Michael Joseph £18.99 (316pp) £17.09 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

And Another Thing..., By Eoin Colfer

Trilogies which extend to six volumes – not to mention continuations of deceased authors' profitable franchises by other hands – are a phenomenon endemic to the sort of rubbishy science fiction/fantasy Douglas Adams set out to skewer mercilessly when he began The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as a radio serial in 1978. Yet, after numerous mutations from the first (and, frankly, best) iteration of the story, here is just such a shameless beast.

Adams was good at jokes, ideas and broad-strokes characters, but never mastered plotting, prose that didn't sound like instructions to the sound-effects department or learning when to leave well enough alone. Eoin Colfer has demonstrated in his own books for young adults all the novelistic skills Adams never managed to attain – but in this Hitchhiker's Guide "Part Six of Three", it takes him 100 pages or so to sort out the mess left in the sub-standard fifth book in the trilogy (Mostly Harmless). In that, the author – in one of those contradictory fits common to creators shackled to enormously successful series – slaughtered the entire regular cast and wiped out every possible Earth. And not in a funny way. Colfer plays fair, and doesn't quite pull an "all a dream" to save Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and Trillian, the well-remembered leads, plus Arthur and Ford's less-well-remembered grumpy daughter, Random. However, he has to twist in the cosmic winds to get his own story going, which involves factions of continuing characters haring across the universe to a world where a mock-Irish entrepreneur has created a retreat for wealthy Earth people.

The planet-demolishing bureaucrat Vogons want to finish off Earth humans, though it's hard to get worked up about this since, Arthur aside, all the survivors of the planet are hard to care about. Colfer does Adams's characters well – though he clips trickster Zaphod Beeblebrox of one of his heads (revoking a one-off radio gag which has plagued every subsequent manifestation) and leaves the resurrection of the Eeyoreish Marvin the Paranoid Android (killed off by Adams two books back) for later.

The book has to walk a tricky path – diverge too much from Adams's tone, and it won't be embraced by the fans; simply rework old jokes, and it's hard to see the point. Colfer does bring new stuff to the table, especially in business with slightly sad Gods ranging from Lovecraft's Great Cthulhu to the Norse (well, Marvel Comics') Asgard, which seems more Pratchetty than Adamsian. He also gets the fundamental melancholy of the whole thing, where the bright-spark ideas and long strings of bizarre thought are all in the service of a vision of the universe as gently running down and stuffed full of self-important idiots, whining victims, insanely violent species and great extinctions.

After four episodes, Adams ran out of puff and John Lloyd had to come in and help him end the original story – a circumstance which has served to hobble many subsequent incarnations (the film, for instance, couldn't use Lloyd material and fizzled at the finish). There's a sense that more books will appear and, maybe now the decks are cleared, Colfer will have the opportunity to bring more to the mix.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape