So Long, and Thanks for All the Books

The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last TimeDouglas Adams died in 2001, and I’m still aggravated about it. Couldn’t he have waited to die until it was more convenient for his readers? In fact, while reading the introduction to The Salmon of Doubt, the untimeliness of his death rudely slapped me with a wet towel and made me cry.

The Salmon of Doubt is a collection of Adams’ work that was published posthumously. His publisher Christopher Cerf and his wife Jane Belson pieced it together from his many computers.

The resulting compilation is a must read for fans. On the other hand, any person who is unfamiliar with Adams’ previous work should not approach this book. It does not convey the man’s true genius even half as well as any one of his other novels. You would do Adams a disservice by judging him on the basis of this book alone.

I did have some reservations going into the book, which is lucky because it can be difficult to get into a classy book like this without making reservations.

Seriously though, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book that the author never meant for me to see. You’d never guess it, but even I don’t let anyone see my stuff before I revise it a few times. But, then again, once I’m dead I hope I’m too busy decomposing to worry about someone reading my unfinished drivel.

I’m not calling The Salmon of Doubt drivel. Not at all. In fact, a good portion of the book isn’t even unfinished. Part of it is made up of letters and essays that were published in magazines while the author was still with us.

Some of the essays relate to Adams’ devout atheism, others are about his love-hate relationship with computers, yet another is about his friendship with some neighbors’ dogs who “ignored” him when he took them for walks. All of these pieces are complete and stand well on their own.

Then you get to the title work. Adams’ had hinted that he intended to piece it into the next Hitchhiker book. He never got it to that stage in its development. It’s still a Dirk Gently novel, and it’s obviously not finished. It doesn’t even have an ending except that the words stop. Of course, that’s preferable to someone else putting forth a hack ending for Adams’ book, but it’s still disconcerting that there’s no conclusion.

Even so, this is well worth a read if you are a Douglas Adams fan. If you are not a fan already, start by reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and read The Salmon of Doubt only after you’ve become a fan.

It’s easy enough to fall in love with Adams’ books, so becoming a fan is as easy as grabbing your towel and stowing away on a Vogon ship.

You’ll soon discover that there is nothing not to like about Douglas Adams – unless you count the fact that he left us too soon.

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