Sooner or later the publishers of a popular series come to the conclusion that wouldn’t it be just great if the series could continue even when the author of that series is dead. Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing, like the authorized Foundation and Robot novels, the Brian Herbert Dune sequels or the K.W. Jeter, Blade Runner sequels, is a book that has no real reason to exist, except for the usual dollar signs and the unwillingness of readers to let go of a story even after it has no reason for being.
Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing isn’t some sort of abomination that does unmentionable things to The Hitchhiker’s Guide universe. Instead like most authorized sequels, it’s a pale imitation of the original and lacks the same spark that the original had. Reading “Mostly Harmless”, the weakest Adams novel in the series side by side with “And Another Thing”, you notice that even at his worst, Adams could still balance irony, significance and slapstick in ways that completely escape Colfer.
Where Adams sent his cast of characters ricocheting across a goofy universe like pinballs, Colfer has them trudging in a mostly linear fashion from the destruction of earth to a specially designed earth replacement. Where Adams mastered the unexpected, Colfer masters extended setups for jokes that never take off. And then there are the characters. For some inexplicable reason, Colfer decides to write Zaphod and Ford as mentally retarded. Now Zaphor and Ford were many things, but too stupid to walk and chew gum was never on the list. Instead Zaphod spends And Another Thing tripping over his shoelaces and Ford is just stoned most of the time.
And Another Thing is derivative, but it’s not innovative. Colfer plucks the norse gods from Adam’s Dirk Gently novels and plops them into the Hitchhiker universe. He drags Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged back in for a relationship with Trillian, an idea that is almost more painful than asinine, as a one off character whose main appeal was his absurdity, is forced to meditate on death, fall in love with Trillian and decide he really wants to live after all.
There are funny moments in And Another Thing. It would be impossible to write a novel in the Hitchhiker’s universe and completely miss the mark by that much. But what Adams seemed to do effortlessly, Colfer does laboriously. And even his hits remind you of how much better Adams was at this, even when he turned out a jumbled mess like Mostly Harmless, and how little reason And Another Thing has for existing.