on June 25, 2001
This was the book that meant the most to Douglas Adams himself, because unlike the Hitchiker or the Dirk Gently series, "Last Chance to See" is a true story. It is the story of Douglas Adams and Marc Carwardine, a zoologist, travelling around the world to experience species of animals that are close to extinction. One of the animals, the kakapo, a parrot in New Zealand, is reduced to only 40. His journey opens your eyes what it means when something is gone forever, when there is no more chance to see it in real life. You experience different cultures and customs through the eyes of a writer who has written about them all along, but by using alien worlds as metaphors, this time it is real. I have read this book many many times, but sadly have to say that the event that really opened my eyes about what it means that you missed your last chance to see is Douglas Adams's death, with it, I missed my last chance to see. Because of this book, I developed an interest in evolution and a thirst for knowledge about the way this world works. I think it is essential reading for everyone who is remotely interested in anthropology, zoology, wildlife preservation or simply a good book.
on February 17, 2001
Douglas Adams' sense of humour is so strong, it could inject a bucketful of laughs into an obituary. Needless to say I wasn't surprised when this book, his elegy for endangered species, turned out to have a welcome balance between laughter and melancholy.
Adams is joined by zoologist Mark Carwardine, as they use their last chance to see a variety of animals on the brink of extinction, such as the Komodo Dragon, the White Rhinos of Zaire, New Zealand kakapos, and Yangtze river dolphins. Adams, amateur wildlife lover, is wise enough to know the purpose of his journey: to shine some of the glare from his celebrity as a "science-fiction comedy novelist" on the issue of global extinction. He does wisely not to downplay the plight of these animals in the favour of commerciality, but manages to produce an entertaining work nonetheless. Carwardine, and the other people we encounter, sometimes come off as little more than characters in a Douglas Adams novel. I am hesitant to believe that everyone he encounters has the same dry, deadpanned British sense of humour. Nonetheless, the characters' eccentricities further shed light on the kinds of people who are willing to undertake the monumental task of saving these beautiful beasts. It is not work for the dispassionate.
"The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong," he notes at one point, "is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along." Which brings up the second theme he hopes to illustrate here. Humans are dumb. No, that's too simple. Humans are egotistical, selfish, wasteful, materialistic, impudent, and dumb. The single, overwhelming reason why most of these animals must fight for their survival is the sheer audacity humans have in moving into their natural habitat, and upsetting the balance of nature. Adams has no time for individual moments of human idiocy, best exemplified by his wonderful line skewering young Yemeni men who insist on wearing rhino tusk costume jewelry: "How do you persuade [them] that a rhino horn dagger is not a symbol of your manhood but a signal of the fact that you need such a symbol?" His exasperation is evident in this and other such pearls of prose.
I admit that I read this book more for Adams himself than for the subject matter. It is a credit to the author that by the end, I felt some sense of emotional investment in the animals, without the bitter feelings that usually emanate whenever I am subject to an overt tug at my heartstrings. Adams walks that fine line quite well.
on May 18, 2001
With Mr. Adams' recent death, I decided to buy several copies of his books to give to people as gifts. Strange? Maybe. I can't explain why, but I did the same thing when Richard Gorey died. This book, "Last Chance to See," will be the one I purchase most. Much as I loved all of Adams' books, this is my hands-down favorite. It is hilarious at several points, in Adams' trademark style, but beyond that, it has heart and soul. The last chapter is, in its way, crushing. One more reason it's my favorite Adams book: He told me, in an email exchange a couple of years ago, that it was HIS favorite. I felt fortunate to be able to swap a few words with a man that brought me so much laughter, and with this book, a real sense of wonder and responsibility along with it.
on November 13, 2003
Do you like humorous books? How about one's with travel, nature, and exotic, endangered animals? This book covers all of those subjects and more. The author and narrator of this book is Douglas Adams who travels along to many countries with Mark Carwardine. They go to places such as Komodo island (to search for the Komodo Dragon of course), Zaire Africa, Madagascar, and those are just naming a few. They go there to track down endangered animals, and they keep it interesting with their intelligence and humor.
Adams is a brilliant writer never leaving out anything. For example, when he can't think of anything else to say he writes that he can't think of anything else to say, even printed in his book. When they were flying to China to look for the baiji dolphin Adams bought several different aftershave's just for the heck of it. That's where a lot of the humor comes in.
I can think of laughing at so many points in this book. Adams sarcastic and witty comments toward everything make you smile and puts you in a good mood. Such as when he talks back to a man in a blue polyester suit, in Tanzania at the "airport." Another person that I found to be quite humorous was Dr. Struan Sutherland a man who had devoted his whole entire life to the study of venom. Adam's and his crew went to go ask him what to do if they got bit by a Komodo dragon or a snake. His response was simply, "Don't get bitten." There was more, but I don't want to give it away.
This book is very adventurous, and a bit suspenseful at times with all the dangerous animals. They risked being hurt several times, which is definitely more interesting to read. So if you are interested in anything I've said Last Chance to See is a must read for you.
on August 18, 2000
If you need a book for your Biology project on endangered species and need facts, this book is NOT it. If youre looking for drama and enlightment, this is also NOT for you.
This book is instead a humor book like the HitchHikers Trilogy (even though its not a trilogy). Its about endagered species like gorillas and other strange fauna, as well as the other stranger species that our biology teachers and Discovery Channel never told us about. Even if you think that you know about all endangered species, are a part of WWF, and spend millions on saving them, you probably have never heard of the many fauna featured in this book and even if you have, this book would make you laugh. But if you think that this book has no seriousness and is all funny, that wouldnt be correct either. Last Chance to See would lead you off loving Douglas Adams and his humor but it'd also leave you collecting pennies in a jar for saving these funny creatures. Even if nonfiction and animals is not for you, id highly recommend reading this book.
on November 22, 2001
I picked up this book because like so many others, I'm a huge fan of all of Douglas Adams' work. I didn't know what I was about to read, but this book definitely surpassed all of my expectations. Adams and Carwardine tell the true story of their various journeys to exotic locations around the world to track down endangered species for a BBC radio program. Using Adams' trademark sarcasm and humor, the seriousness of the subject is eased into readers' perception while still providing plenty of material for those who are already champions of endangered species. Seeing the humorous style used by Adams in his fiction works applied to a nonfiction topic is refreshing and enjoyable.
This is a truly excellent read for anyone who is a fan of Douglas Adams or environmentalism, and I guarantee you won't be able to put it down for long. :)
on August 30, 2001
Speaking personally (as a professional ecologist, for what it's worth), I have grown weary of the pedantic, condescending misanthropism that characterizes so much environmental writing. Too much doom and gloom consumes the soul.
Imagine, then, the thrill of discovering Douglas Adams' "Last Chance to See!" Adams' compassion (for all things, excepting perhaps a certain variety of tourist) is obvious and his sense of humor is contagious. His insights into life as an endangered species and our relationship to the natural world are equally remarkable.
This book is a quiet little miracle. Douglas Adams had a big heart and it shows on every page. What else can I say?
on August 2, 2000
I belive this book is the best book ever written. Not only did it made me care even more about endagered species, but now I am going to become a zoologist and study sloth bears in Sri Lanka. I have since formed my own conservation fund (small) and work at a rehabilitiation center for wild animals. This book also made me notice that even at the age of 16 you can make a big difference in this world, for me it has been to conserve endagered species. And it all started with this book. I hope Adams and Carwardine know how this book has effected people like me.
on July 31, 2001
I am not an Adams fanatic and found his other books amusing, not wildly funny. I enjoyed this one much more, with Adams being funny, but also very, very serious at times. This book is a mixture of nature and travel writing and comedy, and the resulting cocktail is a resounding success. Adams could have been a much better travel writer than somebody like Bill Bryson, who tries too hard to be funny and can be very condescending.
Read this whether you like books on nature or not. You will not be disappointed.
on December 16, 2001
Last Chance to See Ballantine, 1990, 222 pp., $...
Douglas Adams ISBN 0-345-37198-4
Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams, is a powerful and insightful look at the alarming number of endangered animals and the attempts being made to preserve them. Written by Douglas Adams, the hit writer of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Last Chance To See is a non-fiction book that appeals to the entire range of senses. Adams manages to intertwine humor into a glum topic, which sets this book apart from others, such as Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
In the book Adams travels around the world with a zoologist, Mark Carwardine, and relays the humorous and sad details of everything he sees. In one part he receives a letter from a government official in the Zairian airport. The letter, which is supposedly written to the citizens of the country asking them to help the visitors, is not even written in the most common language. Adams does a great job with his imagery and draws the reader into the beautiful areas that he sees these magnificent animals in.
Even though chapters of this book were written between 1985 and 1989, Adams is able to tie them together beautifully to create a story that never stops. Most people should enjoy this book because it has many faces. It is a comedy yet it still speaks about the animals and their habitat. The book is accompanied with interesting color photographs of the animals Adams treks around the world to see. I really enjoyed this book. As fan of the comedy series I believe that it follows in it foot steps. So whether you are a fan of comedy, non-fiction, or just interested in animals Last Chance To See if a must read.