"It's all absolutely devastatingly true - except the bits that
BOOK REVIEW: DON'T PANIC BY NEIL GAIMAN
by Richard Karsmakers
Only recently, a fellow English student made me aware of the
fact that he happened to have an interested piece of secondary
Douglas Adams-related literature lying around. It was a rather
interesting booklet that went by the name of "Don't Panic - The
Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion", written by
Neil Gaiman (whom we all know and love for "Good Omens" that he
did with Terry Pratchett).
The remarkable thing - at least a thing I found remarkable about
it - was that is turned out to have been published as far back as
in 1988 yet that I had never become aware of its existence (and
not seemed to have anyone that I've come in touch with in the
last, say, six years).
Of course its release date means that it only mentions the
things Douglas Adams has been up to up to and including "Dirk
Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" (bookwise, this means the
first four parts of the "Hitchhiker" trilogy, "The Meaning of
Liff" and said Dirk Gently book). Although "Last Chance to
See..." is mentioned, it is not treated as such.
Having finished reading it just a couple of hours before I sat
down to write these words, I felt totally different from the way
I had felt before. For starters the book throws an entirely
different light on Adams' life - a story that seems to revolve
around setbacks, depression, the breaking of absolutely final
deadlines and a mindmangling load of money (the last item of this
list in more recent years in particular).
It was also a story of "I will never do a third book, I swear on
the souls of my ancestors" and "OK, I will now certainly never do
a fourth book". We all know that, in the mean time, a fifth book
in the "Hitchhiker" series has been released last year.
Apart from giving you an enormous wealth of information about
Douglas Adams' background as such, it also fills you in on the
stuff he did for "Doctor Who", why he had a job as a bodyguard,
the troubles around the production of the TV series, the amount
of cash he got offered for "So Long and Thanks for all the Fish",
the fact that someone still owns the right to a "Hitchhiker" film
somewhere in the US (that will probably even be made one day),
and why there's a walrus on the cover of many editions of the
fourth book. It also tells you what real-life people the book
characters were based on, what Douglas Adams did (or rather,
didn't do) with the Monty Python team, and why someone wrote
"it's the most fatuous, inane, childish, pointless, codswalloping
drivel" when reviewing one of the "Hitchhiker" versions that was
performed on stage.
For collectors, it's a must. It contains bits that were scrapped
from the TV/radio series and miscellaneous interesting interviews
with people that have worked with Douglas Adams as well as an
enormous treasure of thoughts by the Master himself. If you want
to know anything about the man who redefined the borders of
humour, you should certainly try and get your hands on this book.
It even gives you the true question Life, The Universe, And
Everything (well, at least sortof).
"Don't Panic - The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Companion", by Neil Gaiman.
Published by Pockets Books, New York. ISBN 0-671-66426-3, 182
Remark: Get it.
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