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Remember when the Earth was destroyed by ships that hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't? What about the first time you saw a mattress flolloping through a swamp? When did you first lay eyes on the not just twisted, but sprained horrors of the Cathedral of Hate?
What? You don't remember any of that? If I wasn't so busy writing a book review, I'd hunt you down, squat on your chest, and play the original Hitchhiker's radio series, read all five books of the trilogy aloud, and force you to play through the entire Infocom text adventure. I wouldn't make you to watch the most recent movie until my inevitable trial, at which time it would be screened as evidence to illustrate my humanity for not forcing it on you.
In any case (especially for the case in which you're still reading this review), Neil Gaiman has revised his guide to all things Douglas Adams for the fifth time since its first pressing in 1988. This edition of Don't Panic coincides with the 30th anniversary of the publication of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It also happens to have been released quite close to the date of Artemis Fowl's first romp in the Hitchhiker's universe, And Another Thing...
This is not his story.
This is the story of one Douglas Adams, a lanky Englishman with a penchant for comedy, satire, and landing odd jobs. How did he come up with idea for the Hitchhiker's universe? Wasn't it a radio show first? Wasn't he on the Monty Python Show? Why is the fourth book of the series a romance? What about those detective novels? Wasn't he involved in Dr. Who in some way? Why am I asking myself questions in an empty room? And how do you get The Babel Fish Dispenser to work properly in the computer game?
I'll spare you the Ripons; Gaiman answers most of these questions and many more in a languid, witty fashion. Don't Panic takes the time-tested, logic-approved method of starting at the beginning and moving forward year by year, project by project. There are plenty of quotes, excerpts, and tangents, as well as Gaiman's trademark footnotes. The writing is breezy, although a few sections get down to minutia (in one instance, Gaiman warns the reader about a technical bit). It includes material for both longtime fans and newcomers to the faith. Wordplay, allusions, and fourth wall-breaking jokes abound—Gaiman shows himself to be first and foremost a fan and student of Adams' quirky sense of humour. The ending of Don't Panic is a tad unfocused, but then again, the present always appears that way.
Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book.
Click here to buy Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Companion, by Neil Gaiman on Amazon
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