A little bit more before the end, actually. I’m at chapter 11, just ended chapter 10 to be more accurate. Thought I’d take a pause here and mention some further thoughts on the whole thing. Before I finish, that is, and have to have a more supportable position as it were.
Not that I’ll bother supporting any position I take at the end with much more than I’m bothering with here.
Firstly, I’ve just about given up all hope that the guy I was excited to see at the beginning will turn out to be the guy I hoped he would be. Which is pretty much too bad, since I’ve missed that guy and didn’t know it until I thought he showed up again. Also, the possibility that he might be that other guy was a pretty nifty one, I thought, and as things have progressed, I’ve found myself thinking I would rather have read the book telling the story of how they could be the same guy. Or at least a story where they were the same guy. But, given where that guy actually was, the odds of them being the same guy in this story are vanishingly small. But if there are other numbers in this three-part series, maybe…
Secondly, the author does a fine job writing Hitchhiker’s-y stuff. But just about anyone of a certain age who decided to be a writer, or to play around with the idea of being a writer, went through a phase when that sort of writing seemed like a good way to go. It’s a great phase. So doing a fine job of it in an actual Hitchhiker’s book is more “Satisfactory” than “Excellent.”
However, he does a very good job writing a Hitchhiker’s book under certain circumstances. There are four major characters from the previous books who have shown up in this one. (One of them is arguably a minor character who’s been promoted, though this more accurately applies to a fifth character. There’s a sixth character who’s a middlingly important character who’s been called back into middlingly important service.) What the author does well is let these four characters have a story. Other circumstances in this book result in something weaker.
For instance, a couple of subplots took over for a while there in the middle of this book. One, a subplot involving a major character, is the latest in a now-seemingly mandatory set of setpieces, rather like Bond’s visit with Q in those movies. This subplot was pretty well done, but there are kind of a lot of scenes to it, and more than a few of them felt to run a little long. The other subplot involved a whole new set of minor characters doing their own things which bear (to this point, at least) only a tangental relationship to the plot. It’s an interesting subplot on its own, fits well into the Hitchhiker’s mileu, and the fact that it’s tangental should not be seen as a flaw. But, again, there are maybe too many scenes, and more than a few run a bit on the long side.
Which brings me to a structural criticism. I’m nearly done with the book, but I’m only through chapter 10. As I recall, the earlier books would be to about chapter 37 or 53 or so by now. The author uses breaks in the flow of the narrative–litterally breaking into the middle of a scene or dialoge exchange to insert a bit of information (or much more than a bit) from the Guide. In previous books this happened sometimes. Other times there’d be a footnote. Other times there’d be a whole chapter devoted to something like this. The shorter chapters structure added an energy to the story and to the text of previous titles which I feel is missing from this book.
There are two major characters from the previous book who we haven’t seen yet in this one. It isn’t necessary to see them in this book, so, again, their absence isn’t a flaw. The plot doesn’t seem to need them, you see, so I hope they don’t get dropped in late in the game just to be there. Of course, if they show up on the last page to help set-up another volume, that would probably be OK with me. There has been a development of surprisingly sunny proportions, and there is still a planet-shatteringly important plot element to be resolved. There is one other major character who hangs over the story. This is possibly the best part of the book–it’s not particularly funny, but it does give one of our heroes a new depth of character the author is doing a very good job with. I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops.