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Monday, April 21, 2008

Review: The Salmon of Doubt

Somehow, I missed The Salmon of Doubt(Kindle Edtion) when it first came out a few years after Douglas Adam's death, but while browsing through the Kindle store, I saw it and couldn't resist the Kindle price.

I actually met Douglas Adams (thanks to Brian Moriarty) back when I worked for Mpath Interactive. He was frequently invited to Mpath's developer conferences, and always gave the same talk --- the one about the cookies.

More than half the book is articles published in magazines previously --- for instance, he wrote several MacUser columns, including a very prescient one about power wall-warts which really should all be standardized. Other articles included a comparison survey between an underwater diver towing device and a manta ray ride (with a typically Adamsian punch-line), his appreciation of Richard Dawkins, and several interviews, in mostly chronological order. These articles all had wit, intelligence, and are well-written, as you might expect from Adams.

The last third of the book is the unfinished novel, The Salmon of Doubt. When I say unfinished, I really do mean unfinished. Not only does the book stop as though the author dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of it, but the plot threads are disconnected, with no sense that they even all belong in the same novel. To be honest, I'm afraid Adams lost me as part of his audience with his later work (past Last Chance To See, which was also one of Adams' own favorites), so another Dirk Gently novel wouldn't have appealed to me anyway.

For the price I paid though, the collection of articles and interviews granted me fresh insight into Adam's character, and sadly, many of his complaints about technology are still valid today. The nature of this book is such that it's very easy to read in little spurts, such as when sitting in a train or waiting for one. It probably wouldn't do so well for a long sit down. Recommended, but pay for a used copy if you don't own a Kindle.

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