The Salmon of Doubt
is the late Douglas Adams's third comic novel about "holistic detective" Dirk Gently. Ten tantalising chapters of this unfinished project are padded to book size with about 50 short Adams pieces, mostly non-fiction.
Additional material includes introductions by Stephen Fry and editor Peter Guzzardi (who stitched together the Salmon fragment from disk drafts), The Guardian's Adams biography, Richard Dawkins's farewell piece, and the order of the memorial service.
The non-fiction by the man himself ranges from perhaps a dozen meaty articles and speeches to brief squibs, interview/questionnaire answers and tiny asides like:
We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. How do you recognise something that is still technology? A good clue is if it comes with a manual.
There are enjoyable pieces on computers (especially), atheism, dogs, manta rays on the Great Barrier Reef, the Save the Rhino stunt climb, and PG Wodehouse. Much of the rest is ephemeral; you can't help reflecting that Adams himself never chose to collect all this lightweight newspaper work.
Lovers of his fiction will welcome the Hitch-Hiker-related short stories "The Private Life of Genghis Khan" and "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe", despite the latter's dreadfully dated political punch line.
What of The Salmon of Doubt itself, a quarter of this book? There's a glimpse of a far-future estate agent's utopia, a woman asking Dirk Gently to investigate a cat that's literally only half there (his puzzling reluctance to take the case may echo Adams's own feelings about the novel), Gently's capricious trip to America in response to an unknown client's total lack of instructions, the tragic death of a rhino as perceived by the rhino... Many teasing questions; we'll never know the answers.
Overall it's a must-have for devoted Adams fans and completists, a likely disappointment (though with pleasant exceptions) for new readers. --David Langford
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Edited by Peter Guzzardi and with an introduction by Christopher Cerf, this bittersweet collection comprises letters, fragments of ideas for books, films and TV, ruminations on a diverse array of subjects and a good bit of a final unfinished novel by the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, who died in May of last year. Included are a letter to the editor of a U.K. boy's magazine (written in 1965, when Adams was 12); a reminiscence about his lifelong love for the Beatles, written when he was in his 40s; a 1991 piece from Esquire entitled "My Nose"; and an undated article for the Independent espousing his preference for whiskey. Also on hand are a q&a in which he identifies the most interesting natural structure as being a "2,000-mile-long fish in orbit around Jupiter, according to a reliable report in the Weekly World News"; a spiritual encounter with a giant manta ray while testing a mechanical diving device at Australia's Great Barrier Reef; an affecting introduction to P.G. Wodehouse's unfinished novel, Sunset at Blandings; an account of a Save the Rhino pilgrimage across Africa; ruminations on computerization; and a philosophical address about the authorship of the universe entitled "Is There an Artificial God?" Two sketches "The Private Life of Genghis Khan" and "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe" from the Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book, 1986, are also here, as are 10 chapters from various versions of the title novel-in-progress. National advertising.
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