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VINE VOICEon 30 July 2002
I originally bought this book when it was first published in 1987. It has now been revised and brought up to date to reflect Douglas Adams' more recent work and, of course, his death in May 2001.
The book, despite its title, is really a biography of Douglas Adams and not just The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2), although as this is his major work, it obviously features quite heavily. Also covered though are other works including the Dirk Gently books and The Meaning of Liff (not to mention his early work for Monty Python!)
There is some good information on Adams' early life and works obtained through interviews with people like Simon Brett, John Lloyd (who were influential in giving Adams his break in radio) and of course, Douglas himself.
Interesting items include a copy of the original H2G2 synopsis and comparisons between the different versions i.e. books, radio, TV, stage and records. Also of interest is the first story Douglas Adams ever had published, a short story on the letters page of Eagle Magazine in 1965.
The book is well written by Neil Gaiman, better known for his novels and comic book stories.
Altogether an essential read for all fans of H2G2 and Douglas Adams.
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on 16 June 2010
Gaiman's biography is characteristic of his style of writing and here he writes with his usual wit and dry humour. His admiration of Adams and his work shines through his well paced account. The book concentrates more on the genesis of the Hitch-hiker's and goes into Adams life only when it is needed to offer background or insight into Hitch-hiker. The later chapters are written by David k. Dickson and M.J. Simpson and this shows. Although they offer good insight their contributions do not display the same wit. A must read for all Hitch-hiker fans.
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on 1 August 2008
It's a good book, a very lightweight read so you can zoom through it if you're not in a mood for something taxing. My only criticism is the chapter dealing with Mostly Harmless, where the book suddenly seems to run out of research and impetus. The chapters dealing with the other books etc are relatively in-depth, featuring biographical detail relevant to DNA's life at the time, interview quotes from editors, friends and the man himself, and so on. For the chapter on Mostly Harmless all of this very conspicuously dries up and the author has to pad-out his account of this period with a fairly pointless plot summary. Shame!
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on 24 January 2010
Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman. What can you say about these two? A perfect pair of writers. It's almost poetic that Gaiman should have shouldered the mantle of writing a book that combines Douglas Adams' biography with the ongoing saga surrounding his most famous creation, "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy". And he does it in an almost perfect Hitch-Hicker's tone that puts Eoin Colfer's recent brave effort ("And Another Thing...") to shame [No disrespect intended: Colfer had a tough act to follow and he did do a fine job.]. Just ignore me: I'm too big a fan of Adams and Gaiman to be objective. There should be statues: Adams throwing his wordprocessor across the room and Gaiman using the Key to Reality, perhaps? Anyway, the blurb tells you everything you need to know about "Don't Panic" except that it's a genuine treat for fans and readers alike. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Go on: you know you want to :-)
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on 17 January 2015
For years, friends of mine have been trying to persuade me to read Terry Pratchett. They tried persuasion, encouragement, bribery and blackmail. None of it worked. They handed me a copy of “Good Omens” in the hope that this would change my mind. It did – I became a Neil Gaiman fan virtually overnight. One thing they enthused about that I did take a liking to, however, was Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

I am a relatively recent convert to Hitchhiker’s. I knew it had been a radio series before it became anything else, but I’d never heard it. I knew it had been a TV series at one point, but I’d never seen that. And I knew it had more parts than any other trilogy ever published, and that was how I came to be a fan of the phenomenon that was “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

What I didn’t know much about was how everything had come together, which was why “Don’t Panic” appealed. It was a chance not just to know more about the man behind the phenomenon, but promised more on the phenomenon itself.

And so it is. Starting with Adams’ birth and his trail from Cambridge where his writing career was to begin, through his early career and his first jobs in the entertainment industry, as first a writer, then in radio and finally in TV, through to Hitchhiker’s, and the incredible success story it became, onto his other works, there is far more here on Hitchhiker’s in its various forms than there is about Douglas Adams himself.

Depending on your reasons for wanting to read “Don’t Panic”, this can either be a blessing or a curse. In no way should this be taken for a biography of Douglas Adams himself. Certainly, there is a lot of information about him and his work in here, but the main focus is on his work and there’s a lot less about him as a person. Indeed, there’s also mentions of various Hitchhiker’s adaptations that Adams himself had virtually nothing to do with and even some of his later work is glossed over a little, perhaps to fit more about Hitchhiker’s in. The order of priority with this book is definitely Hitchhiker’s first, Adams’ other work second, and the man himself last. This is OK if you like that kind of thing, but not ideal if you’re searching for a biography of Douglas Adams.

It’s not a terribly well written book either. Most of the words themselves are pretty good, but the way they are all put together seems a little clunky in parts. Neil Gaiman uses quite a few of the kind of asterisked footnotes that were prevalent in “Good Omens”, but generally a lot of the writing isn’t actually his. By and large the book seems, especially where it’s talking about the radio and TV versions of Hitchhiker’s, to be a collection of quotes from, and about Douglas Adams and Hitchhiker’s, rather than a biographer writing about them. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little uneven. There are frequently huge portions of text that are separated from the rest of the book and are quotes about casts and characters and how the shows were put together, which are interesting but which means the book has very little flow to it. In parts, it reads like a written version of one of those “I love 1985” style TV programs, consisting mostly of quotes from various people, with a little bit of narrative voiceover here and there.

Maybe I’m largely disappointed because it’s just not funny enough. Hitchhiker’s is funny and some of Neil Gaiman’s work, especially the aforementioned “Good Omens” is funny, but somehow “Don’t Panic” manages not to be. There are some very funny lines in it, but many of the best are lines from one of the versions of Hitchhiker’s itself, or from quotes from other people.

What this book does do well, however, is give information. If you have anything more than a vague interest in Hitchhiker’s, it’s fascinating, mostly for the parts that didn’t end up in the various adaptations that for anything else. There’s so much more to the whole phenomena that I ever expected and the information all seems to be here, even if it isn’t presented as effectively as it could be.

If you’re a fan of Hitchhiker’s in any or all of its various forms, this is a must read. If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams generally, this is not quite as essential, but still worth a look and even a casual fan of Douglas Adams in general and Hitchhiker’s in particular can’t go too far wrong.

This review may also appear under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 13 February 2013
Apparently, one word ... INDISPENSABLE ... is not good enough for an Amazon review, so I will just say this :

If you are a fan of the late, great Douglas Adams and HHGTG ... and/or a fan of the great Neilhimself ... you need this book!
It is INDISPENSABLE!
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on 9 February 2015
If you're a fan of Douglas Adams or Neil Gaiman this is a must read, if you are new to them and their work this is the perfect introduction and great piece of writing. Everyone needs to read this!!!
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on 13 September 2016
Cheaper than many other volumes but wins over them big time by having the words Don't Panic printed on the front cover.
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on 22 January 2013
I can't say I enjoyed this book very much it was just ok and bit disjointed in parts just ok
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on 8 February 2017
A very well written and researched book. An essential read for all Douglas Adams fan's.
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