Click to see next pageThe Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time by Douglas Adams, Christopher Cerf (Editor)
Harmony Books; ISBN: 1400045088; 1st edition (May 7, 2002)
Review by Don Smith
299 pages List price $24.00  Purchase this book at Amazon.com

The Salmon of Doubt is the title of two different subjects that both relate to the late great Douglas Adams. The book, The Salmon of Doubt, is a collection of stories, interviews, and columns pieced together from Adams's own computer and writings by an editor, his wife - writer Jane Belson Adams, and Adams's friends and assistants.

"Salmon of Doubt" is also the title of the story Adams was in the middle of writing - when he had his heart attack. It looked to be the third Dirk Gently story. However, in the opening introduction, Christopher Cerf, co-creator of the PBS reading show "Between the Lions," speculates something else. " Would it have remained a Dirk Gently book, or would he instead have transformed it - as he hinted he might - into the sixth and final volume in the Hitchhiker trilogy?"

Adams put himself on the radar with his comedy classic Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, first a radio series for the BBC then a trilogy with five books in it.  When anyone asks "Five books in a trilogy…Why?" One cannot help but answer with a shrug. Then, tell the same people the meaning of life is 42. The trick is "You have to know the question."

In So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, he tells us what God's final message to the Universe basically is - "Sorry for the inconvenience." What type of man writes like this? Simply - a brilliant and funny man who will be missed.

What is good about The Salmon of Doubt, Adams's associates did not try to finish it. Instead they decided to collect his writings into one book. People get a chance to glimpse at a side of Adams that is not necessarily visible for those who only knew him through Arthur Dent.

We learn Adams was a technophile who designed software and video games. He exclusively worked with the Macintosh.

His "devout atheism" and conversion away from Christianity is explained. We find about his passion for the environment, especially the rhinoceros. We learn of his connections to Doctor Who and Monty Python, especially key member Graham Chapman. We also see how musicians like Bach, the Beatles, and British musician Gary Brooker play key inspirations in his writing.

Adams writes about his love for the Beatles: "I only knew that the Beatles were the most exciting thing in the universe. It wasn't always an easy view to live with…you had to fight the Stones fans, which was tricky because they fought dirty and had their knuckles nearer to the ground."

The Salmon of Doubt is divided into sections entitled "Life," "The Universe," and "And Everything."  In the section of "Life" he more or less reads like a collection of Dave Barry articles. "The Universe" section includes interviews and short stories by him.

Each of them has something interesting to say. These are very entertaining and his writing structure was unlike any other.  In "And Everything" we finally see the story - "Salmon of Doubt." I find it almost painful to read.

We see his "what might have been." We only catch glimpses of a novel that would have made us laugh.  Just in case any skeptic needs more proof of his wit, here is the following example from the story "Salmon of Doubt" itself:

 "You know what I hate?" said Dirk to the truck driver. "Those signs in cabs that say 'Thank You for Not Smoking.' I don't mind if they say 'Please Don't Smoke,' or even just a straightforward 'No Smoking.'  But I hate those prim 'Thank You for Not Smoking' signs. Make you want to light up immediately and say, 'No need to thank me, I wasn't going to not smoke.'"

The driver laughed.

As did I. And as I will - once again.

© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu                                                                                sa072402