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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!


#42. I have read — and reread — all five books in the Hitchhikers’ Guide trilogy.

Okay, so that’s not so much of an accomplishment. These books have sold how many millions of copies? And you gotta figure that not everyone is buyin’ ’em just to use as coasters or doorstops. There are probably even a few other crazy folks who go back and read the whole set from time to time, like me. Or a few thousand, more likely. Douglas Adams fans are kooky that way.

So, let’s see. Maybe I can set myself apart, after all. I also own — and have read — both of Adams’ Dirk Gently books. They’re… um, different. They’re written with his same flair and humor and genius, but they’re… well, different. Not better, not worse, just different.

Actually, it’s tough for me to compare anything to the first three books of the Hitchhikers’ Guide. Including the two books that followed in the series. I discovered the first three books all at once, back in high school or before, and they hit me like a spoonful of dwarf star. In other words, hard. Suddenly, whole new worlds were opened to me. I could be a smartass, and clever, and tongue-in-cheek, and get away with it. Maybe even published! Oh, I’d never do those things as well as him, but who else does, anyway? Douglas Adams was a voice in my wilderness, a bona fide absurdist satirical genius. There’s something about those first few books that changed my life.

But a lot of people can say that, too. I’m not sure that they do, but they can. So what else? Okay, how about this? I also own the entire series of Hitchhikers’ Guide TV shows, which I used to catch on PBS. A few years ago, I got them in a box set dealie, with the VHS tape packaged with backup copies of the first two books. Now there’s a show, folks. In what other series could you simulate a two-headed character by plopping a lifeless mannequin head on some actor’s shoulder, and have it matter not one damned bit?

The show wasn’t about effects (thankfully), or T & A (though Trillian’s not that bad looking, actually), or any of the other modern tricks that producers and special effects monkeys use to detract from the fact that there’s no fucking plot to speak of. No, the Hitchhikers’ Guide was all about being clever. Devilishly, fiendishly, sublimely clever, and that’s what it was, both in the books and onscreen.

Unfortunately, what we’ve got of Douglas Adams’ is all we’re going to get. He passed away of a heart attack a while ago, and will grace us no further with his wit and satire. I’m a little ashamed to say that I found out well after the fact — I’d have thought I’d be more on top of important things like that, but I missed it. When I did find out, I went out and bought Starship Titanic in book and PC game forms; it was one of his later projects, and I thought it would be a good way to catch up with an old friend. I finished the book pretty quickly, though I haven’t meneged to get around to playing the game yet. One of these days…

Perhaps the best book of Douglas Adams’ I’ve ever read, though, was the Salmon of Doubt. The second half is a hodgepodge of chapters from a book of the same name that he was working on at the time of his death. It’s good, but obviously unpolished and incomplete, so it’s a bit hard to know for sure where he was going with it. The first half of the book, though, is amazing. In it are letters, essays, and personal stories covering a variety of topics; I especially remember one about him wearing a rhinoceros costume head while climbing a mountain (for some good cause, which I can’t remember; I’m sure that’s some further indication that I’m going straight to hell), and another about some neighbor dogs that used to keep him company while he was writing in Arizona. Or Nevada. Or somewhere like that; just read the damned book and stop relying on me for details, okay?

Anyway, I know that I’m not the expert on all things Adams, nor his very biggest fan. I haven’t seen the movie made about his life (Life, the Universe and Douglas Adams), and only just discovered that an authorized biography (Wish You Were Here) is in the works. Still, I’m a big, big fan, and feel privileged (and giggly) to have had his works in my life. I only wish he were still around to bring us more. Rest well, Mr. Adams, and thanks for all the fish.

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