Monday, January 21, 2013

And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer

I was surprised when I found this novel on an unarranged shelf of hardcovers at the local Dollar Tree. It didn’t seem so surprising after I finished it.

As far as funny sci-fi goes, Eoin Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame) aimed high. At the top of the front cover of And Another Thing . . . are these words:

Douglas Adams’s
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Part Six of Three

Like I said, he aimed high. Unfortunately, he missed.

The Story — One of Five Stars

Cover of
Cover via Amazon
The sad part about this novel is that it contains the seed for a good, interesting story about the colonization of a manufactured planet. But then Colfer tried to drop that story into Douglas Adams’s universe, like making a banana split with kosher pickles.

The good part of the novel involves the colonization of the artificial planet Nano (manufactured by the Magratheans, naturally) and the problems that go along with it. The central problem is the lack of a deity to guide the people of Nano. So the planet’s “manager,” a shyster named Hillman Hunter, is trying to find a “Grade A god,” which leads to my favorite cameo in this novel: Cthulhu.
“Our last god was a less is more kinda guy. Sent his son down, but didn’t show up too often himself. I think, and no disrespect to the man himself, that was probably a mistake. I honestly believe that he would put his hand up to that himself now if we could ask him. What I’m asking you, Mr. Cthulhu, is: Are you going to be a hands-on god or an absentee landlord?”

“Oh, hands-on, absolutely,” he said, leaning forward to make clear eye contact as Hastur [the Unspeakable] had advised. “The days of blind faith are over. People need to know who is blighting their crops or demanding virgin sacrifice. And now I am going to look away, but only because prolonged eye contact will drive you insane.”

That could be a fun little story, but it’s unnecessarily intertwined with Vogons trying to wipe out all Earthlings everywhere (and in every dimension), an immortal insulter looking for someone who might be able to end his life, and good old Zaphod Beeblebrox trying to bring Thor back to prominence in the universe while turning a tidy profit.

The Writing — Two of Five Stars

Eoin Colfer tries too hard to be funny, and he does it in a way that interrupts the flow of the story. The novel is peppered (dandruffed might be more accurate) with “notes” from the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself, usually to create a joke where one didn’t exist, or to try to prop up or redirect a joke that was already there. For example, take this statement from Heimdall (yes, the Heimdall of Norse mythology) to Zaphod:

“Misunderstandings? Misunder . . . Zark me. You have a lot of nerve. You have enough sheer bloody gall for an entire bucket of gallstones.”

Guide Note: Gall stones: light gray pebbles found on Damogran. Very cheeky. (101)

I chose one of the short examples here simply for brevity’s sake. Imagine one or two hundred words of moderately entertaining badinage shoehorned into every third or fourth page of an otherwise straightforward story. In short, it couldn’t build any momentum.

Without these sidebars, the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself makes an appearance only at the very beginning and very end of the novel. Perhaps Colfer thought he needed to keep reminding us of which fictional universe we were in.

But it wasn’t all bad. It gets two of five stars because there were some gems hiding in there. Some quotable quips, precise puns, and decent wordplay — like this one:

Alone. That was the dreaded word. He, Arthur Dent, was a lone man, alone and lonely. On loan from another dimension. A low no one with no one to lean on. (269)
Eoin Colfer, at Great St Marys Cambridge
Not Douglas Adams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
douglas adams inspired "Hitch hikers guid...
The late Douglas Adams
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Eoin Colfer is no Douglas Adams.

And Another Thing . . . is very put-downable. I don’t recommend it to anyone but die-hard Douglas Adams or Eoin Colfer super-fans, just to say you’ve read the entire corpus. If that describes you, look for it at your local Dollar Tree.

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