01/12/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Pan Macmillan. 167 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99(UK), $14.99 (CAN), $22.99 (AUS). ISBN: 978-0-330-50860-5.
check out website: www.panmacmillan.com and www.zz9.org
After three volumes of manic chaos and rambling anecdotes that are the most hilarious books I've ever read, we come to this the fourth volume and a distinct change of style. Neil Gaiman's introduction to this new edition explains some of the reason behind this, the darker and more sedate tone, Arthur Dent's love story and far more sentimentality than previously seen. Is it as much fun as previous volumes? The simple answer is no. But it's still brilliantly witty and inventive.
I remember being rather disappointed the first time I read the book in my teens. Much of the action takes place on Earth, which seems very mundane after three volume of hitchhiking through space and time. The lorry-driving rain-god is an amusing side-story, though he doesn't seem to be especially connected. Of course, previous volumes were full of unconnected anecdotes, but this book seems to have lost the light and airy anarchy of its predecessors.
Before you get very far into the 'Hitchhiker' series you will undoubtedly have become a huge of the quotes from the guide itself. These random facts and stories about the planets and inhabitants of the galaxy are worth reading just by themselves. The sections of the guide within 'So Long...' are no exception. In fact, they are far closer to the original books than the plot itself. Yes, this episode has a plot, for the most part. Douglas Adams seems to be enjoying himself far more when writing these sections of the guide than while writing the rest of the book. I enjoyed reading them far more, too.
If you're wondering how the book could be set on Earth when the planet was destroyed in the opening few pages of volume one, don't worry. Everything has an explanation, even if in the world of the Guide nothing much makes sense. I may have come across as rather negative in this review, but I'd still read it again. For ingenious use of language and brilliantly constructed sentences, few compare with Douglas Adams.
Gareth D. Jones
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