"An Englishman's continuing search through space and time for a decent cup of tea . . .
Arthur Dent's accidental association with that wholly remarkable book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, has not been entirely without incident. Arthur has traveled the length, breadth, and depth of known, and unknown, space. He has stumbled forward and backward through time. He has been blown up, reassembled, cruelly imprisoned, horribly released, and colorfully insulted more than is strictly necessary. And of course Arthur Dent has comprehensively failed to grasp the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Arthur has finally made it home to Earth, but that does not mean he has escaped his fate. Arthur's chances of getting his hands on a decent cuppa have evaporated rapidly, along with all the world's oceans. For no sooner has he touched down on the planet Earth than he finds out that it is about to be blown up . . . again."
When it comes to novel sequels, whether authorised or unauthorised by the original author's estate, we as readers always feel our hackles raised in suspicion. Pamela Cox's sequels to Enid Blyton's school stories and Gilbert Adair's follow-ups to the Peter Pan series leave me cold just thinking about them, whereas Alexandra Ripley's sequel to Gone With The Wind was, to my mind, a success. But where does Eoin Colfer's attempt to follow in the footsteps of the late great Douglas Adams fall?
When writing a sequel of a series originally started by another person, two types of fidelity are important: fidelity to characters and fidelity to style. Happily, Colfer is loyal on both of these counts while simultaneously putting his own stamp on the enterprise, having characters do things that we would expect of them as the plot is taken in new and hilarious directions. Equally, he adheres faithfully to Adams' near-inimitable sharp wit and non-sequitur humour, carrying the torch with ease for Adams fans everywhere. His prose not only caused me to laugh out loud on several occasions, but also made me forget that it was not Adams himself taking us through the final instalment. Imitating a writer's style to such an impressive degree is a laudable feat that shouldn't be ignored, and was perhaps helped along by Colfer's own humility and awe (of which more is detailed in the book's notes).
In being faithful to the standard set by Adams prior to this, Colfer also pays the respect that is due to the series by carrying through Adams' wishes for a sixth instalment to be written in a style that he would have approved of. While other reviewers have found the story to be "well-written but weak", I did not see any obviously glaring holes - but then again I am not an obsessive fan of the original series, merely enjoying them from time to time rather than scrutinising every available detail.
All in all, a satisfying, valedictory, respectful and downright hilarious conclusion to a much-revered and beloved series.
A selection of other works by Eoin Colfer
The Wish List (2000)
Artemis Fowl series (2001-present)
The Supernaturalist series (2004-present)
Half Moon Investigations (2006)
Airman (2008)Plugged (2011)