And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer is the incredibly unnecessary sixth book in the late Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, and the first one not written by Adams himself.
I don't know why -- given the decline of the last couple Hitchhiker's books written by Adams himself -- but I had kind of high hopes for this book. The basis for my optimism was the thought that the right writer might be able to bring back the light touch of the early entries in the series. And Colfer tries. Man, does he try. I mean, he really, really tries.
I also figured that at worst I'd spend a few pleasant hours with some familiar friends. Instead, it was too often more like a few really dull hours with guests who had overstayed their welcome, run out of discussion topics, and just started repeating the same stories. There are some good bits in here, and the book improves a bit towards the end when Colfer finally gets the plot moving towards its conclusion. But it suffers a couple of real problems:
Character Claustrophobia -- Colfer recycles our usual main characters (Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Trillian); adds in Arthur and Trillians's annoying daughter Random from the last couple of Adams books; and promotes a few obscure minor characters (Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, Thor) to supporting status. But none of the main characters seem to have anything new to do, nor do they show any growth, just a prolonged stagnation. Worse yet is the lack of new, compelling characters. One of the things that made Adams's original series great was the feeling that just around the page you would meet yet another new and infinitely weird character. This read's more like Sartre's No Exit.
Weak Prose and Storytelling -- The other sense of stagnation comes in some of Colfer's prose. He often has a nice feel for the Guide entries with a slightly officious diction, but that same voice sometimes carries over into the narrative segments and drags them down. He also seems to lack Adams's brisk narrative storytelling gift. One upside to reading this is that I gained a new appreciation for how Adams must have really internalized those years of writing and editing scripts for BBC radio and TV. There was an urgency in his stories that's lacking here.
Having said all that, I don't know that I can or should advise you to not read this book. It was occasionally nice to have the band back together. And there were some good bits in there. Nothing side-splittingly funny, perhaps, but it was entertaining enough in places
And perhaps that's the real problem. By the end of his fifth Hitchhiker's book, Douglas Adams had already run out of steam and wasn't living up to the brilliance of the first few books. There's no shame for Eoin Colfer in also not being up to Douglas Adams at his absolute peak. But that doesn't mean that there's any particularly good reason for you to read this thing, either.
Summary: Oh, who's kidding who. If you read the other Hitchhiker's books, you know you're going to read it eventually. All I'm saying is this. Go get it at the library. At least that way you won't be out twenty bucks, and you won't be encouraging them to write another one that you'll also feel compelled to try.
Amazon: And Another Thing...
Where and How Acquired: Science Fiction Book Club.