First Lines: Don’t Panic

In 1988 a book by Neil Gaiman called Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion was released. I didn’t quite read that book. In 1993, a second revised edition with additional material by David K. Dickson was released. I didn’t quite read that book either. In 2002, M.J. Simpson added three chapters and overhauled the entire text. Nor did I read that version the book. Then, in 2009, another version with six new chapters by Guy Adams was released to coincide with And Another Thing… (the sixth in the Increasingly Giving Up on the Whole Idea of Being the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy). Now, this version I did read.

Don’t Panic isn’t much in the way of a Douglas Adams biography. It tells a lot about how Adams came to write all the various incarnations of H2G2 (and most of his other work), and not a lot about Adams himself. As I’m usually more interested in the art than the artist, that’s fine by me. If you happen to like Adams’ œuvre—and you’d be mad if you didn’t—I’d guess you’d like this book as well.

No, wait. Let me amend that: if you pick up any of the older editions, or skip the last six chapters of this fifth revised edition, you’ll probably like this book as well. While the first thirty chapters are well paced and flow together (probably due to Simpson’s textual overhaul), after that it grinds to halt while feeling rushed, tries to be funny (and fails) and ends with the most insipid prose I’ve read in a long while. It’s just the sort of writing that makes me shy away from non-fiction.

Book read
Neil Gaiman (et al) — Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
First line
The idea in question bled into Douglas Adams’s mind quite spontaneously, in a field in Innsbruck.