Jon's Reviews > The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams
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's review
Jul 04, 2007

it was amazing
Recommended for: Douglas Adams fans
Read in January, 2002

Readers beware: The Salmon of Doubt is not a single novel, but rather a collection of goods pulled from Adams' computer after his death--including a draft of the first few chapters of his next Dirk Gently story (also titled The Salmon of Doubt, thus the larger part of this collection's title). Also enclosed in this volume are a series of short stories, essays, travelogues, and other random snippets, some of which date back over a decade, and most of which have little to do with the next entry, except they were all written by Adams.

How, then, to review this book? How does one go about commenting on a collection of miscellanea the author never intended to exist in single-volume form? How does one offer criticism on a draft of an unfinished novel? Indeed, how does one offer any insight into a bricolage of material that, pessimistically, smacks of the publishing industry's frantic attempts to make one last posthumous dollar off of a popular writer?

I answer through a personal narrative. Any review ever published is, of course, subjective. This one is more so than even most. There's your grain of salt.

My wife bought me this book for my birthday, and I took it with me when I flew home (alone; my wife wasn't able to accompany me) the next week to visit my parents. I read the entire book in one day as I shuffled between airplanes and ticket counters, fast-food stands and uncomfortable plastic seats. Much of what appeared in Salmon... was completely new to me, as I'd somehow never read Adams' shorter works--only his novels. But in short, I was both entranced and maddened: the former at the brilliant intelligence and humor that marble-streaked its way through the pages; the latter at the frustratingly incomplete Dirk Gently novel (imagine if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had only written the first half of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" before suddenly perishing, or if Shakespeare had never completed "Romeo and Juliet"). I saw in Salmon... sides of Adams both familiar to me, as in his intelligent satire, and unfamiliar, as in the extemporaneous and atheistic speech he delivered at Cambridge, sections of which forced me to close the cover temporarily while I pondered my own thoughts about the nature of God. Most importantly, through all of these scattered scribblings I saw the inner workings of a man who truly, admirably loved life. And as I turned the last page and stared helplessly at the blank sheet before me, and realized that I had just read the last "book" Adams would ever "publish," I was overcome with a sadness so deep and painful that I've never yet been able to even pull Salmon... off of the shelf again, much less read it.

Douglas Adams never knew I existed: we never met, exchanged correspondence, or even caught a glimpse of one another in a crowded airport. Yet I consider this man one of my dearest mentors, a man whose writing has shaped the last fifteen years of my life in areas too varied and extensive to number. How then to review a book like this? Simply put, I can't. I'm too close. Even now, five years after the only time I managed to read Salmon..., and six years after Adams' death, I'm too close.

Why, then, do I give this book five stars?

How could I not?
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02/26/2016 marked as: read

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Karin I too feel overcome with sadness every time I see this Salmon on my bookshelf. The world has still a gaping hole where Douglas Adams once stood; the way the man thought and viewed life was unique yet also strangely how I feel my own inner being would be if I had boundless energy and considerably less self-centred tendencies. He certainly left something of an example to us all. I am indebted to him also for the many hours of reading through tears and shrieks of laughter, so I suppose it is fitting to have just one book that has me blubbering with sadness and loss. That said, to see how many things Douglas Adams was working on and, finished or not, be allowed to read them all, it is a fabulous book.


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