Just finished reading ‘And Another Thing…‘, Eoin Colfer’s contribution to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I think most people would accept that Douglas Adam (bless his soul) began to drift off a bit with this series in the latter part of the over-extended trilogy. However, ‘And Another Thing…‘ seems to take ‘drift’ to a whole new dimension (literally).
Set directly after the end of the last book, Arthur Dent and company face immediate peril – the possibility that the Earth (or at least the one they’re on at that moment) will be destroyed by an alien fleet in orbit. It seems Arthur carries this sort of thing around with him, putting any planet he lands on in harms way eventually.
Right from the start, Colfer challenged my efforts to enjoy the book by writing those little bits that Douglas used to do – comparing an event or activity in the text with some comparable alien equivalent. I just flicked through The Hitchhiker’s Guide and Mostly Harmless, but for the life of me can’t find an example of Douglas doing it. Colfer does it with alarming regularity, in spits and spurts, throughout the book. In addition, the italicised Guide entries in the book now include annoying, and often not-very-funny, ‘You might also read…’ suggestions. At one point, Colfer actually writes a short Guide entry, noting that it will be kept short so as not to impede the narrative flow of an ‘action sequence’ and yet elsewhere in the book it happens again and again. The Guide feels irritating rather than entertaining or informative.
On top of this, Colfer doesn’t seem to wholly grasp the personalities of the characters. Zaphod, deprived of his Left (and more intellectual) Brain, nevertheless seems far more focussed than the party dude president of the rest of the trilogy. Arthur Dent, depressed about the loss of Fenchurch, wallows endlessly and never really gets going as a result, sidelined by the other plotlines around him. Ford reminds me of the movie version of the character rather than the one from the book… All in all, nothing seems to sit quite right, despite Colfer’s no doubt considerable effort to emulate the incarnations of past books.
As a light-weight humorous work of science fiction, I wouldn’t be overly harsh in my judgment of ‘And Another Thing…‘, but the very fact that this is the sixth book in The Hitchhiker trilogy sets the bar higher than run-of-the-mill funny scifi – and I end up feeling let down…