DOUGLAS ADAMS'S STARSHIP TITANIC
by Terry Jones
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In Douglas Adam's novel, Life, The Universe and Everything, he included a throw-away joke about the Starship Titanic. Never one to simply throw things away (So Long and Thanks for All the Fish had begun life as a "Doctor Who Episode"), Adams seized upon those couple of lines when work began on an interactive computer game. Naturally, in the modern world of merchandising, the software company wanted a novel to be released at the same time as the game. Since Adams couldn't write the game and the novel at the same time, he commissioned his old friend, Terry Jones (of "Monty Python" fame) to handle the novel writing part of the project. The result is Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic by Terry Jones. Oh, and Adams wasn't able to bring out the software at the same time as the novel either.
Jones does a good job imitating Adams's style. The novel is humorous and irreverent, falling into silliness just frequently enough that it is not irritating. While the writing may not be as polished as Adams's later books, it makes up for it in enthusiasm and good-natured fun.
The plot, which Douglas Adams stated "not only [has] a beginning but also a middle and (phenomenally enough) a recognizable end," is still merely a frame upon which to hang jokes and observations. In fact, in the plot the reader can frequent see the novel's origins in a computer game. The scene in which the Galaxy's Greatest Genius, Leovinus, must outwit a robot reads like the hint book for a game.
Jones also borrows liberally from Adams's other literary works. Leovinus seems reminiscent of Slartibartfast and Nettie has similarities to Trillian. Some of the jokes and sequences are also taken directly from the earlier works. The Starship Titanic is staffed by robots with "genuine personality transfer," very similar to the "Genuine People Personality" whcih afflicted Marvin.
Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic is not great literature. It isn't even great satire or parody. It is, however, a fun (if short) novel extremely reminiscent of the first books Adams wrote. For anyone who is a fan of the early Adams, Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic is definitely a book worth looking into. Just be warned that it does, on occasion, betray its multi-media roots.
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