Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Review: The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

Introducing a new feature on The Evil Robot: book reviews from my daily train rides! Please contain your excitement. No...please m'am...look, there's no need to resort to... I'm going to do it anyway so just accept it.

This is the posthumous book by the creator of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Dirk Gently series. Douglas Adams was one of my favorite fiction writers. This book is a collection of odds and ends; some short clips of unfinished ideas or disjointed chapters and story outlines that never got published. It also includes several published interviews, several magazine articles that he wrote, and it closes with about 15 chapters of his unfinished 3rd Dirt Gently novel, which was brilliant and would have been a classic had he had the chance to finish it.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was his interview with an athiest magazine. He was very dismissive of religious people and went on and on about how evolution can explain anything someone could possibly want to know about existence. A very narrow view for someone so open minded and creative in almost every other way.

This is a list of some of my favorite DA clips from his books:

*. There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
*. The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.
*. “Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
*. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.
*. “Listen, three eyes,” he said, “don’t you try to outweird me, I get stranger things than you free with my breakfast cereal.”
*. The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses.To explain — since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation — every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake. The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.
*. “Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”
*. He gazed keenly into the distance and looked as if he would quite like the wind to blow his hair back dramatically at that point, but the wind was busy fooling around with some leaves a little way off.
*. There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
*. 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.

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