One of the books I have read recently is The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams. This book is, I think, intended for diehard Adams fans that have read most of his other work. If you have read at least three of the five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy and perhaps one of the Dirk Gently novels, you are probably ready for this book.
It is a collection of works that were gleaned from his computer after his untimely heart attack at age 51. Many charming little articles and stories, much of the Pythonesque British humor that pervades the Hitchhiker books of the original trilogy, is abundant throughout. One thing is clear from this book however and that is that the man was a rabid atheist. Of course he’s dead now.
The more I read how much he truly believed, no was convinced (he makes the incredible semantic argument that there is a difference between believing and being convinced.) that evolution is absolutely true and that there is no god. Not only does he go on to say that, he actually says that anyone who believes in god or disbelieves evolution is ignorant. He says that no scientific mind can think otherwise. I think I might know some who disagree and disbelieve that statement.
That he had a brilliant mind and cared deeply about his family and friends and certain causes he espoused there is no doubt. He truly cared about endangered species and even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in a Rhinoceros costume as part of a fundraising effort to save the Black Rhino. Here was that rare individual that not only preached about a cause but also actually did something about it. I have to say I like that.
I actually like many things about Douglas Adams, but I doubt that I could have ever been his close personal friend. Beside the obvious gulf between celebrity and normal humans there lay the fundamental difference that I know there is a God and am as unequivocally “convinced” as he “believed” in evolution. I would look up to him as a writer, certainly. I can only wish to attain such a level of success and enjoy my life at the same time, which he clearly did. I am a great fan of his, having read the original Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and all of the other books through more times than I can count. Every time I loan one out to someone I re-read it and find the humor fresh, even the bits about God going up in a poof of logic are actually pretty humorous and do not overwhelmingly pervade the books.
If you are a fan of Adams writing as I am, this book is worth at least checking out, if not buying. It also contains the original short story of Young Zaphod Plays It Safe which makes more sense in the end than the version that was in the omnibus edition I have. I suppose many people had the same fear addressed in the story, but I never did. Also the story The Private Life of Genghis Khan is well worth reading. Violently bloody and humorous it also features a surprise from a minor character of the third book, Life, The Universe and Everything.
Finally, the cover story, The Salmon of Doubt is an excellent, though sadly, incomplete Dirk Gently novel. In an interview in the book he was quoted as saying that many of the concepts and ideas could easily have been converted to the sixth book in the trilogy. This would have been a boon to all of us, his fans, in that the fifth book was somewhat disappointing and bleak, which Adams explains is because it was written during a bleak period. If you haven’t read Mostly Harmless however, it is not too bad. The bit about the Sandwich Maker sent from Bob and the bar scene are worth it.
Overall I gave it a rating of almost three, two or less if you do not know whom Douglas Adams even is, three and a half if you are as big a fan as I am.