Still reading: Oxygen, the Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane.
Previously: And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer.
I had to check and see when my last official Now Reading post was made. January. January!? And it says I was reading Cat’s Cradle. Somehow I managed to… er, lose that book… just like the one I was reading before that. But it’s okay, because I actually found it again a few weeks ago in my laptop bag.
Sadly, my reading habits have changed just a bit. I used to read books every day during my lunch break, and occasionally a bit more at bedtime. Now, I’m almost always looking at Twitter at lunchtime (@erikrebooted, by the way) and StumbleUpon-ing into the wee, wee, wee hours.
The most important reason behind this change is simply that my phone is a lot more convenient to carry along on the long trek to the neighborhood’s eateries than even the slimmest mass-market paperback.
Regardless, when I discovered that a sixth book had been written for the Hitch Hiker’s Guide series, curiosity got the better of me, and I made a point of reading it. Though I’ve heard of Eoin Colfer, I haven’t read any of his other books. Had I done so, I’d perhaps have had a better idea of whether he was simply writing in his own voice or was in fact doing a somewhat loose impression of Douglas Adams. If he really was just being himself, then great. I can totally support that. If he was doing an impression, well, we all know that Douglas Adams left some fairly large shoes to fill.
There were a few stylistic issues that seemed out of place. For example, the inclusion of interior monologue was a rarity in the original books. Another example was the impersonal presentation of the various Guide Notes that popped up throughout the text. These only served to make me miss the old narrator’s segue, “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide has this to say about…”
As for the story, the presence of numerous literal gods makes it feel as though it belonged more to the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency series. A couple of signature characters were remarkably absent, and another was changed enough to be almost unrecognizable. Of course, that change may have been part of a larger gambit to camouflage any subtle characterization flaws. Another part of this gambit could have been to decision to have a few other characters spend a few subjective decades in virtual fantasy worlds. And a third part of this gambit could have been to frame the entire story as something that was found in the Guide itself— something well known to contain facts that are wildly inaccurate, or at least, apocryphal.
Another minor nitpick I have is that the Galaxy is, by definition, a big place. The original books suggested this bigness by constantly mentioning new people and places. Conversely, this book mentioned only previously-mentioned mentionees. Of course, this is pure fan service, for who wouldn’t want their favorite supporting character to be mentioned again? However, it makes the setting feel limited.
So, how do really feel about this book? I think that writing a perfect match to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide would be a difficult task, perhaps as difficult as trying to split one specific strand of human hair with a razor blade thrown from a distance of twenty feet. And Another Thing is a nice try. I feel the same way about this book as I did about Tron: Legacy. I wish it had been presented as a standalone work rather than as a continutation of an earlier work, for I will be unable to judge it without comparing it to that earlier work.