When Douglas Adams published the fifth book in his famous Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy in 1992, it was a bitter pill for fans to swallow. After So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish’s sweet romanticism, the bleakness of the apparent final volume, Mostly Harmless, was an ill fit, and even Adams himself admitted he wasn’t satisfied with it, promising a follow-up would be forthcoming. When Adams passed away in 2001, though, he left a body of work planned but unstarted, including that long-hoped-for HG2G novel that might’ve rectified the previous one’s thoroughly unhappy end. Now Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series, with support from Adams’ widow, Jane Belson, has taken up where Adams left off, with And Another Thing… The result is inevitably a compromise, but by no means a bad one.
Arthur Dent is having a time of it. His home planet has been destroyed more than once, he’s left his towel someplace that most likely does not have good dry-cleaning, and the love of his life vanished in some kind of interdimensional space-jumble thingy. At the start of And Another Thing…, Arthur is trapped on yet another Earth with his teenage daughter, Random; her mother, Trillian; and Arthur’s best friend and sometime acquaintance, Ford Prefect. Unfortunately, this Earth is about to be blown up just like all the others, and only the last-minute arrival by Zaphod Beeblebrox, former Galactic President and all-around swell guy—actually, no, he isn’t much help at all. Eventually an escape is engineered, but once the smoking ruins of the planet are left behind, the question is, what happens next?
What happens next has always been an issue for the Hitchhiker books, and to his credit, the plot Colfer manages to improvise is perfectly in keeping with the established universe, revolving around angst-ridden Vogons, drunken gods, and shallow shaved apes. It’s a little too perfect, actually; one of the book’s big flaws is Colfer’s tendency to keep bringing in characters and gags from earlier entries, and the resulting flood of nostalgia is at times more distracting than entertaining. Colfer also isn’t nearly as funny as Adams; he relies too much on silly words instead of punchlines. Still, it’s satisfying to have Arthur and the rest rescued from the purgatory Adams banished them to, and enough of the jokes land to keep the pace moving. Another Thing isn’t the novel fans may have wanted, but it’s the best that could be hoped for under the circumstances: fast-moving, respectful, and in the end, mostly harmless.