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a douglas adams double

on my recent trip to south africa i took three books with me, the 3rd and 4th hitchhiker books and matthew kneale’s “english passengers”. the first hitchiker book i read on the plane and the other i read while i was in south africa on one my way back to england.

it was just as well that i took so many with me as both journeys were looong flights, with 2 connecting flights (at munich and johannesburg) and some pre-historic form of in-flight entertainment (instead of that screen thingie in the chair in front of me there was this tiny screen hanging from the roof that looked like it had seen a lot of turbulance ’cause the colours were all funny). all-in-all it was a 23 hour journey (both ways) but it wasn’t so bad ’cause i had my books, so i was well-prepared 🙂

life, the universe and everything.

i won’t give the premise because, being the 3rd in the series, inherent in the premise will be hints to what happens in the others. but i will say that its sort of about cricket. i say sort of, because, with it being douglas adams and set mostly in space one can guarantee that it won’t quite be the cricket we know. as it is, the book’s reference to cricket was what saved it from being discarded in the end.

i really wasn’t getting much from it and i was about 50 pages in when i thought “can i be bothered?”. but then i thought… “it is only 200 hundred pages long and it is about cricket. i mean, when am i going to read a novel that deals with cricket again?” i also thought that anyone who likes cricket so much that they’d develop a plot around it must love the game at least as much as i do.

so i read it, for the sake of cricket – which goes to show you just how much i like cricket, because it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. its one saving grace was that it went quickly (quick unenjoyable-ness always being preferable to slow unenjoyable-ness).

not that i hated it. i just didn’t like it much.

i can’t understand what it is with me and douglas adams, though, because i really do want to like him. on the surface of it these hitchhiker books have everything: there’s that dry pessimistic english humour, there’s science fiction, there’s that silly monty python humour… and there’s other stuff too, i’m sure. but for the life of me i never really enjoy them. and also, i can’t remember a single thing about them. i have the vaguest recollections of “life, the universe and everything”, and i just read this book 1 month ago!! of course, i remember little bits about cricket and the odd moment, but i have to really wrack my brains to remember any more…

the first one was pretty good. i think i liked it a lot more than the others because of its originality – but it was still a bit of a labour. and i think therein lies the problem. these books are ultimately nonsense – they are meant to be light and diverting, but instead they come across as ponderous. seeing a joke, in the guise of a witticism, crawl toward you like a slug is just… not funny. i see the joke and i understand the tone in which it was written, but i just don’t find the delivery of it funny.

perhaps old douglas’ stuff was better suited to radio and tv after all? ’cause , then he could rely on the ability of the actors to delivery the lines effectively. and to be fair, there’s certainly something there in those books and i wouldn’t say ol’ adams is crap.

so long, and thanks for all the fish

this one was a bit better. for a good half of the way i was enjoying it quite a bit, until adams went his usual wonky way again. the bit that went well was quite unadams-like, in that it was linear, and as such it worked very well. this is not to say that i don’t like non-linear stuff – i do, but i don’t think adams does it particularly well (to my taste) in the novel format.

so what was this linear stuff that adams got up to then? well, it was a love story. seriously! arthur dent falls in love. it was beautiful and so well written. he really captured the excitement and all those worries of being in love. he also depicts some hilariously silly, uncomfortable and irritating situations, often in the form of an unexpected impediment that arises between him and the object of his affection.

i really enjoyed that bit. but then adams totally discards it in the second half of the novel. what kind of a story starts out focusing on a love story, draws you in, makes you enjoy the novel for the love story, and then discards the idea in the second half?!

i suppose this novel.

like “life, the universe and everything” it wasn’t bad, and in fact, on the whole it was better than its precursor. but because it started out so nicely and then went awry it left a stale taste in the mouth that almost makes it worse than “life, the universe and everything”. overall these weren’t the greatest reads but they provided good companionship on my flights. and the romantic bit in “so long, and thanks for the fish” really was very nice 😉

Categories: books
  1. February 19, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I read these books ages and ages ago, and had much the same feeling. It was like I should have enjoyed it, but it just did nothing for me. I often think I should give them another go, but have yet to be bothered.

  2. February 19, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Booo 😛 It’s not just about cricket! I pretty much workship this series, but hey, we can’t all like everything, so you’re forgiven 😛 I’m actually reading the first Dirk Gently book right now and it’s bringing back just how much I love Douglas Adams. I wouldn’t recommend it if you didn’t like Hitchhiker’s, though, as the humour is much the same.

    I’m glad they kept you busy in that long, long journey, though! 23 hours without books is just not doable. I don’t understand how some people can get on planes without books!

  3. jean pierre
    February 19, 2008 at 11:54 am


    i’m glad i’m not the only one…


    well, the thing is, terry pratchett is not at all dissimilar, but i just feel that pratchett does it far better to my mind.

    and i did say that it was “sort of” about cricket 😉

    but i can totally understand why people like him – really i can. and the thing is that i really do want to like him too. like, if i think about the stories and the plots and the tone in which its written i can’t understand why i don’t like them more. ’cause i like all that stuff about it – its just the way its handled for me.

    but i guess either his particular handling of that style of writing works for you or it doesn’t. yeah, i guess its just personal preference.

  4. February 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I really enjoyed the film but have to say that I haven’t read any of the novels either and part of it is because I’ve heard so many mixed reactions to his work. I think another turn off for me is that I am a hopeless romantic and when I heard that he romance storyline in the film is not at all in the book that made me even less inclined to read it.

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