10 August 2011

And Another Book

"And Another Thing..." is the sixth book in Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy, written by Eoin Colfer of "Artemis Fowl" fame.

While I support fanfiction for fun, for some reason, I don't usually like the idea of someone picking up where the author left off, even if it's authorized (in this case, Mr. Adams's widow Jane Belson gave the okay). I guess I'm generally skeptical that whatever the new guy/girl does won't really measure up to the original.

This was the case with Mr. Colfer's continuation of one of my favorite book series—but it doesn't mean I didn't have a good time. Once I got over my own disdain a few pages in, I was reconnecting with characters I loved, and the storyline itself was definitely something Mr. Adams might have cooked up himself.

I have only two complaints, really, though they're related.

First, some of the characters had out-of-character moments. For instance, the series' hero Arthur kept feeling really concerned about his daughter Random. The last time I'd seen him, he was still coming to terms with the fact that he had a daughter at all, and any actions out of fatherly concern were very self-conscious—I barely know this kid who showed up on my doorstep. I'm not even sure that I like her, much less love her. For goodness's sake, she throws rocks at me. I'm only trying to connect with her / save her life because it seems like something a dad would do, but I still have to get my head around the idea that I'm a dad at all.

When he's not freaking out about something weird and spacey, and before and after Fenchurch, Arthur's default emotion is the kind of stoicism one assumes because you know that actually freaking out will only cause you even more discomfort. The way I see it, his disconnect from his daughter is partly rooted in this default mode, and partly out of the fact that he barely knows her. In this new book, though, Mr. Colfer has Arthur moaning about being about to lose his daughter half the time—hardly a week after they first met.

It might be something to do with the psychological effects of travelling through dark space*, but then Arthur spent most of that journey chatting to the computer simulation of his lost love Fenchurch, and his post - dark space epiphany had more to do with moving on from his heartbreak than it did being a good father. He spends barely any time with Random at all in this book, so the moments where he suddenly acts very fatherly feel very superficial.

Second, there's not enough Arthur to begin with. Arthur is my favorite character in the series because he's an everyman. I'd like to be Trillian the astrophysicist-turned-journalist or Fenchurch the ordinary but sweet—the only female characters who undergo anything resembling character development in the series—but it's Arthur I want to succeed, Arthur I want to find roots in a strange galaxy after losing his home planet, Arthur I want to finally have a decent cup of tea.

"And Another Thing..." gives most of the action to the other characters. These characters are less ordinary, and their choices have always propelled the story more than Arthur's, but at least Arthur was usually around to give me the lost Earthling's perspective on some of these events. This time, whatever happens to Arthur kind of just bookends the plot, and I feel the book might have been better had Mr. Colfer written more for him.

That said, I did enjoy the book, and it was funny. I'd still recommend it to other H2G2 fans with the it's-not-Adams-but-it's-fine reservations.

Also, Arthur wasn't the only character I rooted for; do keep an eye out for "utter bastard" Constant Mown.

* "For a being of light, gazing even for a moment into the heart of dark space has an effect equivalent to a dozen near-death experiences. It's the Universe's way of telling you to get on with your life. Which is a good thing if the feeling budding in a person's heart is a good feeling." – Chapter 9, "And Another Thing...", by Eoin Colfer

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