The Anthology at the End of the Universe

More book reviews! When I started reviewing every book I read I had a big backlog of magazines (I was running at about three months behind on almost everything I read) and magazines represented the majority of my reading time. So it seemed manageable to review all my new reads. Well over time I've closed up that gap down to less than a month's backlog and thus I'm reading more books these days. After reviewing this one I have a stack of three books sitting in my "read but not reviewed pile". But onwards!


The Anthology at the End of the Universe is one of the Benbella "Smart Pop" series although I don't think I knew that when I bought it. I'm not sure though because I don't really remember buying it and it's been sitting in my book slush pile forever, along with a biography of Douglas Adams. I have a sneaking suspicion I may have bought both back when the new radio series aired on BBC. I've been curious about the Smart Pop books for a while, I've looked at the Buffy one several times as a possible present for Karin (which I've now spoiled - sorry honey!), and the Star Wars on Trial one caused a tempest in a teapot flap in SF circles with the debate about whether Star Wars is a good or bad influence on novel-form SF. So when I realized this was in the Smart Pop series I was doubly excited to read it.


OK, mister Smarty-Pants, but what is the book? It's a collection of essays about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - well known to my audience as a series that JP should totally read some day. Cory Doctorow writes about how Wikipedia is turning into a real life Guide, several writers obsess on the meaning of 42, Don DeBrandt makes a hilarious essay that he describes as "I intend to prove that God not only exists in Adam's universe, but identify who he is, explain what his plans are and reveal once and for all why he seems to be obsessed with fish." There are essays reflecting on what HHTTG has meant to the authors, and scholarly essays about the dramatic structure of the books. (Well. As scholarly as you can be while talking about Marvin and Arthur anyway.)


It is probably not a surprise to readers of this blog that I liked this book a lot. Much as I once told Bwana that he gives free passes to games involving zombies, I give free passes to anything Douglas Adams. In theory anyway, even I have trouble justifying Mostly Harmless (although I strongly disagree with the orthodox stance that So Long and Thanks for All the Fish is bad). But I don't think that really comes into play here. Obviously you have to like HHTTG or you'd have no business reading a book of essays about it. But what you have here is akin to the bull sessions you'd have in college where you sit around and talk about incredibly geeky stuff at length with your friends until the wee hours of the morning. Hitchhikers might very well be the most read book on my bookshelf, and since it's a universe that will sadly be no more even a backhand way of revisiting it and seeing something new is an awesome gift.


And you really do have to read the essay explaining who God really is in Adams' universe. Revelatory!


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