The next book in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy just came out, which makes a lot of loyal readers nervous, given that Adams died before it was written. Of course, Adams' widow gave Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer her blessing to write And Another Thing ..., which Colfer describes as "an appendix" to Adams' beloved five-book series.
The books Adams did write featured Arthur Dent's space travels with Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian after the destruction of Earth. Colfer told us how he carried on Adams' legacy:
This is just an appendix. Colfer's said his sequel is actually just an addendum to Adams' adventures, so if you don't like it, it doesn't soil the other five, but if you do, it's a bonus. "It's kind of a little side story or a tribute story, done in the spirit of fandom," Colfer said. "So, yeah, it's not an attempt to try and take over Hitchhiker's or to say I'm the new Douglas Adams. It's just another thing, a little appendix."
The book includes a "previously on ..." catch-up for new or forgetful readers. Colfer did include a helpful recap. "The idea there is to catch them up in a way that is not too dense," Colfer said. "So you have to write a catch-up that is funny in its own right but also just takes what I need for my story."
It's an ensemble. In Arthur Dent's previous five adventures, the search for a cup of tea was the central motivation. The new book gives equal love to Ford, Trillian and Zaphod. "There are five or six people, and they all have equal space on the page," Colfer said. "This is because mainly it's pretty accepted that Arthur was Douglas Adams himself. Arthur got upset about many of the things that Douglas got upset about. I didn't move him to the side a bit, but he certainly doesn't have as much to do. He's not as worried about his tea anymore, his cup of tea. He's a lot more worried about his daughter, Random, who's turned into a very troublesome teenager. She's causing a lot of trouble for everybody, so he's a lot more worried about that. So a lot of his time is just spent keeping her safe and trying to reach her."
Colfer created—gasp!—new characters. Colfer contributed his own new addition to the Hitchhiker's Guide clan. "A new guy, Hillman Hunter, he's an Irish property developer/evangelist," Colfer said. "Hillman, I suppose, is the closest to me. He's the Irish one, although I did find myself identifying a lot with Arthur, because he's always been Everyman. Now, where Arthur was very clipped and British, now he's ... a little bit warmer and a little bit more three-dimensional, I suppose."
The Internet lives. Adams' last book was published during the days of the local BBS and 2400-baud modems. Colfer came up with the Hitchhiker's Guide Web equivalent, which includes a site called uBid. "Yeah, uBid is eBay, really," Colfer said. "I was just trying to think of a catchy term that was very close to eBay. Then, of course, Douglas had already coined the term sub-ether for Internet, so I continued on with that one. The sub-ether network."
Colfer doesn't try to be the new Adams. Trying to mimic Adams' style would have been a losing proposition for Colfer. "You're never sure whether or not you've succeeded," Colfer said. "You just try to make it the best of your own brand of funny that you can, and you hope that the Hitchhiker readers will accept that as being enough, because there is no way to channel, I think, successfully the genius of Douglas Adams' books. Either jokes are funny enough or they won't be."