And Another Thing (book, Eoin Colfer, 2009)


From SFX 190.

www.sfx.co.uk

THREE STARS

Eoin Colfer/Penguin Michael Joseph/ 340 pages/£18.99 HB

ISBN: 978-0-718-15514-8

You’d thought you’d heard the last of Arthur Dent, so did he. We were all wrong.

Posthumous publishing is not new, but whether you think ignoble or not rather depends on one’s relationship to the original material. Like, will you devour literally anything with a Wookiee in it, or are you a ‘just the three original movies’ connoisseur?

On the one hand, you could look at Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert’s prolongation of Dune as the happy continuation of a family business, blessing given by the patriarch; or as a money-spinning exercise in colouring all the obvious bits left knowingly blank by the original author. Then again, it’s hard to fault the work of Christopher Tolkien. Move away from book lines mixed with bloodlines, to the likes of Tarzan, Cthulhu, or Holmes, and things get properly messy. This is franchise land, where the original texts get buried by posthumous invention Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones weren’t all part of a single, magical pantheon when HP was alive, and Holmes only came to constantly sport that Deerstalker after he hit the big screen, but in the minds of many that’s what they’re all about now. It’s enough to make a purist swoon, even if such tinkering bears the ineffable stamp of mythology in the making.

That the full title of Eoin Colfer’s book is Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Part Six of Three And Another Thing leads us to think that this most quintessentially British space comedy is heading the way of Starbucks (whether or not it is ironically acknowledging that by sporting such a monstrous moniker is by the by, as is the notion that Adams was gaily skipping down that route anyway, perhaps).

A certain lifelessness is the hallmark of the post-mortem franchise. It’s a bit like religion, the holy men seek to preserve what’s already there. Okay, no heretics get burnt, but no new ground is broken either. Many jokes about towels and lemon-slice wrapped gold bricks and Major Cows are presented for our enjoyment. All the jokes are delivered well, for Colfer, creator of criminal genius/ techno fairies Artemis Fowl saga writes in an engaging manner, but the book lacks the mad imaginativeness of Adams (though again, it could be said his  last two books in the series were also heading this way). This is a book with a beat, and it goes ‘character banter, character banter, Hitchhiker’s Guidebook aside’ and that makes it predictable. Good comedy is not predictable.

The story is upbeat. Arthur and co are rescued from an imminently-to-be-destroyed Earth (again) by Zaphod and whisked off on an adventure that takes in the last colony of humans, Vogon pedantry, and Thor the Thunder God. And it ends, well, kind of well. Is this right? Adams’ books were amusing because they exhibited such crushing misery at the inability of sentient beings to get their act together. There’s little of that here. So Adams said he wanted to finish the saga on a more upbeat note, but with Mostly Harmless published in 1992, he wasn’t exactly rushing to get it done. Despair was his thing; and there’s a happy Vogon in this.

With its mythological concerns and cheerful end, And Another Thing is more Tom Holt than Douglas Adams. That’s no bad thing, but they’re certainly not the same thing. Still, H2G2 fans, of which there are millions, will no doubt buy it by the ton. This isn’t the end, we think.

Did you know?

Colfer was initially opposed to anyone at all, let alone him, continuing the saga, but Adams’ widow and daughter, both fans of his, helped talk him round.

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