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25 May 2011 @ 07:27 pm
And Another Thing...  
It's a long time since I read any of the Hitchhiker books and in the intervening years I have come to categorise a certain class of humourous writing as "not as good as Douglas Adams". The Hitchhiker's style is deceptively simple - throw lots of random space wierdness on the page, preferrably with a few vaguely comic made up names and you're done. Of course the trick is to write random space wierdness that is sufficiently close to real life that it's actually funny.

Come to think of it, I didn't think the later Hitchhiker books were as funny as the first two (maybe one and a half) and that Mostly Harmless was positively bitter in tone. I don't know if that was a result of the fact that, I get the impression, Adams didn't really want to write them or that even he was hard pushed to keep bottling that particular piece of lightening. It is also so long since I read them, that I wonder how well the early ones have survived the test of time.

In all events I read, rather grimly, through the first half of And Another Thing... thinking "not as good as Douglas Adams". But I was also struck by how unlikeable most of the characters seemed which they never did in Adams' hands, even though Zaphod, in particular, was frequently not merely thoughtless but deliberately cruel. I think it would be fair to say that, Arthur Dent aside, none of the Hitchhiker's characters had a much of an inner life and existed, initially at least (see above remark about Mostly Harmless) primarily to make or feed jokes. So it was a bit of a shock to suddenly find out what was going on inside their heads. Moreover the presentation seemed a little clumsy with Trillian, in particular, lurching awkwardly around the vista of parental guilt and resentment and all of them prone to abrupt changes of mood or outlook.

Then, somewhere along the way, I rather warmed to them and, as a result, to the book.

This isn't a comic classic. It's at it's weakest where Colfer attempts to emulate Adams' prose style, in particular his comic surreal space wierdness asides. But Colfer does share Adams' gift for creating an absurd situation and then treating it seriously within the story. He invests many of Adams' characters with more depth than Adams gave them and, despite my reservations, makes you care about what happens to them. In the end the book won me over. I'm not sure it was wise to ask another author, even one with Colfer's reputation, to carry on Adams' story but, at the end of the day, this is a lot better than something which is "not as a good as Douglas Adams".

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/43573.html.