And Another Thing…
Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Part Six of Three
by Eoin Colfer
What is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a 5-book trilogy by the late Douglas Adams. It’s a British science fiction comedy based on Adams’s radio series that eventually also became a television show, a film, and various other incarnations. The series became a cult hit.
Hitchhiker Summary: Arthur Dent is an ordinary Englishman whose drinking buddy Ford Prefect shows up at his house one day and says he’s actually an alien journalist for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and that the world is about to be blown up. So the two of them hitch a ride on the Vogons’ spaceship, get thrown out the airlock, and get rescued by Ford’s semi-cousin Zaphod Beeblebrox, ex-president of the galaxy and escaped spaceship thief. He’s currently dating a woman from Earth named Trillion who Arthur remembers from a party in Islington. The two of them are the last Earthlings alive. They go to Magrathea where they learn that the Earth is a computer trying to calculate the question of life, the universe, and everything (they already know the answer is 42). The commissioners turn themselves into mice and observe the humans on the planet, but vogons blow it up before the calculation is complete. Our heroes end up going to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, stealing a spaceship, and landing on prehistoric Earth where they learn that humans are descendents not from cavemen but alien hairdressers and telephone operators.
Ford and Arthur escape prehistoric Earth via Chesterfield sofa and save the universe from xenophobic krikkit warriors. They end up on an Earth in a dimension where Earth hadn’t been blown up where Arthur falls in love with a girl name Fenchurch who vanishes as soon as they get on a spaceship and enter hyperspace. Depressed, Arthur retires to a planet where he resigns to making sandwiches forever. Trillion, who’d bought Arthur’s sperm at the sperm bank years back, shows up and drops off the teenage goth daughter Arthur never knew he had. Random, as she’s called, steals Ford’s spaceship and the Hitchhiker’s Guide Mark 2, which looks like a bird and tricks them all back to Earth where the vogons show up and blow them up all over again.
And Another Thing: The 5th H2G2 book didn’t end very happily, and Adams thought 6 was a better number for a series, but he died before another book could be written. The publishers commissioned the 6th book from Irish author of Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer, a fan of H2G2.
H2G2 Mark 2 locks Arthur, Trillion, Ford, and Random in a bubble of artificial reality where they live out 100 years of whatever they want. When the batteries run down, they are dismayed to find they are still on Earth and the vogons are still about to blow up the planet. Zaphod comes to the rescue, but before they can take off, Ford freezes the ship by asking Zaphod’s spare head (who’s been wired into the mainframe) complicated questions. They are rescued by Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, who takes them through dark space where Wowbagger and Trillion fall in love. Wowbagger goes around the universe insulting people in hopes that someone will be able to kill him because he hates immortality. After insulting Zaphod, Zaphod promises to get his buddy Thor to kill Wowbagger. They go to a planetoid where Earthlings are living safe from the blown up Earth. Thor comes to fight Wowbagger, but then the vogons show up to destroy them.
Colfer says that this is meant to be more of a “if you like H2G2, then you’ll like this,” but it is very much a sequel. Stylistically, he said he was going to do his own style, but he actually adapts Adams’s style more than I thought he would. The comic phrases, tangents, and playing with words. The tangents, though, are set aside in different fonts and labeled “Guide Notes.” They are trivial facts about other races, just like in the original books.
I’m most impressed with the way Colfer was able to write the characters. Ford, especially. I always heard Geoffrey from the radio show when he spoke. Most of the other characters sounded and acted true to the original too. Zaphod was a little iffy sometimes, but no complaints mostly.
Plotwise, it’s not nearly as epic as Adams’s stories. A lot of words go by with not much happening. I felt like the first half of the book went by and they still hadn’t gotten off Earth while it was being destroyed. Then there was a lot of dilly-dallying with convincing Thor to come help Zaphod.
There were a lot of tools that Adams’s left behind that Colfer picked up. We get vogons, animals that want to be eaten, and even Agrajag in the end. I am wondering if he’s inferring that Arthur is actually The Ruler of the Universe because he seems like him in the hologram in the beginning and then he winds up on a beach toward the end. And the mention of a cat…
Thor plays a big part because Adams loved to use Thor, both in a H2G2 book at the flying party and in the second Dirk Gently book. Colfer definitely takes Adams’ view of religion into consideration when writing about how the new planet of earthlings (Nano) gets its religion. The ruler, Hillman (a new character), interviews gods and goddesses for the position of Nano’s god. The process takes so long, religions start to pop up on the planet without an official god in position, including one about worshiping cheese. It’s funny how atheists like Adams and Pratchett write about how silly religions are but also say flat out that there are gods in their worlds, such as Thor.
H2G2 is 30 years old, so it’s interesting to see how it’s updated with the progression of the internet. The H2G2 was basically the first handheld internet device before such a thing existed. Now that they do exist, Clofer takes advantage of it by adding universe-wide sites equivalent to YouTube and eBay. Thor’s fame is determined by how many ratings he gets on his internet videos, and Ford maxes out his card on uBid.
Overall, it was a good ride with some thrills for the fans that encounter little references to previous adventures. It has all your favorite characters except for Marvin and Slartibartfast. It’s insightful, satirical, and funny. Okay, it’s not what it would have been had Adams written it, but he wasn’t trying to BE Douglas Adams. So if you did enjoy the first five H2G2 books, I’m sure you will also enjoy And Another Thing.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not hear about Arthur Dent falling in love?