December 17, 2009

BOOKS: And Another Thing..., Eoin Colfer (2009)

The original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a work of comic genius, and survived its transition from radio play to the printed page surprisingly well. Douglas Adams showed a marvelous gift for writing goofy anecdotes, witty one-liners, and entertaining digressions. The plot was never the point; it was only there to be the minimal framework required for all of the meanderings, which is where all the good stuff was.

Alas, Adams wasn't content to have one brilliant success under his belt; he dragged the series on for four more books, each a further demonstration of the law of diminishing returns. The later books were never truly horrible, and there was always an occasional gem to be found in them, but those gems were fewer and farther between with every book. As sad as it was when Adams died at the young age of 49, there was a part of me that was almost grateful that at least we wouldn't have any more disappointing Hitchhiker books.

Ah, but these days, mere death needn't be an obstacle to cashing in on a successful series. New novels continue to be published under the name "V.C. Andrews," and she's been dead since 1986; Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne marches on in books by Eric Von Lustbader.

And here's Eoin Colfer with the sixth installment in the Hitchhiker's Guide series. Like the later Adams books, it's not unreadable. It's just uninspired and unnecessary. The familiar characters -- Arthur, Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod are all back -- don't feel quite themselves, and the jokes never land with the same zip that Adams gave them in his early books. Colfer has given us a second-rate imitation of an author who had already become his own second-rate imitation. For Hitchhiker completists only.

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