Galactic hitchhiker has 'brave' new guide

'I just couldn't not do it,' says author of No. 6 in 'trilogy'

By Mike Collett-White, Reuters October 9, 2009

Don't Panic. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is back with a sixth instalment of the absurd, intergalactic and increasingly inaccurately named "trilogy".

Its creator, Douglas Adams, had always intended a follow-up to the fifth book, which he felt was an unnecessarily bleak ending to the comic cosmic tales of Arthur Dent, but he died in 2001 before he could write it.

To coincide with the 30th anniversary of the publication of the original Hitchhiker's Guide, Irish author Eoin Colfer was asked to produce the first authorized sequel to the Adams classics, and his novel hits the shelves on Monday.

And Another Thing..., published in Britain by Penguin and in the United States by Walt Disney's Hyperion, brings Dent, alien friend Ford Prefect and two-headed Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox back from the dead for more madcap adventures in outer space.

Colfer, best known for his Artemis Fowl series, said he had major misgivings before agreeing to take up where Adams left off, aware of the risk of a fan backlash and critical drubbing.

"I was aware that there would be definitely some kind of backlash, or even a frontlash before the backlash," Colfer said in an interview in London.

"I still have doubts as to whether I should have done it, but I'm just kind of weathering the storm now," he told Reuters.

"From my own point of view, and I know from (Adams's widow) Jane's (Belson) point of view ... we don't need it. I don't need it and for me it could actually hurt my career." But he added: "I don't think it will."

Colfer has already experienced vitriolic verbal attacks from a handful of diehard Hitchhiker fans, but urged them to read the book before deciding if he was right to accept the invitation.

"I didn't realize at the time until everyone started to tell me how brave I was," he recalled.

"I totally understand people who think in theory the idea of this book is wrong. That is totally fair. But I just couldn't not do it. Read the book and then you're entitled to judge, but this is just vitriol."

Colfer stressed that he was not looking to replicate the stories and writing style of Adams, and that his aim was to appeal to readers familiar with the originals, and newcomers.

"It's not trying to be Douglas, it's not trying to claim the series, it's kind of a standalone away from the five books."

And the author, who has Belson's blessing, avoided referring to Adams's notes when writing And Another Thing...

"I reckoned if I'd used Douglas's notes, if it turned out well it was Douglas, if it turned out badly I screwed up Douglas's notes," Colfer said.

Colfer was initially asked to consider signing a three-book Hitchhiker deal, but agreed only to one.

And despite his sequel being described by Penguin as the "final instalment", Colfer believed the door may be open to other writers to take up the challenge.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy started life as a radio series in 1978 before being turned into five best-selling novels which sold over 15 million copies worldwide. It has also been adapted for television, the West End stage and the big screen.

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