Having first read ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ when he was 15, Colfer has been quoted as saying he has been finishing the story in his head for years. Ask him if "And Another Thing" has shaped up how he imagined it and Colfer says: "Some of the fanciful bits I had visualised had to be left out as they did not work. I was, however, fascinated by Wowbagger. He was a minor character in Adams’ book — filling his never ending days of immortality by insulting people in alphabetical order. He has a larger role to play in ‘And Another Thing’."
The answer to life, the universe, and who would write the sixth instalment of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” after Adams’ untimely death of a heart attack at the age of 49 in 2001 is out. It is Eoin Colfer, creator of the 12-year-old criminal fiend Artemis Fowl.
Colfer proved more than equal to the task with “And Another Thing” (Penguin, Rs. 399) which was released on October 11 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the first book.
“Adams’ people had been thinking of the sixth book and some names had been suggested but were rejected,” says Colfer over the phone. “When I was approached, I initially said nooooo... ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ is a beloved work and fans across the world, including me, are very protective of it. However, when I thought about it, I felt I would regret not taking this up. So, a week later, I changed my mind and agreed to do it.
About the title, Colfer says: “It is a quote from Adams and, in a way, is a metaphor for the book.”
“And Another Thing” is a glorious trip through space and time with all the characters and things we know so well, including the two-headed intergalactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox, the mildly-puzzled earthling Arthur Dent, feisty Trillian, blue-haired Ford Prefect, translucent teenager Random Dent, pan galactic gargle blasters and the infinite improbability drive.
“I kept the main characters in the books and the general tone of satire. I had to let go of Douglas’ style mainly because I cannot write like him. I used my own style. Of the characters I like Zaphod. He works in today’s day and age, he is very much like a reality TV star — famous for being famous.”
Having first read ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ when he was 15, Colfer has been quoted as saying he has been finishing the story in his head for years. Ask him if “And Another Thing” has shaped up how he imagined it and Colfer says: “Some of the fanciful bits I had visualised had to be left out as they did not work. I was, however, fascinated by Wowbagger. He was a minor character in Adams’ book — filling his never ending days of immortality by insulting people in alphabetical order. He has a larger role to play in ‘And Another Thing’.”
While fans and critics have responded positively to the book, how would Adams react to the book? “I would like to think he would have a bit of a chuckle at some parts and maybe there would be some parts he would not agree with.”
Adams was said to be unhappy with the bleak tone of the fifth book in the Hitchhiker series, “Mostly Harmless”, which ends with the destruction of the earth and everyone on it. Adams had gone on record saying he would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note. Colfer feels “And Another Thing” fulfils that criteria. “I have tried to make it similar in tone to the first two books. The ending is mostly upbeat.”
About the possibility of a seventh book, Colfer says: “Surely, but not for me. I think one book is a nice tribute. If you do more than one, it looks like you are trying to take over the series. I would like another writer to try their hand at it.
Revivals seem to be the new publishing trend what with Sebastian Faulks’ new James Bond adventure, “Devil May Care” followed by “And Another Thing”. “It is too early to tell if it is a trend,” Colfer comments. “But it is good that I am in at the beginning. If you have 20 such books, readers would get tired of it. This is a great way to introduce a new generation of readers to the books, which was one of the reasons why I agreed to write “And Another Thing.”
The 44-year-old writer says he had a “free hand while writing the book. I took five months to write it. I reread the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ books twice. Once for pure pleasure and the second time to take down notes about the different planets and stuff.”
Practically every page has a Guide Note, with involved explanations about all sorts of arbitrary facts. Sample this: Gall stones – light grey pebbles found on Damogran. Very cheeky. “I did that for the fun of it. I don’t think in a straight line. I like to come at plot from different angles.” Of the science-fiction / fantasy explosion the world is seeing at this juncture, Colfer says: “My reading is that people read fantasy to escape the world and their grim situation. On the other hand, science fiction and fantasy is also a comment on our world so in trying to escape the world through books, you are also living in it!”
And finally who would win if Zaphod, Ford, Arthur and Trillian were to cross swords or other weaponry with Artemis Fowl? “Artemis’ bodyguard, Butler, would just kill them all! Unfortunately there would be no funny conversation as Artemis has no time looking for the perfect cup of tea or anything of the kind. I am sure however Zaphod will have something funny to say before he dies.”