The Earth is about to be destroyed, again. To save it, Zaphod Beeblebrox and friends need weave together a web of improbable conditions including getting Bow Wowbagger–the immortal alien whose pastime is insulting every person in the universe—to take him to Asgard so that he can get Thor to “dissuade” the tirelessly bureaucratic Vogons. Fortunately, the possibility that a genuine god might prove up to the task of smiting the immortal insult-slinger once-and-for-all is enough to gain his compliance. Thor, on the other hand, will take some convincing after Zaphod’s high jinx resulted in the mighty god’s abject humiliation.
Facing precarious business conditions, the publishing industry is reluctant to let anything as trivial as the death of a popular author derail the gravy train of a successful series. James Patterson, having proven that an author’s involvement can be an inconsequential factor in the selling of books, paved the way for wave of books written by authors who who’ve passed on (e.g. Eric Van Lustbader has already written three times as many “Bourne” novels as Robert Ludlum, and a new author is taking on the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series that was immensely popular a few years back.) The problem is that not all novels are James Patterson’s formulaic “Alex Cross” crime novels; some writers have a unique voice—if not a genius. Some authors do matter.
It’s hard to imagine a better example of an author who mattered to the success of his books than Douglas Adams. It’s not that no one could be as funny as Adams, but rather that his brand of funny isn’t so easily to emulate. This is the nature of humor. Consider stand-up comedians. Among them there are some who could be fed material written by anyone about anything and they would be funny in the same degree (for good or bad.) However, there are others whose funniness is tied to their voice and the material that they either developed or molded to their peculiar nature. Adams had a peculiar nature.
It seems to me that there are two possible outcomes for someone trying to emulate Douglas Adams. The first is that they try to be original, but copy the style of Adams. That book seems like it would be impossible to make worthy of more than one star. The other possibility is for the author to use Adam’s own tropes and ideas to provide the humor and then to stick heavily to Adam’s original material with respect to story. Such a book would be derivative in the highest degree, but might not suck entirely. The best I could rate such a work would be mediocre, which is where I think “And Another Thing” is. It’s not that Colfer isn’t a good writer or a sharp guy; it’s that he took on a task that was doomed. Perhaps, I should say kudos to him for challenging himself to such a daunting task.
Personally, I think H2G2 should have been allowed to be laid to rest. (Frankly, having read all five of the original series books, I thought the stories began to drag as the series progressed relative to its original greatness. In other words, I’m not sure whether Adams, himself, could have added anything worthy to franchise.) However, having said all this, I must admit that I would’ve found this book an enjoyable read if I didn’t know that the best of it was just the result of standing on the shoulders of a giant.
Read it or don’t. It’s readable, enjoyable, derivative, and utterly unnecessary in equal proportions.