Not long ago on Facebook, someone posed the question, “When do you give up on a book and stop reading?” I thought about this and determined that, if I look at how many pages I have left in a book and I’m actively dreading it, that’s when I quit. I had 188 pages left in And Another Thing when I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
God knows I don’t quit a book likely. I’ve slogged through my share of banality and dreck just to give the author his or her due. If this novel had been simply uninspired or inane, I’d have made it. But somehow this final installment to Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker series manages to be tedious. I almost quit reading several times, but I soldiered on, thinking this has to get better, and how can I not complete a book that has fewer than 300 page? I’d put it down, determined to walk away, then come back and say, “Let’s give it one more chance.” Four pages later, I’d “nope” right out again.
The Background: At the end of Mostly Harmless, installment #5 in the Hitchhiker trilogy, the Earth was again about to be destroyed along with our heroes Arthur, Ford, and Trillian. Adams later admitted that Mostly Harmless was pretty bleak, and he would possibly, someday, maybe think about writing a sixth book so it could end on a lighter note. He died in 2001, having not gotten around to that installment, and 8 years later (17 years after the publication of Mostly Harmless), we got And Another Thing, written by Eoin Colfer and approved by Adams’s widow.
The Problems: First, it’s simply not funny. After 85 pages, I hadn’t chuckled at all and I’d barely smiled. Granted, I was probably around 17 years old when I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the first time and thought it was hilarious. Maybe none of the books are funny? I’m afraid to revisit them lest I destroy a fond memory, but surely they were funnier than this? Funnier than Random (Trillian and Arthur’s child) howling over her guinea pig husband Fertle?
Second, remember how Hitchhiker used to include funny asides from the Guide, such as the entry for Eccentrica Gallumbits, the far-famed triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six (or as Zaphod calls her, “the best bang since the Big One”)? And Another Thing includes copious entries from the Guide, presumably to disguise the absence of plot. In 85 pages, we’d barely gotten from the bar where Arthur, Ford, Trillian, and Random were about to be destroyed to the the inevitable rescue by Zaphod on the Heart of Gold. By my rough count, there are 23 entries to the Guide in the first 85 pages. Every three and a half pages, Colfer stops what little action there is to add an aside that was likely taking up space in his writer’s journal. I can’t blame him for wanting to use every idea he had because if there is any justice, this will be the final book in the series.
Third, there seems to be a desire to include mega references to characters from the previous novels. This isn’t bad in itself, except that it’s overdone and I quickly had enough of it, much like how I wanted to walk out of the movie theater when Boba Fett showed up in Attack of the Clones. Wowbager from Life, the Universe, and Everything figures prominently in the plot, which is fine, I suppose. But every time Colfer introduces a throw-back character, he takes pains to explain who they are, as if anybody but a hard-core Hitchhiker fan would read this book.
The novel takes its name from a line from So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: “The storm had now definitely abated, and what thunder there was now grumbled over more distant hills, like a man saying ‘And another thing…‘ twenty minutes after admitting he’s lost the argument.” Sadly, this novel similarly appeared long everyone had stopped asking for it.