June 6, 2020

Review: The Salmon of Doubt.

A must read for any Adams fan!

This week, we reach back into our grab bag of books in the “waiting to be read” pile, and once again, we’re glad we did! Long-time fans of this spot will remember our very first post way back in halcyon days of 2007, a quaint, link-less, picture-less review of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy. I can think of few other science fiction pieces that have shaped my outlook on Life, the Universe, and well, Everything that is science fiction.

You’ll never view Sci-Fi the same again after being exposed to Adams, much as you’ll never listen to Heavy Metal the same after seeing This is Spinal Tap or watch a medieval flick without laughing after watching Monty Python & Holy Grail. (The British are good that way). The Salmon of Doubt; Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time gives us a final view of the Man Douglas Adams through unfinished work mined from the vaults and hard drives of his beloved Macs. Mr. Adams was taken from us way too soon in 2001 at the age of 49; by all rights, he should be here, adding his wry wit and commentary to the bizarre Sci-Fi world we now inhabit. Some excellent draft pieces are contained within, including a short story entitled Young Zaphod Plays it Safe based in the Hitchhikers universe, and a Dirk Gently draft which would have gone on to become the Salmon of Doubt. Adams had a fascination with the semantics of the English language, and it was apparent that he was a defender of originality and an enemy of cliché writing throughout his works. Perhaps this perfectionist attitude was why he was a legendary breaker of deadlines (to quote: “I love the sound they make as they go swishing by”) to the point that publishers threatened to lock him in a hotel room under guard with only a typewriter. Adams was also a model world traveler in real life (how else could he have come up with Hitchhiker?) and could often be tracked down by his publicist diving off the Great Barrier reef or climbing Kilimanjaro dressed in a rhino costume (!).

Adams was also an early adapter of technology and several essays give a keen insight into the birth of the Internet in the 90’s and ideas for its ultimate direction. Forever known for the Hitchhiker series, Adams also worked on several Dr Who episodes and was an outspoken environmentalist. One of his proudest achievements was his book Last Chance to See about endangered species written in 1990. Fascinating connections to Adams are also traced to the diverse corners of British popular culture to the bands Protocol Harum and Pink Floyd, as well as the infamous Monty Python troupe.  Adams had been in decades- long discussion to get Hitchhiker to the big screen, as finally occurred in 2005. Sadly, it looks like the first novel of the five will be the only one made, as no plans are in the work for a sequel… of course, there’s always the Dr. Who-esque BBC series from the 1980’s, which adopted both Hitchhiker’s Guide and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Do seek out the Salmon of Doubt to remember what a great talent Sci-Fi lost. Every time I hear of a new technology or a new scientific discovery, I remember Douglas Adams and/or Carl Sagan (mostly in that order), and think “How cool, they would have loved this…” We miss you Douglas…Don’t Panic, and know where your towel is every May 25th!

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