And Finally it’s Time to Panic

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Even a clever sequel only reminds you of the loss of Douglas Adams

Samrat Chakrabarti

AND ANOTHER THING
AND ANOTHER THING
Eoin Colfer
Penguin
288 pp; Rs 399

THERE IS a harsh truth that hitchhikers around the galaxy will have to face up to – Douglas Noel Adams left before his teatime and there’s no other imagination that can power the improbability drive in quite the same fashion as he did. And Another Thing starts off where Mostly Harmless ends – the surprisingly dark point with Ford, Arthur, Trillian and her daughter Random, sitting in Club Beta facing certain destruction along with the rest of the Earth; a bureaucratic victory and job well done for the doggedly persevering Vogons. In And Another Thing the gang is rescued, in the nick of time, at first by the Heart of Gold with Zaphod behind the wheels (The improbability drive letting him go where he’s least expected ) And then again, a few minutes later by an ‘Alien’ and his ship (one of Adams’ great side-characters who in this book becomes central to the plot) and the hitchhike begins.

Eoin Colfer is a clever writer, with skill and humour and his technique is in ample display. He retains Adam’s zaniness but plays it a heavy hand. For example, the Guide notes are much too long and wordy and the ‘further reading’ is much too frequent. It actually becomes irritating after a while. He keeps to the broad characterisations but they can’t be exactly the same and so it takes some time to get used to ‘the-same-butslightly’ different Ford, Arthur and Trillian. Random comes into her own and Colfer explores her truculent relationship with her mother, which does get interesting. Eoin does a decent juggling of scientific terminology to make the tech interesting and updated although nothing as wildly comically absurd like the Bistro drive for example. Some of the gags should have been retired, but he does make it funny.

It is clear that Colfer, a successful writer himself (of the best-selling Artemis Fowl series), is a big longsince- childhood-fan of theHitchhiker’s Guide. To his credit, he does not try to write exactly like Adams, but his own voice lacks the humanism of Adams and the big man’s lightness of touch. Adams’s genius for absurdity and insight drew heavily from his own life: from his love of computer programming and a resume that ranged from being a chicken shed cleaner, a bodyguard to a scriptwriter for the BBC. That DNA is very hard to replicate. What Colfer has achieved, with commendable skill, is a great piece of fanlit.

One waited eagerly for a copy of And Another Thing, buoyed by the prospect of meeting Arthur and Ford and Marvin after all these years, in a one-for-the-old-times-lets-get-drunk sort of a way. The old gang showed up and Eoin Colfer bought us a round of pan galactics and we laughed for a bit, but soon Arthur started missing his tea, Ford got incoherently drunk, Marvin didn’t show and even though Eoin, said funny and intelligent things, we felt the sharp twinge of an Adamsized void at the table.

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