The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams
The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time
Douglas Adams’ untimely passing last May deprived science fiction of its most unique voice. He left behind a wealth of writings, however, including an unfinished Dirk Gently story. The Salmon of Doubt, arranged by Peter Guzzardi, contains this partial novel as well as many short pieces that showcase Adams’ varied interests.
The book is arranged into three sections: “Life,” consisting mostly of Adams’s personal experiences and thoughts; “The Universe,” covering all things technological; and “And Everything,” featuring the author’s creative side and including the unfinished novel The Salmon of Doubt. Guzzardi admits to choosing what pieces to include based entirely on personal preference, and the suggestions of those close to Adams. Regardless, the choices comprise an entertaining look at the author’s career.
Picking the “Life” section’s best piece is difficult, but ultimately the winner is “For Children Only.” It combines a stream-of-consciousness sarcasm with childish-sounding explanations for a variety of concepts. “The Universe” has a clear stand-out offering: “Little Dongly Things,” in which Adams laments the impossibility of matching power cords to their machines once the two get separated. In “And Everything,” the short story “The Private Life of Genghis Khan” has the hilariously dithering warlord trying to deal with world domination’s myriad scheduling conflicts.
At 79 pages, The Salmon of Doubt is one quarter of a full novel’s size. Even so, Adams packs those 11 chapters with enough humor to make it worth the read. Dirk Gently, the holistic detective, follows someone he doesn’t know for an employer he’s never met, and ends up on a plane to Chicago.
Adams’ amazing sense of humor infuses every line in this hilarious collection. He could write about the most outrageous subjects with wit and originality. I reached the end of the book and wished with all my heart that it was 10 times as long. Rivaled in looniness only by Terry Pratchett, Adams carved his own niche from the too-often unoriginal science fiction genre.
It was good to hear this master craftsman’s unique voice one last time. Douglas Noel Adams, you are sorely missed and will be long remembered.
This review originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on June 20, 2002.