A children's author has been commissioned to write the first posthumous instalment to the best-selling Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy series.
Mostly Harmless, the fifth and last Hitchhiker book, was written by its creator Douglas Adams 16 years ago.
Now the author's widow, Jane Belson, has given her approval to the plan by publisher Penguin to resurrect the hapless Arthur Dent in a sixth book, entitled And Another Thing...
The novel will be written by Eoin Colfer, best known for Artemis Fowl, the best-selling titles about a teenage criminal mastermind who wreaks havoc in this world and the next.
Colfer, 43, was a primary school teacher in Ireland before he secured the largest ever advance for a children's novel by an unknown author.
His Artemis Fowl series went on to sell more than 18 million copies worldwide and a film adaptation is due to go into production next year.
The author said he was "terrified" by the prospect of creating a new Hitchhiker book almost a quarter of a century after being introduced to what he described as a "slice of satirical genius" in his late teens.
He said: "My first reaction was semi-outrage that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series.
"But on reflection I realised that this is a wonderful opportunity to work with characters I have loved since childhood and give them something of my own voice while holding on to the spirit of Douglas Adams".
He added: "I feel more pressure to perform now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written.
"Being given the chance to write this book is like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice. For years I have been finishing this incredible story in my head and now I have the opportunity to do it in the real world. It is a gift from the gods."
Adams's widow Belson said: "I am delighted that Eoin Colfer has agreed to continue the Hitchhiker series. I love his books and could not think of a better person to transport Arthur, Zaphod and Marvin to pastures new. The project has my full support."
Adams died of heart failure in 2001, at the age of 49.
Around 16 million copies of his Hitchhiker books have been sold around the world, translated into 35 languages.
He had wanted a sixth Hitchhiker book, saying in an interview: "I suspect at some point in the future I will write a sixth Hitchhiker book... I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note.
"Five seems to be a wrong kind of number, six is a better kind of number."
The idea for the story came to Adams while in a field in 1971 and the first radio series was broadcast by the BBC in 1978.
A play and the first book appeared the following year.
Hitchhiker's spawned four more books, a TV series, a comic and a recent film.
The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of essays as well as previously unpublished material by Adams, was published in 2002.
But Penguin said the book was not part of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.
Penguin managing director Helen Fraser said: "Douglas Adams was an extraordinary writer, with an ability to come at the reader from the most unexpected angles, knock them off balance and make them laugh at the same time.
"Eoin Colfer is an inspired choice as Douglas's successor... He is a huge talent and a fantastically funny writer, and this new book will bring as many new young readers to Douglas Adams's work as it will introduce adults to the brilliance of Eoin Colfer."
Michael Rowley, Waterstone's science fiction buyer, said: "Penguin matched Sebastian Faulks perfectly and Waterstone's believes Eoin Colfer and The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is an equally inspired combination.
"There's a ready-made audience of millions for more Hitchhiker's books - this is very exciting news for all those fans."
And Another Thing... will be published in October next year.
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