I received Don't Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
as a birthday present & eagerly devoured it this week. Equally a biography and an examination of Adams' body of work, the original version of Don't Panic was written in 1987 by Neil Gaiman
, with additional chapters added by David K. Dickson
in 1993 and an overhaul with final chapter in 2003 by MJ Simpson
. It is a credit to all three of these writers that the voice of the work is consistent throughout - and sounds suspiciously (to me) like Douglas himself.
The work is roughly chronological, tracing the development of the Hitchhiker's Guide material through the original radio show, play performances, audio recording & television show, to the increasingly-inaccurately-named trilogy, computer game and still-to-be-hoped-for movie. Adams' early ventures into the media (including two walk-on parts in the last season of Monty Python's Flying Circus) are also discussed, as well as other projects like Last Chance to See
and The Meaning of Liff
. Dirk Gently rates a chapter or two, as does Adams' forays into computer gaming and the World Wide Web. The final chapter is appropriately called "A Sort of Apres-Vie". :^(
The appendices are a wonderful addition - the original synopsis of Hitchhikers', an analysis of the variant texts, a Who's Who of the major characters from the series, "How to Leave the Planet" and an excerpt of the film treatment of "Doctor Who and the Krikketmen" (Oh yes - Adams was involved in the Doctor Who series, as well...)
This book made me smile, albeit through the occasional tears - I was fortunate enough to attend a talk and book signing with Douglas Adams back in 1995 - and Gaiman's characterization of DA as "serious and funny and faintly baffled" was spot on. I would recommend Don't Panic to any Douglas Adams fan who knows where his/her towel is.