Tuesday, 20 October 2009

And Another Thing . . . Final Thoughts

Okay, so I finished And Another Thing . . . , the sixth H2G2 book. At first, I was frustrated by it. It's a very slow burner. Then I quite got into it. Then I got frustrated again. Then it got going again. Then it dragged a little. Then it ended on a good note which left me feeling satisfied.

And let me preface what follows by saying I really wanted to hate this book. But I didn't. I'm one of those rabid fanboys of H2G2 who can quote entire scenes from the radio series and refuses to believe the film continuity is anything but non-canonical. But this, overall, wasn't a bad book. In terms of the post-DNA contributions to the universe, AAT stands above the film but below the later radio series (which in turn come behind the last two books, then the TV series, then the first three books, then the first two radio series).

This book wasn't as funny as it could have been, and in places, needed a damn good editing (Eoin doesn't seem to believe in the semi-colon, it seems). The jokes regularly needed tightening up, and very few were laugh-out-loud, like the original series' gags. So, onto the details . . .

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Zaphod: Zaphod is something of an antagonist in this book. And considering he's my favourite character in most versions of H2G2, I really didn't like him much of the time in this book. He was too dumb, too shallow and not witty enough. Eoin hasn't given him enough credit. I also didn't understand why Zaphod had to graft his head onto the Heart of Gold. It seemed to take something from Zaphod when he only had one head. But that's most likely a personal thing. Zaphod is dumb and conceited, but he's also very resourceful and entertaining, and I didn't get much of that in this book.

Marvin: Since Eoin had resurrected the story and the crew, effectively, he could've at least brought back one of the fans' most beloved characters. Marvin would've added some really heart to this book.

Random: For most of this book, I couldn't stand her. This was mostly DNA's fault, although I did like the whole presidential thing. It made her slightly less two-dimensional.

Trillian: Denied much of the 'hidden shallows' of her previous incarnations, and also the wit and dry humour that put her a level above the inept males around her.

Arthur: Almost spot-on, but the continued uses of the term 'mate' seemed too modern and not inkeeping with his mannerisms. This is an Etonian whose hobbies include tea and hot baths. He would not repeatedly refer to people as 'mate'. This was so grating I nearly tore the book apart by p.30.

Ford: Again, not as funny as previous incarnations. A little less daring. Pretty much accurate, otherwise.

Vogons: Believable, but the whole Constant Mown storyline seemed too easy. I also took issue with the description of thermonuclear devices to destroy Earth. The Vogons explicitly used demolition beams ('Energise the demolition beams!'). There was also no mention of the Vogons' vendetta against Arthur and Zaphod, either. It was almost as if Jeltz had forgotten about them altogether.

Thor: He was one of the good points of the novel. Although, Eoin barely even touched on the relationship between Thor and Trillian, except in passing. I think she made more of an impression than Eoin suggests.

Wowbagger: Trillian and Bow Wow in love was not a good development. It made me cringe. DNA wasn't particularly sentimental, but it seems EC is.

The Book: Plays a very minor part. The jokes don't seem developed. I think Eoin should practise his comedy writing skills. It's not enough that he can write fantasy with humour in. This is predominantly a comedic franchise.

Ideas: There was a lack of new ideas that frustrated me. I wanted new characters as well as old. I wanted new worlds with interesting stories.

Plot: Painstakingly slow at the beginning. EC goes against DNA's habit of quickly moving on past cataclysmic endings with technical faults, sheer luck and hilarious one-liners. EC doesn't, and makes us languish in an overly-long, drawn-out opening which could have been dispensed with much quicker. Zaphod swooping in and saving the day was the least original get-out-of-jail-free card, and so it should have been dealt with swiftly. But it wasn't. Although I do like the nod to the fifth radio series, when Trillian remarks it was her Babel fish that saved her in the virtual reality.

There were also fewer events than your average H2G2, which is perhaps built on a series of 'sketches' or dramatic turns that seem rather random at first and then all slot together at the end. EC's plot was more fluid, with fewer events occurring and with more time devoted to each. This slows the pace and makes for more involved reading than the traditionally short H2G2 books. I guess the brevity of DNA's books perhaps comes from starting the series as a radioplay. Maybe EC could have researched that genre to make the novel feel like the others. Then again, I guess he wanted to put his own stamp on the series, which I can respect, but which is probably not the point of contributing a new sequel to a beloved series like this. As a fan and a reader, I didn't need someone else's stamp on the series. I liked the series because it had DNA's stamp on it. If it was going to be continued, it should have felt more 'authentic'.

So overall, a good book, but not a great one, and probably the weakest of the H2G2 'trilogy', but worth a look anyway--especially if it means we may get more adventures containing the characters we love.

1 comment:

  1. Having reread my review, I think I make the book seem worse than it actually is. I will also point out that I did quite like the open-endedness of the book. I also liked all the stuff about gods, Zaphod as a manager of Thor and Random's 'husband'. The Big Cheese stuff was mildly stupid but acceptable, and Hillman getting goat legs was unsubtle but mildly amusing. I guess EC suffers from not being quite zany enough.