And Another Thing..., Eoin Colfer's authorized followup to the five Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books that Douglas Adams wrote, tries. It really tries to recreate the weird, sad energy Adams could get going at his best, but ultimately in a "hears the notes, not the music" way. It connects at moments, and causes a chuckle or a reaction to a strong image or unexpected turn of phrase, but this only happens at moments.
Adams was famously depressive, and also famously making-it-up-as-he-went-along in his Hitchhiker's stories. He wasn't a natural writer, but he could pull out the words, the surprising plot connections (I loved when the bowl of petunias was finally, finally explained) and the P.G. Wodehouse-like turns of phrase. (The title comes from Adams: "The storm had now definitely abated, and what thunder there was now grumbled over more distant hills, like a man saying 'And another thing' twenty minutes after admitting he's lost the argument." I'd forgotten that line.) He could be funny and elegant, but with this undercurrent of sadness. That's why I'm so fond of So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, even with its wobbly plot: I love its mood, both wistful and loving, as main character Arthur Dent falls in love. Colfer's enough of an Adams fan to understand the funny sadness, and he tries to recreate it, but I didn't connect with what he was trying to add to the Hitchhiker's universe. Some of the elements seem random for the sake of random. There's almost no urgency (a failing Adams sometimes had, too): Oh, more destroying of worlds.
I thought it was interesting that when Arthur is introduced in this book -- in intentionally (if briefly) different circumstances than he was left in at the end of Adams's final Hitchhiker's book, Mostly Harmless -- I got the distinct impression that the man being described was the Man in the Shack, the true ruler of the galaxy. Considering the time-travel confusions that Adams put into the Hitchhiker's books, I briefly wondered Does Arthur somehow become the Man in the Shack? No (though that could've been kind of interesting). In fact, Arthur seems a little incidental for much of the book.
This is a hard book to wrap my mind around. This is probably an unsatisfying review, of an unsatisfying book.
I don't relish writing this review. I knew this book would have a lot of obstacles to it being an ultimately satisfying work, but I hoped that it would be satisfying. And I still want to read Colfer's Artemis Fowl books, which are his own creations; I want to see what else he can do.