The last full new book, this distinctive and inimitable collection is the ultimate must-have title for Douglas Adams fans.
Additional material includes introductions by Stephen Fry and editor Peter Guzzardi (who stitched together the Salmon fragment from disk drafts), The Guardian's Adams biography, Richard Dawkins' farewell piece, and the order of the memorial service.
The non-fiction by the man himself ranges from perhaps a dozen meaty articles and speeches to brief squibs, interview/questionnaire answers and tiny asides like:
We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. How do you recognise something that is still technology? A good clue is if it comes with a manual.
There are enjoyable pieces on computers (especially), atheism, dogs, manta rays on the Great Barrier Reef, the Save the Rhino stunt climb, and PG Wodehouse. Much of the rest is ephemeral; you can't help reflecting that Adams himself never chose to collect all this lightweight newspaper work.
Lovers of his fiction will welcome the Hitch-Hiker-related short stories "The Private Life of Genghis Khan" and "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe", despite the latter's dreadfully dated political punch line.
What of The Salmon of Doubt itself, a quarter of this book? There's a glimpse of a far-future estate agent's utopia, a woman asking Dirk Gently to investigate a cat that's literally only half there (his puzzling reluctance to take the case may echo Adams' own feelings about the novel), Gently's capricious trip to America in response to an unknown client's total lack of instructions, the tragic death of a rhino as perceived by the rhino... Many teasing questions; we'll never know the answers.
Overall it's a must-have for devoted Adams fans and completists, a likely disappointment (though with pleasant exceptions) for new readers. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Latterly, Douglas Adams had become as famous for not writing Hitchhikers books as for writing them in the first place. The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of essays, articles, interviews and, finally, ten chapters of his last novel, demonstrates that he'd developed his displacement activities to avoid writing into a fine art, progressing from 'taking another bath' and 'going for a walk' to coming up with some of the most elegant essays on atheism ever written and climbing Kilimanjaro to save rhinos. This is what he'd been getting up to all that time, and it was a far more interesting and productive way of occupying himself than coming up with new things for Marvin to do.
And if I haven't done so already, here's where I lapse into cliche - Douglas Adams delighted millions; created characters and phrases that have passed into everyday use; he died tragically young; he made the most complex philosophical and scientific ideas seem so simple; I never met him but he made me feel that I knew him; I laughed aloud while reading this book.
Stephen Fry's introduction is perceptive, but more importantly it's moving. Fry makes the crucial point - Adams convinced a generation of readers that he was writing just for us. The sense of loss in this, and an equally moving tribute by Richard Dawkins at the end of the book, is keen. The subtitle of the book 'Hitchhiking the galaxy for one last time' captures the excitement of the prospect of being allowed into Douglas Adams' universe once more ... but also the sadness that it genuinely will only be once more...
Not one for those who have read no Adams, but an interesting rounding-off of a far-too-short career for the rest of us.
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