Story: Coming from a somewhat unexpected source, this book can’t seem to decide if it’s a biography of Douglas Adams, or the definitive history of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” story as told in multitudes of media. But in any case, it would be virtually impossible to write the former without at least temporarily lapsing into the latter, so it’s okay. Neil’s just zis guy, ya know?
Review: Though there are wonderfully large amounts of previously unknown information about the behind-the-scenes machinations of “Hitchhiker’s Guide” on TV, on radio, in print, and – gasp! – on stage, I really have to single out the section on Adams’ fan mail as the most hilarious portion of the book. The fan mail itself isn’t that funny; in fact, some of it comes across as positively disturbing. But Adams’ answers never fail to give me a good belly laugh – especially at the thought that the original letter writers probably turned around and tried to read something into them!
There are also sections dealing with Adams’ involvement with Doctor Who, and a Doctor Who script outline which the show’s producer passed up as being “too silly,” later revived at the basic plot of “Life, The Universe and Everything”. Dirk Gently and Adams’ fascination with computer games are also covered, as well as a chapter or two answering the question “What happened to the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, anyway?” Numerous bits of the books, radio and TV scripts which never made it to the printer or the studio make this a necessity for any die-hard Adams followers, along with Adams’ steadfast denials – keep in mind, this was long before Terry Jones wrote the novel version of Starship Titanic – that he was involved in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
If there’s any one thing I find even slightly off-putting about “Don’t Panic”, it’s Gaiman’s tendency to try to ape Adams’ own style of writing. It’s not entirely necessary, and is a bit distracting in some places. Other than that, it’s a hoopy addition to the library.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Pocket Books