Review: The Salmon of Doubt

I don’t want to finish this book.

I really don’t.

If I finish this book that means I’ll have finished the last work of Douglas Adams. And since it is technically ‘unfinished’, that means I’ll actually need to acknowledge that he’s gone. Dead. Breathed his last. Snuffed it.

Have you read anything by Douglas Adams? If you were born in the last fifty years and are a fan of British comedy, I’ll assume you’ve come across The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Maybe you’ve even read about his detective Dirk Gently. Or his work of non-fiction, Last Chance to See, where he travelled to see almost extinct animals, like a very rare lemur in Madagascar and the Komodo dragon. If you haven’t, I must insist you do. If you don’t like British comedy? You may want to back away slowly. I’m sure there are many other book reviews you would find more pleasurable and I must insist you find one. Now, back to the book.

Adams’ friend and fan, Stephen Fry, introduces The Salmon of Doubt. It is a posthumous collection of things taken from his Macbook after he died (urgh, that hurts to say). The Salmon of Doubt includes articles from the late eighties and nineties about technology, book introductions, speeches and works that have never been published before. It is packed with Adams’ quirky sense of humour and contains plenty of the self-deprecating jokes common to British comic writers. Classic Adamisms include his section for children, where he explains how to tell the difference between things. Since I can’t actually for you to slowly wander to this section in the book, please continue to read it here!

You will need to know the difference between Friday and a fried egg. It’s quite a simple difference, but an important one. Friday comes at the end of the week, whereas a fried egg comes out of a hen. Like most things, of course, it isn’t quite that simple. The fried egg isn’t properly a fried egg until it’s been put in a frying pan and fried. This is something you wouldn’t do to a Friday, of course, though you might do it on a Friday. You can also fry eggs on a Thursday, if you like, or on a cooker. It’s all rather complicated, but it makes a kind of sense if you think about it for a while.

The second half of the book is the first half (or is it… technically if the first half follows the second half, I must be making a mistake somewhere) of Adams’ uncompleted novel The Salmon of Doubt. Dirk Gently is on the trail of half a cat and a mysteriously easy-to-track actor. It’s probably fantastic. But if I read it – that means I have to acknowledge that it is unfinished. Which means the story of Douglas Adams, the writer, the environmentalist, the radical atheist, and all around brilliant person, is finished. So, I haven’t read it yet. I will, I promise. But first, I must read the rest of the Dirk Gently series. Then I shall read it.

Anyway, you may ask who is this book for? If it’s not even finished, what’s the point? Unquestionably, The Salmon of Doubt is for the fans of Douglas Adams. Since I am undoubtedly that, I recommend this book wholeheartedly to other fans. If you want a few more Adamisms before you have to acknowledge (again!) that the man is gone, you can even divide this book up into each section and chapter. It truly is a delight to read. I found myself laughing in strange places and insisting the stranger sitting next to me or the friend I’m having lunch with read just this one paragraph.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read another section as I edge slowly towards finishing this book.

But I really don’t want to.

Rating: 4.5/5 (It would have a 5 but I haven’t finished it yet and that’s not totally honest of me.)


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