A Hard Act To Follow

I read the news yesterday that Eoin Colfer will be writing another installment of the 5-volume Hitch-Hikers’ Guide To The Galaxy trilogy. This set off alarm bells in my head, even though the project is going ahead with the full blessing of Douglas Adams’ widow, Jane. I am assured by friends who know Jane personally, that this is not a cynical money-making ploy, but is being done “for the fans”. Even though that may be the case, as a long-time avid reader of Douglas’ books, I remain to be convinced that the project is a good idea.

Adams’ writing style was unique and ground-breaking. Even the proposed new author admits he’s terrified at the prospect of following in the great man’s footsteps! This doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence for the outcome.

With many things in life, re-visiting old haunts many years down the line can be a mixed blessing. How many times have you returned to a location much-loved from your childhood, only to find that things have changed beyond all recognition? You can end up wishing you had left well alone.

If this is true of physical places, then we enter a whole new dimension when it comes to the subjective things like art, music and literature. I recently redisovered some 80’s music which I’d almost forgotten. Thankfully, it had lost nothing of it’s shine on hearing it again.  But these were songs by the original artists.

I’m often repelled by modern cover versions of classic songs, and can be heard yelling at the TV or radio that said tune has been murdered. But not always. I prefer Madonna’s version of American Pie, and almost any cover of a Bob Dylan song, over the original!

I also enjoyed the 2005 film of the Hitch-Hikers’ Guide, maybe even a bit more than (with hindsight) the slightly cheesy original TV series. Although made after Douglas’ untimely death, the film was something he had been pursuing for years, trying to find a studio in Hollywood which would remain faithful to the original characters, and live up to his own high standards.

So this brings me back to the Hitch-Hikers’ new installment, “And Another Thing…” Why resurrect the characters now? Not all the fans have been wondering what happened to Ford, Arthur, Zaphod and the others after all this time. I believed that Douglas hadn’t particularly left any unfinished business with the series.

Part of me wants the thing to be a success. But part of me is also dead worried that the new book won’t live up to my expectations. So, best case scenario: I read the new book and love it. Worst case: I read the new book and am left disappointed. It’s a gamble I’ll have to weight up when the tome hits the shelves next autumn. The trouble is, you can’t “un-read” a book once you’ve seen it.

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