inaccurately named H2G2 trilogy, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, isn’t generally nominated by the fans but it is by far and large the most personal of the Hitchhiker saga. Douglas Adams and his alter ego Arthur Dent are in love and the whole world has the right to know it. Only in the last chapters the focus is shifted from the Earth to the Universe and in one of his darkest passages Adams kills off one of the most liked personae of the series. No wonder that some fans were outraged, and Douglas also felt that some parts of the book didn’t come out as he had expected. This was probably because number 4 had been written in a rush, DNA had passed several deadlines for the novel and in the end the editor simply hijacked Adams and stayed with him in a hotel room until the novel was finished (this is a true story). The result was that some parts had better been edited out or rewritten entirely. Despite its weaker parts, Fish is my all time H2G2 favorite; the flying love scenes and the cookie incident are the best things Adams ever wrote.

The fifth tome of the original series more or less pretends its predecessor didn’t happen. Fenchurch, Arthur Dent’s love of his life, has been literally vaporized in hyperspace and Arthur suddenly gets the message from Tricia McMillan that he is the father of her child, Random.

When the uncontrollable girl flees to the Earth she doesn’t realize that the planet she lands on is located in an alternate universe. Arthur Dent traces her back and lands on (the duplicate) Earth as well. The whole scheme is a plan by the Vogons who want, once and for all, get rid of all earthlings and all the parallel instances of our planet.

The book ends in a nightclub where Random Dent, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and two different instances of Trillian are waiting for the imminent destruction of the planet.

Douglas Adams had told in the past that the fifth book wasn’t going to be the last because he was a bit annoyed as well with its bleak tone. The final book should be a bit more upbeat, he promised, but then he did of course the utterly stupid thing of dying.

Of course Adams is entirely to blame for that. If he had consulted the Hitchiker’s Guide he would have known that sport and middle-aged men match together as Vogon and poetry.

In a controversial study, Physical Exercise (2006), biologist Midas Dekkers has written about the bad consequences of sport and how the ‘exercise is good for you’-cult has infiltrated the (medical) world.

All those hours spent in gyms and sport clubs are a complete waste of time; they will not make your life any better or longer. In fact, sport causes injuries and heart attacks and is therefore likely to shorten your life, is his well-defined opinion.

Adams is not the only victim of that. When my landlord had a heart attack he was obliged by the hospital to attend post-cardiac-arrest-gym sessions twice a week, to prolong his life.

You already guessed it. The first time he ran two rounds around the hospital he dropped dead on the Red Cross spot. Probably this is an easy and ingenious way to lower the Belgian state health insurance costs. The good thing is I could buy the house I lived in for a very cheap price after that, so long live sports.

But this post has been going on too long and I haven’t said a decent word yet about Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing.

Of course I read further on a few days after I had put the book aside. All in all the book is not that bad and in one occasion, in casu the planetary cheese battle, quite cheeky and hilarious. This is the one time I really laughed out loud.

All over the work there are guide entrances, printed in italics. I know DNA liked to put these as well, but sometimes it feels a bit forced and overdone as if Colfer had to be reminded that it was time to use a Douglas-trick again.

Someone at the DNA newsgroup said that he found the book was not that bad either, but he felt that the characters were out of character sometimes, meaning that they are no longer Adams’s characters but those of Eoin Colfer, which is quite natural, but also rather frustrating.

I liked it. I didn't love it.
I did giggle aloud several times.
I found myself feeling mildly repulsed by some of the character changes on the odd occasion (the occasional utterance seemed jarringly out of character for example -
"$Character wouldn't use that > phrase!").
Generally the positive outweighed the negative.
The Wordsmith, 31 Oct 2009 07:42:08 GMT.

To be honest, the book quite puzzled me and from time to time I was going through these mixed emotions ranging from ‘this is so brilliantly close to H2G2’ to ‘what the heck (not to use that other word that can be easily replaced by Belgium) he is writing about now’.

The comparison with a musical tribute band is not that far fetched, I realize now. Those bands try to be as close to the original as possible, but they aren’t, and will never be. You catch their shows from time to time, but they are easily forgotten afterwards.

Colfer doesn’t do a bad job but I fear I would never have read this without the H2G2 logo even if he continues adding in messages that are directly destined at me:

You look gorgeous in that sweater, Felix. There is no way anyone is going to call you a freak and throw you in a dumple composter. (p. 237)

I feel this review is rather unsatisfactory, perhaps these are slightly better:

And Another Thing… a review @ Thorx.
A Totally Improbable Review @ Wired.
Douglas Adams is re-born in Eoin Colfer's masterful prose, says Euan Ferguson @ The Guardian.
My dog apparently thought the book might be delicious @ Mazerlodge.
And another thing @ Lloyd Gilbert.

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