• News Feeds
Page last updated at 07:01 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 08:01 UK
And another thing...

David Learner as Marvin the paranoid android and Simon Jones as Arthur Dent
Marvin and Arthur Dent's adventures will be penned by a new author

All the characters have been blown to pieces, and the trilogy is already two books too long.

But the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has never had a problem with highly improbable events.

Douglas Adams died in 2001, having written five of the enduringly popular Hitchhiker books - still inaccurately dubbed a trilogy.

About 16 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide, but fans were left disappointed when it seemed as though Adams' early death ended the series with all the main characters seemingly meeting a grisly end.

Adams himself said: "I suspect at some point in the future I will write a sixth Hitchhiker book…I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note.

"Five seems to be a wrong kind of number, six is a better kind of number."

Now it seems Adams' wish has come true. Children's author Eoin Colfer has been chosen to write the sixth of the series by Adams' widow Jane Belson. He writes of his joy at being able to continue the series with the new book And Another Thing.

I first read the Hitchhiker's Guide in my late teens when Ted Roche, a libertine friend of mine, pressed it into my sweaty palms and hissed at me with fanatical intensity that I must read it or be ridiculed forever by the school literati. Relax, dude, I remember saying with eighties' insouciance. Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

But I was scared. Petrified in fact. If one was not a sportsman, the only other circle to belong to was the readers' circle. Places were limited and expulsions were swift and ruthless.

If one had not read the livre du jour then one would not be offered book swapsies on Friday. If this happened, then a person might be forced to turn to his own siblings for conversation.

David Dixon as Ford Prefect and Simon Jones as Arthur Dent
Colfer likens the chance to write the book as "being offered the superpower of your choice"

So, in this spirit of quasi-persecution I scuttled home after double chemistry and found a quiet bathroom where I could settle down and read what I was certain would be a thinly veiled version of Star Wars. Vogons destroy the Earth and a single hero survives. Please. I could almost write the rest myself.

Never have I been so happy to be proven wrong.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was like nothing I had read before, or since for that matter. If you have read it then you know exactly what I am talking about. If you haven't then read it now, moron. The problem is the hyperbole puts people off. If it's so popular then it must be middle of the road, brimming with clichés and easily digested on the sands of Ibiza.

All false assumptions. The Guide is a slice of satirical genius. A marvel of quantum tomfoolery. A dissection of the absurdities of our human condition. A space odyssey that forces us to face ourselves and collapse in hysterics.

Imagine if Messrs Hawking and Fry were locked in a room with the entire cast of Monty Python and forced to write a book which would subsequently be edited by Pink Floyd, then the result would need a lot of work before it could be cut from Douglas Adams' first draft.

A quest?

For the next couple of decades I followed the exploits of Arthur Dent and his intergalactic troupe as they stumbled through space and time befuddled and bereft, drinking tea in the face of impossible odds and generally failing to find enlightenment at every turn. It's like a quest for the holy grail where the grail is neither holy nor grail-shaped.

I travelled with Arthur Dent as he lost his planet, learned to fly, found love, made sandwiches, got to know his daughter, found his planet again briefly and finally got blown to atoms.

Blown to atoms! Surely not, but no need to panic, Douglas Adams would surely reassemble Arthur somehow in the next book.

But as we all know, the next book never came and the legions of Hitchhiker fans were left with their hearts beating a little too quickly for all eternity.

Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox
I realised that this is a wonderful opportunity to work with characters I have loved since childhood

It became a whimsy of mine to finish the story, just for my own peace of mind. I often wondered how Douglas Adams would have resurrected his beloved characters. And now, almost quarter of a century after first reading Hitchhiker, I have been given the incredible opportunity of writing the next chapter in the saga myself. In an actual book rather than in my head.

My first reaction was semi-outrage that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series.

But on reflection I realised that this is a wonderful opportunity to work with characters I have loved since childhood and give them something of my own voice while holding onto the spirit of Douglas Adams and not laying a single finger on his five books.

Once again I am terrified by a Hitchhiker book and this time it is my own. I feel more pressure to perform now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written. And if it isn't then I will make sure that the cover is extremely pretty.

For the first time in decades I feel the uncertainty that I last felt in my teenage years. There are people out there that really want to like this book. Ted Roche is one.

I will track him down in eight months time, with a proof copy in my sweaty grip, press it into his hands and tell him with fanatical intensity that he really has to read this book.

Then I will sit on the corner of his sofa until he is finished and await the verdict.





FEATURES AND COMMENT
Ajibola Lewis (right) with her daughter Police custody 'scandal'
A charity calls for a public inquiry into the number of people who die while being held by police.

Christmas tree Mass Observing the season
The spirits of Christmases past, as seen by the British people

Children selling low-value goods at the roadside are a familiar sight in Liberia Catch-22
Evan Davis examines Liberia's attempt to rebuild its economy following the recent civil war.

AUDIO SLIDESHOWS
RECENT INTERVIEWS

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific