An Audiobook Review: The Ultimate Question is, “Why?”


And Another Thing

By Eoin Colfer

Published by Hyperion AudioBooks

Read by Simon Jones

The Book:

Did we really need a sixth volume in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series? Apparently someone thought so and like so many Douglas Adams fans, I was interested in seeing how Eoin Colfer would continue the series, especially since it seemed to me that Adams had done his best to kill the series with the fifth book, Mostly Harmless.

I’m not sure who started the notion that the series was a trilogy in four, five and now six parts, but I suspect it was a marketer with dreams of being imaginative. I recall it being called a trilogy when the third book, Life, the Universe and Everything, was published so when book four, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, came out it was called (on the cover) the fourth book of the Hitchhikers’ Trilogy possibly because the marketer’s vocabulary did not include the word tetralogy. Well, whatever. I suppose I am picking nits to question that. It is just that the joke is wearing incredibly thin already.

Sadly, so too is this story.

When last heard from, Arthur Dent, Trillian (and Tricia McMillan) and their daughter Random Dent along with Ford Prefect and, for that matter all the infinite versions of Earth had just been destroyed by the Vogons and the Grebulons. Kind of hard to come back from that, isn’t it? Well, for that we can blame the BBC.

The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy started out as a radio series in 1978 with a second season in 1980. They spawned an adaptation on two LPs (Kids, once on a time us old folks listened to music on disks, but our disks were a bit larger than what you are used to, being 10 or 12 inches in diameter and most of them were this really cool black in color and to play them you needed a high-tech device we used to call a “Record Player.” No, really! I’m not making this up! Anyway LP stands for Long Play) the first book and a TV series. Eventually, we got the rest of the books and a movie. Each time the story was told it was a bit different and that made it fun for me since each time I more or less knew where it was headed, but not how it would get there.

Anyway, while the 2005 film was being produced someone got the notion that Books Three, Four and Five should be adapted into radio series too and that took some doing as the second season did not follow much of any of the books, but they managed it and except for the  discontinuity between were the second series ended and the third began it was a lot of fun to listen to, but when they got to the end of the fifth series it was decided that killing everyone off was too much of a bummer so at the moment of death our heroes suddenly found themselves at Milliways, the restaurant at the end of the universe, and instead of dying they had a really good meal.

So rather than starting out with a dead cast of characters, a very short book and a ridiculously easy writing project for Mister Colfer, we have a bunch of well-fed characters all ready to continue their adventures in an infinitely varied universe… or is it?

It is always a difficult task to write in another author’s world. It is even more difficult to copy another author’s style and it must be admitted that Douglas Adams’ style was unique and very hard if not impossible to copy exactly. To even make the attempt may have been the real mistake.  The first half the book, at least read like a dull recap of the first five and included all the same jokes, all the same characters, creatures and so forth in the same way rabid fans repeat Adams’ jokes to each other. However, I was hoping for new jokes, not tired retreads of stuff I’d read and reread for years.

To be fair Mister Colfer does attempt to insert some new characters and their back stories in the latter parts of the book, but they fall even flatter than the same old faces we already know so well. Story-wise, this moves all around and yet just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. However there is one interesting situation in which the Earthling colonists on another world and two groups of zealots find themselves at odds with one another as competing fanatics do. However, which it is an interesting situation, the resolution just does not make it. Nor could I really bring myself to care about the Vogon captain and his son. Also having the old “It was all a dream” excuse trotted out really ruined my enjoyment.

In all, I think Eoin Colfer would have done better to try to tell a story in Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Galaxy in his own style and with an entirely new set of antagonists, rather than attempt a slavish and boring, flawed imitation of Douglas Adams.

The Audiobook:

 Simon Jones played Arthur Dent in the Radio, the LPs and TV Series, so it is safe to say his rendition of Arthur Dent sounded exactly like what I expected Arthur Dent to sound like. Unfortunately his Ford Prefect also sounded exactly like Arthur Dent and his Zaphod Beeblebrox sounded like a bad imitation of Mark Wing-Davey (who played Zaphod in the same performances Mister Jones player Arthur).

However, aside from his deficiencies at doing voices other than his own Simon Jones did read this book fairly well. In fact, I think it was his reading alone that got me through the entire book because when I tried to read it I had to keep putting it down and go on to read something else instead.

So, it’s a good reading of a poorly conceived and executed book. It was nice, in a way, to see our old friends one more time, but perhaps the BC and Mister Colfer should have left them dead. If you feel the need to experience the full Hitchhikers’ series, then definitely listen to this recording rather than read the book.

This entry was posted in Audio Books, Books, Humor, Reviews, Satire, Science Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to An Audiobook Review: The Ultimate Question is, “Why?”

  1. Pingback: An Audio-Book Review: Forty-two | Jonathan Edward Feinstein's News (and Reviews!)

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