Part six in the hallowed Hitchhiker’s trilogy. I only heard about this book a couple of months ago, but it’s one I immediately pre-ordered. At the same time I was scared. How could anybody in his or her right mind pick up and attempt to continue this series. The original four books literally changed my life and had a big or bigger impact on the other millions of fans that read and reread them. Who could have the unmitigated gall to put pen to paper and move the story of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian forward?
Eoin Colfer, that’s who. I’ve seen his Artemis Fowl books on the shelves and contemplated picking them up several times but I never had, so I came to this book totally ignorant of the authors abilities. Frankly I had a great amount of doubt whether anybody could pull this off, luckily Eoin ignored the naysayers like myself and plunged forward and knocked out a solid volume.
It’s not like Adams made this a particularly easy thing to do. It’s never easy to try and follow somebody as iconic as Adams anyway but the way Adams finished up book five Mostly Harmless made the job even more daunting. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the difficulty level of extracting our favorite planet hoppers from the pickle they were left in at the end of Mostly Harmless is at least part of the reason that Adams didn’t continue the story himself before his untimely demise. I think I remember reading somewhere, and in the great Hitchhiker’s tradition I refuse to actually look this up, that even he wasn’t that happy with the way he left things, so I guess in a way Eoin is doing Adams as well as us a favor.
But is it any good? Short answer, yes. It’s a bit plotty, there seems to be an awful lot of stuff going on, especially at the beginning but after a while it settles down and becomes a Hitchhiker’s book. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but I think it’s safe to say that the book starts out with an improbable rescue and involves some chasing around by Vogons. Wowbagger the immortal shows up, we get introduced to Prostetnic Jeltz’s son Constant Mown. There are some lines of Vogon poetry tossed around but the faint of heart will be relieved to know that it’s not used to torture anyone in this book. Oh yeah, Zaphod goes to Asgard to have a word with Thor.
There are enough references to the other books to keep the fans happy but besides a bit of stuff that happens early on a knowledge of the prior books isn’t absolutely necessary. The beginning could be a little confusing to new inductees to the Hitchhiker’s world though as even I got a little fuzzy on a couple of things at the start, of all the books number five, Mostly Harmless, is the only one I have only read once. Nothing a determined reader couldn’t power through though and believe me it is worth plowing through. The book does settle down and start hitting a lick around chapter five or so. The hardback is 273 pages long and the pages turn fast. It’s an easy one or two evening read. If your flying across the country it might get you there, but don’t count on it getting you back home.
Like I said at the beginning I had a lot of doubts about this book and frankly those fears grew through the first bit of the book, but persevere. It does find itself and there were several moments I felt the same sense of wonder I did the first time I read Hitchhiker’s. Actually now I’m even more curious about those Artemis Fowl books.