Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Entirely Unfair Partial Review Of 'And Another Thing'

I know. You're all probably thinking the same thing. "Why on earth would you even buy such a thing? 'Authorized sequels' to the works of famous dead authors tend to be on a par, in literary terms, with microwaved three-day old leftovers of gourmet meals. They are like finding out that the Lion's Tap is out of ground beef, so you decide to stop by McDonald's because you're really in the mood for burgers." (This is a reference that makes a lot more sense if you live in the Twin Cities.) "Why would you even bother reading one?"

The answer is, basically, that I really hated the ending of 'Mostly Harmless'. It was a bleak, morose read that even Douglas Adams said was not the place he wanted to leave the series, and it was only the fact that there was one deadline even the world's most famous procrastinator could not ignore that kept him from writing another book. A sequel to 'Mostly Harmless', even a sequel by someone who was decidedly not Douglas Adams (and really, apart from Douglas Adams and possibly Neil Gaiman, who is?) was superior to leaving the series where it ended.

And having gotten a bit over two-thirds of the way through the fully-authorized sequel, what do I think? Well, I'm not actually embarrassed to have bought it. But if I was Eoin Colfer, I think I might be embarrassed to have written it.

The real problem is the humor. Let's face it, Douglas Adams was known for creating brilliant, intricate, chinese puzzles of sentences that made his digressions so famous that everyone assumed he didn't create proper plots. (The actual truth is that he did create proper plots; it's just that his main characters made a point of not necessarily caring about them or even understanding them, so you had to read the novels several times to realize they had happened.) He was inventive, almost carelessly so, and his dialogue was full of strange and beautifully warped language.

And Colfer...Colfer is one of those people who thinks that it is tremendously funny to quote other people's jokes. He is the sort of person, in any conversation, who will try to crack you up by reciting Monty Python and never actually realizes he is the sort of person that XKCD made fun of. His attempts to pastiche Douglas Adams revolve around sly, winking little references to "forty-two" and ""Hotblack Desiato" and "tea" and the lines that Adams generally wrote a joke about and then moved on to writing new jokes about new things. He brings back characters as though this is generally more of a reunion special than an actual, proper book. And the plot, such as it is, mainly revolves around getting the characters out of the scrape they were in at the end of the last book and to what could reasonably be considered a happy ending. It is, suffice to say, not particularly ambitious.

And yet, I more or less expected exactly that. I didn't have high hopes for the book, I didn't really care if it would be any good--and that's not any kind of slight against Colfer, who I am given to understand is a very popular writer when he's not being asked to finish off someone else's story without the benefit of notes. So yes, it is unfair to complain about a book being bad when I didn't expect it to be good and haven't even finished it yet.

And yet, here I am doing it. This is why you couldn't pay me enough money to do an authorized sequel, because I know that there would be people out there like me waiting to write reviews like this about it.


Anonymous said...

I always took "Mostly Harmless" a take that. Adams gave closure and happy ending in the previous book and somebody went ahead and forced him to write "Mostly Harmless". At least it happened just like that in my imagination. As far as I am concerned things in that book didn't happen.

Unknown said...

I never understand the popular dislike for Mostly Harmless. Beyond the book being extremely inventive and often hilarious, that ending seems like the philosophy of the series taken to its logical extreme. I'm hard-pressed to imagine a more brilliantly appropriate ending for the series, cynical as it was.

John Seavey said...

I will admit, it did hold up much better on re-reading (which I did right before reading 'And Another Thing...') It is extraordinarily well-written, but I think it's just a little hard to take after 'So Long and Thanks for all the Fish'. There was so much joy and love in that novel, and 'Mostly Harmless' systematically strips it all away and leaves Arthur with nothing...not even his life, at the end.

Knowing the ending is coming makes it a little easier to cope with, but it's still a tough read at times if you're not ready for some very bleak storytelling.

Tales of the Boojum said...

For my part, I found "And Another Thing" to be, well, mostly harmless. I pretended it was a tribute rather than a sequel. Given that, I'm all for letting some other writers play in Adams' sandbox. I'd love to see some Neil Gaiman or Jasper Fforde or some ex-Pythons in there. And it makes me really sad that Terry Pratchett won't be well enough to have a turn.

Jeff McGinley said...

I got "And Another Thing..." only because it was on the remainder shelf, and saw it the same way, as a tribute. Mostly Harmless really knocked me for a loop when I first read it, when it completley destroyed the happy ending from the last book. I missed how much cool stuff was in it because of that. My advice, do what I did, get a copy of the final scene from the Radio show of Mostly Harmless and stick it in the back of the book, Happy Endings all around, and it all fits together nicely!

Unknown said...

Wow, this totally clashes with my experience with the series. I was hugely disappointed with So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, which spent too much time sitting in place and was way too soft. (The series' cynical edge is much of what I love about it.) The fact that all the happiness accumulated in that entire book was discarded in a single throwaway bit of narration almost redeemed that entire episode's existence in my mind.