The Anthology at the End of the Universe : Leading Science Fiction Authors on Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Smart Pop series)
by Glenn Yeffeth
Review by Gayle Surrette
Benbella Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1932100563
Date: 28 April, 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Some of these essays had me laughing out loud so that I had to read those parts to my husband to prove I hadn't really gone off the deep end. Other's had me wondering about how you could come up with such serious connections from a series of comedic science fiction books. Then there were the essays that had me saying, "hmm, never thought of that". And of course, being me, there were the essays that had me sniffling discreetly into a tissue. There's a lot to like in this collection of essays. However, they are essays rather than short stories and if you're looking for the latter this book is not for you.
Mike Byrne in "Beware of the Leopard", Cory Doctorow in "Wikipedia: A Genuine H2G2 ? Minus the Editor, and Bruce Bethke in " The Secret Symbiosis: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Its Impact on Real Computer Science" talk about the impact that Hitchhiker's Guide has had on computer science, computer interface design, the internet as a communications media, and the impetus it was in starting many young people on a career in the sciences. The Guide in the television version, while done with colored gels and press on letters was heads and shoulders above what computers at the time were capable of achieving. Once people saw what a really good user interface could be like they demanded better than they had and the computer companies listened. In some ways, we have Douglas Adams to thank for the usability of computers because once users began to think there could be something better they demanded it.
Others see the Hitchhiker's Guide as a round about way to think of the truly important things in life: religion, humor, 42, looking at the world as it is. The following essays dealt more with the philosophical aspects of the books: "That About Wraps it up for Oolon Colluphid" by Don Debrandt; "The Holy Trilogy" by Selina Rosen (this one is so funny it should have a spew alert); "The Zen of 42" by Marie-Catherine Caillava.
No book about the Guide could be complete without a mention of Vogon poetry. Lawrence Watt-Evans in "A Consideration of Certain Aspects of Vogon Poetry" discusses the merits of quantifying poetry so that the Guide can equivocally say that Vogon poetry is the third worst. He also wonders about Arthur's seeming immunity to it.
Adam Roberts in "42" and Jacqueline Carey in "Yes, I Got It" discuss the philosophy of humor and its place in our lives. While Susan Sizemore in "You Can't Go Home Again, Damn It! Even If Your Planet Hasn't Been Blown Up by Vogons" realizes that the person she was when first exposed to the Guide and the person she is now do not view the Guide in the same way. Even with all the happy memories of that first reading, she finds that it doesn't have the same impact now as it did then.
Food, food, glorious food. Douglas Adams loved a good meal especially with good friends and food plays an important role in the Hitchhiker's Guide. The role of food is touched upon by Steven Baxter in "Lunching at the Eschaton: Douglas Adams and the End of the Universe in Science Fiction", A.M. Dellamonica in "Digital Watches May Be a Pretty Neat Idea, But Peanuts and Beer Are What Get You Through the Apocalypse".
When the world or universe is off kilter or just plain crazy, how do you remain sane when all about you are crazy? Well, some writers have evidently come up with some ideas on how to remain sane in a crazy world from their reading of the Guide: "The Subversive Dismal Scientist: Douglas Adams and the Rule of Unreason" by Vox Day; "Another Fine Mess" by Adam Troy Castro; "The Only Sane Man in the Universe" by Marguerite Krause; "Douglas Adams and the Wisdom of Madness" by John Shirley; and "Loop-Surface Security: The Image of the Towel in a Vagabond Universe ? A Semiotic (Semi-Odd) Excursion" by Mark W. Tiedemann.
There's also an interview with Douglas Adam by John Shirley ("A Talk with Douglas Adams"). Amy Berner in "Words to Live " talks about how everything she needed to learn to life live she learned from the Hitchhiker's Guide. "Goodnight, Marvin" by Maria Alexander is the final essay in the book and a touching tribute to Douglas as a person who touched many of our lives with his writing.
Recommended, whether you're taking a book along to keep you company on a tour of the universe or just sitting around at home listening to approaching cosmic bulldozers.