I was done with you, you old dead grump.
Yes, I liked the Hitchhiker series in my early adolescence. Early adolescence is the right time for silly stories finding the funny side of planetary extinction and philosophical fail. A send-up of the whole sci-fi genre was long overdue, and Douglass supplied them in witty style. The first three books, anyway. The humor was dry and silly, with a cheerful “Where the hell are we going now?” spirit to the proceedings.
Then you took the thing back to Earth for So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. I never understood what was going on in that book, but I slogged through it, even though I hate sci-fi that has anything to do with earth. And I read Mostly Harmless, which should have been called Have I Not Yet Made it Perfectly Clear That Life is a Bleak Futility? Because it is. Everything is Boring and Everyone Dies.
We got the Joke, Douglas. We got it at the end of Restaurant at the End of the Universe. No, before that. You know the scene where Ford Prefect, smashed on a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, tries to explain how the whole Restaurant works to Arthur, and babbles incoherently about bathtubs filled with sugar? That’s when I got it. Everything is beyond our understanding and communication itself is an impossibility. Ha.
And you know what was really missing from these latter stories? Zaphod Beeblebrox. And not the brainless, smarmy, cowboy LOLWe’reMakingFunofGeorgeBushLOL movie version. I mean the snarky, ski-boxing, BattleBot-defying, so-hip-you-could-keep-a-side-of-meat-in-him-for-a-month hellofaguy from the books. The guy who promised to reprogram Eddie the Computer with a very large axe. Parody of space adventures require a parody of a hero, and by the Cat Who is Called The Lord, Zaphod Beeblebrox was that parody.
Arthur is a nonentity: your basic ReaderProxy who stands around with a confused look on his face. The comic effect of this diminishes somewhere around the third book, which is why the whole Agrajag scenario was necessary. Ford Prefect is a fine character, and I enjoy his increasing bitterness as the series progresses (the line about looking for gin is the only thing from So Long that my memory retains), but becoming more of a drunken sot isn’t the most creative arc devised for a character. Trillian is far and above the smartest humanoid character in the series, which she makes up for by having the personality of a crumpled sock. Having these three knuckleheads moaning about for two books just made you miss Zaphod and Eddie and Marvin (yes, he’s in So Long, for the express purpose of killing him off via a device that is about a tenth as funny as it thinks it is, so that he can be replaced by Random, who’s about as much fun as an actual sullen teenager. Pleh) the more.
So I was done. The books sit, dust-farming on my shelf, spared the the Goodwill drop off by laziness as much as nostalgia. Haven’t read them in years. Fine with that. And you can’t mind, because you’re dead, which kindly spares us any more Dirk Gently books. And I appreciate that.
But you just had to leave notes for a sixth Hitchhikers book behind, didn’t you? So your literary corpse could be robbed like Frank Herbert’s and Robert Jordan’s by whatever kind of author that enjoys wearing another man’s skin? Notes that involve the return of Zaphod and Eddie, and plucking Ford, Arthur, and Trillian from their probability-defined doom?
The fans hate it. Of course they do. The critics tutted it. As they must. I can’t imagine what we might see these fools do that would be worth the price of admission.
But am I going to read it? Yes. I must. Because the story was over, and now it isn’t, and amid the cold ashes of my geekery there’s a spark that cares just that much.
Damn You, Douglas Adams. Even in Death, your spirit pesters me.
The good news: it was published in 2010, and I never noticed. I seem to recall someone telling me about it at a party, and me dismissing it with extreme prejudice. So now I can pick it up at the library.