Thursday, March 04, 2010

Colfer's Hitchhiker

I had wondered about the Eoin Colfer Hitchhiker book for a while. On the one hand, I was instantly prejudiced against it, seeing as Douglas Adams was one of my favourite authors. I loved the first four Hitchhiker books and the Dirk Gently books. I am always disposed to dislike remakes and writers taking on other author's ideas/worlds seems like cheating (although I know he was commissioned to do it so am speaking generally rather than about Colfer himself) and so unnecessary. But I was curious.

So when I spotted a copy of And Another Thing in the library, I had a real struggle with myself over whether to borrow it. I certainly would never have bought it as I didn't want to encourage that sort of thing via Colfer's coffers. The fact that it gave me a C author in my A-Z challenge helped make my decision to try it. Although since I finished my A book (Poppy Adams' Behaviour of Moths) after my B (Brookmyre's Snowball in Hell) it's a bit of a mucked-up challenge already, but never mind!

Spoilers follow:

It wasn't a totally bad book. I thought Colfer achieved a similar tone to DA and it's nice to see those characters again. But there were some glaring mis-steps as far as I was concerned: things like Arthur Dent being voted most likely to do, well, anything in his yearbook. To me, yearbooks seem very American and certainly not late '70s/early '80s England, and that's where Arthur came from. He was disconnected from his time (of still thinking 'digital watches were pretty neat') in a number of ways, and not in an appropriate-to-the-story science-fictiony way.

Colfer put in a lot of references to what had gone before in the series, but in a very clunky manner that seemed to say "Look, I read the books!" Throwaway characters and funny asides were dragged back and, worst of all , explained (like the collapsing Hrung disaster). Ghastly.

The sidenotes from the Hitchhiker's Guide itself were very badly formatted into this book, pasted straight into the text of the story. They were intrusive, not particularly funny and, worse again, not clever. Where this book really suffered was that there was a lack of ideas beyond the basic plot. Perhaps Colfer was afraid to stray from the knowns of the Hitchhiker universe, but while Douglas Adams wasn't adverse to some low humour and punning, there were loads of ideas in what he wrote. His tangents were fun & inventive, while Colfer's were laboured and seemed desperate to tie up loose ends that never needed tying in the first place. He also totally rehashed some of Adams' fun ideas. If you remember Mr Prosser's hun ancestry* manifesting itself in 'a thousand hairy horsemen shouting at him in his head', then another minor character's innerlife being depicted virtually identically seems lazy and, well, a bit of a poor show on Colfer's part.

Colfer also seemed afraid of Ford and Arthur, probably because they're so well-loved, and so they have extremely little to do in the novel, while we spent far more time with lesser characters. The depictions of Trillian and Zaphod didn't really work for me either, however.

I don't think Colfer did a bad job, and I liked what he did with Wowbagger, largely. Ultimately I think trying to bring back Hitchhiker was a mistake. I should think that fans were disappointed and critical, as I am, while those new to the series wouldn't be swept away by it.

* In the first book.


Gopi said...

I don't think I'll read this after that review!

Mephitis said...

Well, I think it's for people who like Colfer and haven't read Adams.

Welcome to the blog, btw. :)