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It’s neither as good as I’d hoped nor as bad as I’d feared. There are parts I really liked – and, frankly, I enjoyed the book as a whole more than “Mostly Harmless.” But there are other parts where Colfer seemed to be trying too hard either to imitate or avoid imitating Adams.

Then, the book comes to a screeching, and almost-unforgivable, halt when it shifts away from the main  characters to a side plot involving wealthy Earth refugees trying to start a new life on a made-to-order planet. The nominal leader of the planet is striving to set up a religion – any religion – as a way of controlling his subjects. He ends up contracting  with Thor, the Norse god of thunder, who’s been looking to redeem himself after an embarassing video went viral.

I have no problem with satire of religion, including some projects which friends and family members would think sacreligious, because in the end it’s making fun of human attitudes and preconceptions. John Cleese, last I heard, is a Buddhist, but he once remarked in an interview that it would be impossible to actually satirize Jesus because Jesus would have no flaws on which to base the comedy. “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” reviled during its original release as sacreligious, is quietly enjoyed by a lot of Christians I know because they  recognize it as making fun of us, not Jesus.

But “Life of Brian” is funny. The satire of religion in “And Another Thing ….” is so ham-handed and obvious that it feels the need to keep explaining itself. Douglas Adams was a vocal atheist, but he was also a very funny writer. Even though the humor of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series is gloriously over-the-top, I don’t think Adams would have handled  that same material in such an obvious way.

Still, the book recovers from its detour, and ends well.

I’m still not sure how I feel about it as a whole. Remember above, when I called the 2005 movie “clunky”? Well, I actually walked out of the theater liking it. (Zooey put a spell on me.) It didn’t hold up, however. My attitude towards the book may shift after I’ve let it percolate a bit.

The Sheriff of Yrnameer

When my brother was in town a couple of weeks ago, he loaned me a book he thought I would enjoy.

I finished said book this evening, and he was absolutely right.

As my brother had suggested to me, the setting and tone of Michael Rubens’ “The Sheriff of Yrnameer” will be a little familiar to fans of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” books, but I mean that as compliment, not accusation. Rubens’ book is original, an American answer to Adams rather than a pale imitation. It’s also loads of fun, the story of an intergalactic ne’er-do-well who ends up becoming a hero in spite of himself. There are sly references to everything from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Alien” to “High Noon” and its many imitations and parodies.

It’s a fun, breezy read.

I even like the jacket blurb:

A science fiction book your grandmother will love – if she’s a lustful, violent lady. – Stephen Colbert