161 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2003
The first two-thirds of "The Salmon of Doubt", as assembled by Douglas Adams' editor, consists of essays, lectures, magazine articles, and other short pieces written by Adams. It is an interesting glimpse into his mind, his work habits, his love of computers and gadgets, and his views on religion, atheism, and evolution. As an added bonus, the last third of the book contains the first eleven chapters of what was meant to be Adams' new Dirk Gently novel (although he tantalizingly hinted in interviews that he might turn it into a sixth "Hitchhiker's" book), also named "The Salmon of Doubt."
The essay/article portion of the book, while interesting, does have an unavoidably hodgepodge feel to it. Most of this material will be familiar to diehard Douglas Adams fans (in fact, much of it has already been printed elsewhere - little here is new material), but it is nice to have it all gathered together in one place. Unfortunately, no index or table of contents is provided, so finding a particular piece is rather challenging.
The portion of the book actually devoted to "The Salmon of Doubt" is very intriguing. As the editor notes, the eleven chapters are stitched together from three separate "versions" of the novel that Adams was working on at the time of his death. As a result, some of the chapter transitions are very choppy (and of course the story sputters out without a proper ending, although this does seem vaguely appropriate for a Dirk Gently novel). However, I found chapters two through seven of the book to be very engaging; a bit rough, certainly, but this was shaping up to be a great Dirk Gently novel. It was with sadness that I reached the end of this story and realized that there would be no ending, and further, no other novels from Douglas Adams.
I don't fault the editor for assembling the story the way he's chosen to, as an amalgam of three different manuscripts - I'm sure this would have been his suggestion even if Adams were still alive. Still, I would love to see a completely "unedited" version of the novel, i.e., one that includes all three working versions; I think that would be fascinating to read. It's certainly a tease to know that certain parts of the different versions were skipped over in assembling this edition.
Having said that, I still do think this book is a must-own if you're a fan of Douglas Adams and his work, due to the inclusion of the unfinished novel. However, when reading "The Salmon of Doubt", you must be prepared to read an unpolished, unfinished story; if you're able to read it in this frame of mind, it's actually very rewarding.
76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2002
He made hitchhiking a universal thing.
Douglas Adams, author of the five books in the vastly popular comic-space saga "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy (you did indeed read that correctly), plus an assortment of other novels, died in May 2001.
Now comes a posthumous collection of his writings, called "The Salmon of Doubt," which allows his fans one last, gentle look at a revolutionary voice in literature and science-fiction.
"Salmon" is very much a toast to Adams, a eulogy to him.
The assembled writings are fabulous, culled from a massive selection of writings, letters, essays, various introductions and other things from Adams' computer.
The title refers to an included unfinished Dirk Gently book which, had he lived, might have turned into the sixth "Hitchhiker" book.
Other points of interest:
The first published work of twelve-year-old Douglas Adams, a letter to the editor to "The Eagle," a popular boys' magazine.
"Y," in which Adams helpfully points out that the question "Why?" is the only one important enough to have had a letter named after it.
"Riding the Rays," in which Adams gets the idea to compare riding a new technological submarine, the "Sub Bug," to riding manta rays off the coast of Manta Ray Bay near Australia, the rejection of his proposal when it comes to riding the rays and, upon discovering a manta in said bay, his ease with giving up the pursuit of a ride. Quite possibly the best entry in the whole book.
"Is There an Artificial God?" is an interesting speech from Adams on his aetheism, as he breaks downb his non-belief into steps and explores the contrasts between science and religion.
"Cookies," in which Adams finds himself plagued by the most horrid of human entities: The cookie thief. Or does he?
A letter to Disney's unresponsive David Vogel leaving a chart of numbers at which Adams can possibly be reached.
"The Private Life of Genghis Khan": A woman whose village has just been pillaged and burnt to the ground by the Mongol now finds herself right next to him, with one of his warriors forcing her to ask the mighty Khan how his day was...
It is almost spooky how, in a review/essay of P.G. Wodehouse's unfinished novel "Sunset at Blandings," Adams laments the fact that Wodehouse's final work is "unfinished not just in the sense that it suddenly, heartbreakingly for those of us who love this man and his work, stops in midflow, but in the more important sense that the text up to that point is also unfinished."
Heartbreakingly stopped in midflow, unfinished? The same can be said of Adams himself.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2004
The world was robbed of one it's greatest and funniest writers on May 11, 2001, when Douglas Adams, author of the hugely popular "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" and "Dirk Gently" books, died from a heart attack at the age of 49. As a writer, Adams was a true original. His style of humor was gloriously funny, and he certainly had a most unique way with words. His final book, the posthumous release "The Salmon Of Doubt," is a collection of assorted writings, including essays, e-mails, interviews, lectures and letters that Adams had given or written over the years, as well as an unfinished third "Dirk Gently" novel that Adams had been sporadically working on for many years. Much of the material was culled from the disk drives of Adams' collection of Macintosh computers, and we, Adams' faithful readers, can certainly be grateful for these golden DNA nuggets. The book contains such gems as Adams discussing his childhood, his nose, his friendship with dogs Maggie and Trudie, his great introduction to Procol Harum (a favorite band of Adams AND myself) just before they take the stage, his advice about how to make a cup of really good tea, his attempts to get "Hitchhiker's" made as a feature film (which *finally* happened in 2005), and his lecture about the existence of an artificial God. There's also a hilarious sketch about Genghis Khan, a short "Hitchhiker's" story involving Zaphod Beeblebrox, and, finally, 11 chapters of the unfinished Dirk Gently novel, entitled "The Salmon Of Doubt," which, although it is quite obviously an unpolished work-in-progress, is still very funny (though I'm saddened that we'll never know what happens to Dirk after Chapter 11, which is a terrible shame). Douglas Adams had so much more left to give to this world, he had so much more left to write. But we can take comfort in the great, hysterically funny gifts he did leave us---"Hitchhiker's" (not only the books but also the radio & TV series, and the feature film), "Dirk Gently," the travelogue book "Last Chance To See" (which succeeds as a serious piece sprinkled with great humor throughout), and his writing for the "Doctor Who" TV series. Douglas, as a longtime fan of yours, I just want to thank you for all the good cheer you've given me over the years. I will treasure your work & your memory 'til the end of my days, and perhaps even after that. "The Salmon Of Doubt" is a very fond farewell to the late, great Douglas Noel Adams.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2002
In spite of the book's subtitle: "Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time", what "The Salmon of Doubt" contains, among other things, is the 79 rough-draft pages of what was probably going to be his third Dirk Gently novel. I say probably because he states many times in his various interviews and essays that "The Salmon of Doubt" may have eventually morphed into a Hitchhiker book or, perhaps, an unrelated, stand-alone book. What was included, though (pulled from three different drafts) is definitely Dirk Gently.
The rest of the book, though, is mainly interviews, essays and letters that he wrote over the course of his life and career. Ranging from his views on religion (an avid atheist) to his status as an author and a conservationist to his love of music and his memories of school, the book feels more like a conversation with him than a memorial. This seems to be for the best, though, as it gives a very thorough, balanced view of the man - including some of his shortcomings.
Of special note is the essay he wrote for P.G. Wodehouse's "Sunset at Blandings" - a discussion of the brilliance of Wodehouse's work and what it takes to read an unfinished book. Many of the passages seem especially poignant when reading the Dirk Gently chapters.
Also of note is the lament by Richard Dawkins, longtime fan, friend, biologist and author of "The Blind Watchmaker" and "The Selfish Gene". After reading repeatedly in the first three chapters how Dawkins' books changed Adams' life, it is touching to read how his books had such effect on Dawkins'.
Ultimately, this book is worth reading for anyone who was even a casual fan of Adams. It contains all the intelligence, wittiness and passion that makes his works worth reading (or listening to - or watching), but gives the feeling that you are actually getting to know the whole man for once. The tragedy of Adams' death seems most poignant after finishing the book and wishing that you could sit down and discuss his life, his theories or his opinions with him and knowing that the chance is forever past. If his books have ever interested you, read this one, too.
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Sadly, I must disagree with most other reviewers on the merits of this well-intentioned pastiche from the computer files of the late Douglas Adams. People who have read and loved Adams' novels ought to see what a weak hodge-podge The Salmon of Doubt really is. Stephen Fry says on the dust jacket, "The bottom drawer of recently deceased writers is often best left firmly locked and bolted." He goes on to say this book is an exception. It's not. Adams, perfectionist that he was, would be embarrassed at what has been published in his name.
The material Adams actually wrote for novels-in-progress (three disparate fragments)amounts to just eighty pages. Though very funny, the writing is less polished than in his finished novels. And, of course, the reader is left with a tangle of plot threads like the "Little Dongly Things" Adams deplores in a MacUser article. The remainder of the book consists of previously published magazine articles, previously published interviews, a short comic sketch on Genghis Kahn published in a 1986 book, and a couple of letters. In the articles and interviews Adams occasionally comes across as querulous (on remodeling his home) or pompous (on the subject of his atheism). His best essays are on music -- from Bach to the Beattles -- where passion ignites his language.
I hope the people who control the material from Adams' computer files give us a book of his letters. Richard Dawkins, in his epilogue, says Adams was a prolific and funny email correspondent. The Collected Email of Douglas Adams might be a more fitting memorial to Adams than The Salmon of Doubt.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2002
Do not pick up The Salmon of Doubt expecting a complete novel. Given time Adams' would have converted it into a brilliant final product. Sadly, however, that will never happen. The novel is unfinished, but better to be unfinished than completed by someone else.
The book is more than the uncompleted novel, however. The would-be third Dirk Gently installment occupies fewer than 100 pages at the volume's end. The rest is taken up by an amalgam of tidbits from Adams' life. The book's success is the essays, short stories, letters, interviews, many of them in print for the first time in Salmon. They accomplish what no novel ever could; they portray Adams' as a human being.
Salmon is to Douglas Adams' what I, Asimov is to Isaac Asimov. It's not an autobiography, exactly, but it's as close as print gets to establishing a dialogue between the reader and the author. A great many people admire Adams' for is brilliant wit. This book allows us to admire him for much more.
I frequent a message board where a rating of "5" means "Comedy Gold," and that is why I give A Salmon of Doubt five stars. It is hilarious. The essay, "Cookies," used as a plot point in So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, is a brilliantly narrated anecdote. The reflections on canine behavior in Maggie and Trudie gave me a sleep-preventing giggle fit. The novel portion is jerky in places. An astute reader will spot some filler lines, gaps in continuity, and things that would most likely have been left out of the final version, but no one is pretending that it is whole. Salmon is exactly what it sets out to be; it is a requiem, a tribute to a great man.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2004
The wit of the late Douglas Adams shines through in this brief volume. It consists of mainly two parts. The first part consists of essays and interviews with Adams that have appeared in magazines and on the internet. Hitchhiker fans will especially love "Young Zaphod Plays it Safe." The second part is an unfinished novel by Adams. The first part is satisfying because you can see Adams' character shining through. In these writings, different facets of his personality sparkle for all to see. The second part is unsatisfactory though. It is patched together from a few early drafts, and it is unpolished. Second, it only consists of a few chapters, so the story stops midway through without any resolution, which is a little frustrating. Perhaps this volume would have been better if it had focused on the essays and letters of Adams and left the unfinished novel alone. If you're a big Adams fan, you'll want to pick this up for the first part and to see the second part to satisfy your curiousity. If you're not a big fan, you should skip this one, and try the Hitchhiker's series instead.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2002
For a Douglas Adams fan, a shopping list from him was funnier than many of the books in Amazon's Comic section. The Salmon of Doubt is an unexpected mixed bag of short pieces composed from the odds and ends he left on his hard drive after his untimely death in 2001.
There are a couple of fairly substantial pieces from what might have been the sixth chapter of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and another "Dirk Gently" novel. Just a few touches of classic Adams show through:
"... The following morning the weather was so foul it hardly deserved the name, and Dirk decided to call it Stanley instead...."
Some of the other, shorter pieces are curiously personal. There are several items about his concern for the world's wildlife -- including his personal favorite, saving the rhinos of Africa. He understood that you have to help the people in Africa help the rhinos. He comes across as a very nice man.
For some reason, I'd always thought of Douglas Adams as a nerdy type -- like his hero Arthur Dent in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But this book tells us he was a big man, a jovial, boyish 6 foot 5 inches. He grew up on comic books and loved (and performed) music all his life. Although the pieces on his computer were probably not sent to the publisher for good reason, this is a curiously touching anthology.
We miss you, Doug.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2005
When reading the works of Douglas Admas you either get it or you don't. For those who get it you will have found a one of a kind humorist who, using his mastery of the English language, will create the most beautiful and memorable images in your mind that easily parallel a Da Vinci masterpiece; then draw a crate of bananas, or perhaps a herring sandwich on it for unknown reasons at the time, but ones that will make sense 30 chapters later in a complicated mish mash of seemingly random events that turn out to be all connected brilliantly in the end. If you don't get it however you will probably simply thumb through the first bit and notice how remarkably close the resemblance to the non-humorous writings you usually read isn't. I would like to think I get it though. I had only started to read Douglas Adams about 4 years after he died. I had overheard a teacher talking to a student about him and checked out "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" to see what the fuss was about. Within 3 months I had read all five books in the Hitchhiker's trilogy, both Dirk Gently's, "The Deeper Meaning of Liff", and have recently finished "The Salmon of Doubt". So if you are familiar with Adams, and are one of those who "gets it" then I would suggest saving this book for last.
First thing is that while technically he did write the book, he was unaware of doing so on account of him being dead. Leave it to DNA to get credited for writing a best seller while he's been in the ground for a good bit. Also, as aforementioned about how some people get Adams's style and some don't, this book itself is in quite a differant style than what one would normally expect when picking up a book. It is a collection of speeches, essays, quick thoughts and ideas, and bits of books he'd written over his lifetime. The writings were salvaged from his many Mac computers after his death and assembled by his friends and family into this book, which acts as a sort of final farewell from the author with an impressive cult following. So if you're unfamiliar with the works of Adams, and or are used to reading esseys or novels, then this may not be the best book of his to start with, as you will miss out on alot of the humor and feeling.
The book is composed of 3 main parts, which are: Life, The Universe, And Everything. The first two parts go over Adams's writings from his very first published piece when he was twelve to a popular magazine, to story ideas he had involving Genghis Khan and a young Zaphod Beeblebrox, to memos he wrote to Disney about the Hitchhiker's movie close to the time of his death. These and all in-between are wonderful snippets of Adams's life that give a good feel for the kind of person he really was, his beliefs, and how to make a proper cup of English tea.
The third part of the book is another prime reason to save it for last, as it contains the beginning to the third Dirk Gently novel that Adams hinted may in fact be turned into the sixth Hitchhiker book instead. The chapters are from several unrevised versions that were fragmented throughout his computers that the makers of the book had to piece together as best they could. This leaves a few grammatical errors peppered throughout the chapters, which may throw off the type that can't get into a story if the occasional miss-used word distracts them. But if you don't suffer from this problem then you will find the last part of the book to be a wonderful double sided sword. It is so, because while the story is greatly writen, and guaranteed to please, it abruptly ends, leaving you wanting more, but knowing that it will never come. So if you're one who is big on having closure, this may get to you a bit.
Indeed, when the last page is flipped, if you are one of the people that gets Adams's taste, then you will find yourself rather put away for at that point there should be nothing left of his work you haven't read. That's all folks, no more, you can wait for another book if you'd like but I fear it won't be coming, rather depressing but ultimately you know once and for all that you've reached the bittersweet end to the works of Douglas Adams, and must wonder about what you should start reading now. Because if your thirst for that specific wit and humor aren't yet quenched you're going to be disappointed to find not much else will be quite the same. But look at the silver lining that is; at least the salmon of doubt was put out there for us so we could indeed hitchhike the galaxy one last time.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2007
An interesting little volume filled with Adams' musings about a wide-ranging array of topics. Some of the essays and articles here are quite good, and others are, well, not quite so good. But they are all written with Adams' trademark zany wit, and you certainly won't be bored.
As usual, his observations about the foibles of life, whether it's his mortification about having to wear short pants to school because they didn't make long trousers his size, or the story about the stranger stealing his cookies, are hilarious. And his passionate enthusiasm for his personal values, whether it's technology or the Beatles, shines through in every line and is therefore quite contagious. He has a way of turning a phrase to bring an abstract point down to earth, especially when it comes to his criticism of theism. And some of his analogies between evolution and computer science are quite illuminating, particularly his observation that computer code is analogous to the genetic code in showing how evolution operates by performing simple operations millions of times over.
As an amateur biologist, however, Adams does tend to get carried away with the computer analogies--no, Douglas, your baby is not "rebooting." Combine this tendency with his otherwise virtuous enthusiasm, and, like many computer scientists, he carries it to the point of assuming that we are on the verge of creating "artificial intelligence," i.e., that in the near future there will be conscious computers. This failure to distinguish between the biological and the man-made plays right into the theists' hands--after all, that's the basic fallacy behind the argument from design (the Celestial Watchmaker and all that), Adams has just kind of done it in reverse. And his playing at being a naturalist is at times almost embarrassing--like when he wants to ride a manta ray, which would probably be pretty cool, and then feels all stupid when told he can't, or when he hikes to Mount Kilimanjaro in a ridiculous rhino suit (although he does recognize the pretension of telling developing nations that they preserve the resources that Western nations "exploited" during their own development).
As for "The Salmon of Doubt" itself, I haven't read either of the previous Dirk Gently novels yet, but I thought this one was shaping up to be, with more polishing, an interesting book. Of course, in its rough form, and with no ending, it is a bit unsatisfying. Overall, however, this collection is well worth reading, and the audiobook edition is well-read by Simon Jones, with all the introductions given heartfelt readings by their respective authors.