Latest Hitchhiker’s Guide sequel, “And Another Thing…” by Eoin Colfer, hits shelves next week.

It’s been a little over a year since I wrote about my surprise that a new Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novel was going to be released and my trepidation on whether it would be worth reading. The new book is being written by Eoin Colfer who is apparently well known for the Artemis Fowl series of novels. I’ve never read anything by the man myself and the idea of someone taking over for Adams worried me even if he was personally asked by Adam’s widow to take on the project.

Now the book is due on on October 12th, just in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the publishing of the first novel by Adams, and they have an official website for the book and everything. I have to admit that my feelings as I expressed them a year ago haven’t changed much, but I was heartened somewhat by the following YouTube video by Colfer in which he talks about writing And Another Thing…:

My optimism is buoyed by his statement that had Adam’s wife not liked the book he wouldn’t have released it at all. It also seems clear that he has felt the weight of the expectation his book carries and tried to be true to the spirit of the original series. I was also impressed with how he asserts that this is not him attempting to do Douglas Adams, but rather a book by Eoin Colfer that is set in the H2G2 universe. If it succeeds or fails it’ll be his doing and not because he was trying to write like someone he is not.

I’ll probably wait to see what the initial reviews are before I decide if I’m going to pick it up or not. I really want to like the book, but I’m very picky about my authors. Here’s hoping it’s a success and fits in well with what has come before.

Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” to become live action movie.

According to this item on MTV.com:

With Halloween mere days away, it was a nice surprise when Neil Gaiman dropped by the MTV offices to discuss his latest project, “The Graveyard Book” — now number one on its respective New York Times list. Given the intense interest in Hollywood to adapt it before it ever came out, we had to ask: Will there be a movie version?

Yes, according to Gaiman.

“I don’t know if I can talk about this, but seeing that you’ve asked me, and seeing that I haven’t been told by anybody that I can’t talk about it,” Neil revealed, “but yes.”

[…] “They want to start making films, and start producing their own films,” Gaiman said. “And they read it, and they loved it, and I spoke to them, and they said all the right things, and they seem to listen. So I don’t think it’s going to be transported to a graveyard in Los Angeles where they’ve been burying bathing beauties or anything. I think we’re actual going to stick with where the book is written and film that. And I think part of the idea is that they know they can also do the special effects cheaply.”

That will be a big issue for this film, considering most of the characters are “dead, or werewolves, or ghouls, or something else mysterious,” Gaiman said.

Exactly how that will be achieved — what levels of transparency are the ghosts? How corporeal can they get? — is “part of the fun of making the film,” he said. “There’s probably going to be an awful lot of screen tests to figure how you can pull it off in the subtlest, coolest, and most convincing way, and that will be a job for next year.”

The fact that Gaiman is producing the film fills me with hope that it’ll be a good adaptation.

Neil Gaiman reads the first chapter from “The Graveyard Book.”

I’m so looking forward to this book, but it may be some time before I can afford to buy it. How cool is it then that Harper Books and Gaiman are allowing us a sneak peek with this widget?

Additionally you can see video of Gaiman reading one chapter on each of his tour stops as he promotes the book at this website. So by following along you can enjoy the whole of the book for free as read by Gaiman himself. How frickin’ cool is that? It makes me want to buy the book that much more.

By the way it’s Banned Books Week.

I almost forgot to mention that it’s one again Banned Books Week:

Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities. People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups—or positive portrayals of homosexuals. Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of American literature.

According to the American Library Association, more than 400 books were challenged in 2007. The 10 most challenged titles were:

1. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
3. Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes
4. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
7. TTYL by Lauren Myracle
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
9. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
(Click here to see why these books were challenged.)

During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2008 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 27 through October 4.

Take a moment to celebrate your freedom to read whatever the hell you want this week by sitting down with a banned book for a few hours. The American Library Association maintains a list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged books from 1990 to 2000 that has lots of potential reading material. Several books by Mark Twain are on the list as well as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, but those are just two of my personal favorites. There’s something on the list for everyone.

There will be a sixth “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” novel.

I’m a huge fan of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (which, at last count, totaled five books) and I was very disappointed with the big budget movie version because it lacked what made the books so good and that was Adams’ wonderful dialog. I was saddened when he passed away a few years back which is unusual for me as there aren’t that many celebrities I get all that attached to, but I’ve always enjoyed his work and I was bummed to think we wouldn’t see any more from him.

Now word comes that his wife has tapped children’s book author Eoin Colfer to write a new Hitchhiker’s book:

Douglas Adams’s increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy is to be extended to six titles, after Adams’s widow Jane Belson sanctioned a project which will see children’s author Eoin Colfer taking up the story.

And Another Thing… by Colfer, whose involvement with the project was personally requested by Belson, will be published next October by Penguin. No information has yet emerged about the plot of the novel but Hitchhiker fans will be hoping for a resurrection of much-loved characters Arthur Dent, Trillian and Ford Prefect, who were all apparently blown to smithereens at the end of the fifth novel, Mostly Harmless.

I’m a picky fiction reader as it is, the number of authors who I’ll buy a book outright from can be counted on one hand, and while my heart sped up a bit at the thought of a new Hitchhiker’s book it settled right back down again at the thought that it wouldn’t be coming from Adams’ pen. I have no idea who Eoin Colfer is, he may very well be a perfectly wonderful author, he might actually produce something that’s a commercial success, but it’s still a derivative of books I have very fond memories of.

Which isn’t to say that it shouldn’t happen or that I feel they are cheapening what has come before. I’m not that kind of book snob. Just that I’m not as excited about it as I would be had it turned out to be a previously unpublished work by Adams’ himself. For his part Colfer is a big fan of the original series as well and is delighted to have a chance to finish the story, though he won’t be trying to write like Adams’ did:

Colfer, who has been a fan of Hitchhiker since his schooldays, said being given the opportunity to continue the series was “like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice”. “For years I have been finishing this incredible story in my head and now I have the opportunity to do it in the real world,” he added. “It is a gift from the gods. So, thank you Thor and Odin.”

The book will “make no claims for Eoin being Douglas”, according to Prior. “It’s not Eoin Colfer writing as Douglas Adams, as was the case with Sebastian Faulks,” she said, pointing to Penguin’s successful publication of Faulks’s new James Bond novel Devil May Care earlier this year. “It’s absolutely about him being himself – Eoin the author, but with the cast of Hitchhiker.”

Which is probably how it should be, though it makes me even less likely to pick up the new book. Perhaps I’ll try one of his original novels first to see how I like it before making any final conclusions. I’m buoyed by the fact that Colfer appears to be aware of people who are thinking along the same lines I am:

Colfer himself is currently grappling with nerves over the quality of his addition to Adams’ oeuvre. “I feel more pressure to perform now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written,” he said. “For the first time in decades I feel the uncertainty that I last felt in my teenage years. There are people out there that really want to like this book.”

I’m one of those people, but I know how finicky I am about the fiction I read. For now I guess I’ll be cautiously optimistic and hope for the best. It would be fun to visit with Aurthur, Ford, and Zaphod once more.

The results are in: “American Gods” now readable on the web for free.

Neil put up the announcement on his blog just recently:

Kids! Free! Book!
The good news is the link to the free online American Gods is up on the front page of the neilgaiman.com website. The bad news is that the link is wrong.

For the next month, your free copy of American Gods is waiting for you at
http://tiny.cc/WRiXE

Feel free to spread the link as widely as possible around the web. If it works, and people read it, then a) we may be able to put up another book and b) sooner or later they’ll simply let us give away the book in electronic form….

It’s an excellent book and I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already. I got my copy through my mother who’s also a big Gaiman fan.

Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” is complete.

One of my favorite authors just posted on his blog that he’s done with his latest novel titled The Graveyard Book. Here he tries to explain what it is about and who it is for:

Over the last few months people have written in and asked what kind of a book The Graveyard Book is, whether it’s for kids or adults, all that sort of thing. And I haven’t answered because it wasn’t actually finished, and I figured I’d find out when it was done. And it’s done now.

I think The Graveyard Book is a book for pretty much all ages, although I’m not sure how far down that actually starts. I think I would have loved it when I was eight, but I don’t think that all eight-year olds were like me.

[…] But it’s not a children’s book. It’s a book that I think children will enjoy, but there’s also stuff that’s there for adults too. It’s a book about life and death and making families. It has ghouls in it, and the Hounds of God, and the Sleer, and the Indigo Man, and a lot of very dead people.

It’s not that easy to describe. I’m reminded of Kim Newman’s review of Anansi Boys, which began “Anansi Boys is one of Neil Gaiman’s books for grown-ups, which means that it’s a lot less ruthless than the material he produces for children”, and it’s a very true observation. From that perspective, it’s definitely one of my children’s books.

Children’s book or not, I’ll be adding it to my wish list as a must have. It’s due out here on September 30, 2008.

Neil also points out that the trailer for Coraline is now available on the web.

Neil Gaiman seeks your opinion on which book to give away.

One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, has just celebrated his blog’s seventh anniversary and in celebration he’s asking fans to vote for which book will be made available online for free:

As you may have deduced, it’s the blog’s 7th birthday today. On February the 9th 2001, I started writing this thing. And now, 1,071,213 words later,  it is still going. (Until the wind changes, as Mary Poppins said.)

One thing we’ve decided to do, as a small celebratory birthday thing is, initially for a month, make a book of mine available online, free, gratis and for nothing.

Which book, though…? Ah, that’s up to you.

What I want you to do is think—not about which of the books below is your favourite, but if you were giving one away to a friend who had never read anything of mine, what would it be? Where would you want them to start?

The possible offerings consist of American Gods, Anansi Boys, Coraline, Fragile Things, M is for Magic, Neverwhere, Smoke & Mirrors, and Stardust. A list that made me realize there’s at least one Neil Gaiman book I’ve not yet read (M is for Magic) so I’ll have to add it to my wish list. So go vote for whichever one you think would be the one you’d recommend to a new reader.

Christmas comes a little early for me.

Got a package the other day that I thought was one of the gifts I had purchased for my wife, but it turns out upon opening it up today that it was for me. SEB member Lost Alaska was kind enough to send me some books from my wish list: Spook Country and Pattern Recognition by William Gibson and The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. Had I know they were gifts I would’ve waited until Christmas day, but I’m not complaining about getting them a little early. Thank you very much, LA.

Now I just need to figure out where that last package for my wife has gotten itself off to…

AFA is scared shitless of “The Golden Compass.”

SEB regular DaBroad dropped by with a couple of links to articles about a warning from the American Family Association about the upcoming release of The Golden Compass. It seems they’re the latest religious group to get their panties all in a twist over this movie without even having seen it yet. They’re so in a panic that they put out this drastic warning to parents:

Therefore, without yet seeing the film, at least one pro-family group—the American Family Association—is alerting Christians to the potential dangers of The Golden Compass. Because of Pullman’s clearly articulated anti-Christian motives, AFA is warning all viewers to run from the film.

Potential dangers? Viewers should run from the film? Makes it sound like Godzilla is attacking or something. The way their talking you’d think that this film had some sort of unholy power to deconvert people into atheists within the span of an hour and a half or something. It leaves you wondering just how fragile their faith really must be if they’re that worried that a single film will cause so much damage to innocent young Christians. Whatever happened to their unshakable faith in Christianity that they’re so upset over one little film that will, by all reports, have its anti-religious message watered down to the point of not really being there to begin with?

Of course it’s not so much the adults they’re worried about, it’s the kids. They know they’ve got to get ‘em while they’re young and you can’t afford to allow any competing ideas get in their heads or something akin to common sense or the questioning of authority might take hold. This is made clear in the second link provided by DaBroad to an article about the film at BreakingPoint.org:

One of the prominent themes of the book is “Dust,” a mysterious “charged particle” from the sky. In the closing chapters of the book, the protagonist, Lyra, finally learns that Dust is “the physical evidence for original sin”; and Dust is what powers her “alethiometer” (the golden-colored, compass-looking device for which the book is named). From the Greek, alethiometer means “truth-measurer.” It is a device she consults, through a kind of clairvoyant process, to learn secrets and discover truths; it never lies or misleads. Dust and the alethiometer—central symbols in this book—together send the clear message that truth is measured by the power of original sin. In the closing pages, Lyra decides that Dust is a good thing after all, and she determines to go on and defend this original sin against the Church. Thus we are ushered into the second book.

This is certainly not a message we want our children to take to heart. Still, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Pullman is working on our turf when he tells his tale. I’ll gladly stand up our story against his! The story of Christ has drama, it has strong characters, it has relevance, it has a truly stupendous surprise ending—in short, all the elements of great story. Best of all, it’s not fiction. It happened! So we need not respond defensively, or with anger, or by picketing the movie, or with any of the worldly methods Paul warned against in 2 Corinthians 10. This is the time—especially since the movie is coming out at Christmastime—for us to tell the true story of Jesus Christ, in love and with a positive tone.

I’ve read both the Bible and all three books in the His Dark Materials trilogy now and I have to say that the former pales in comparison to the latter in terms of enjoyability, but then some might say I’m biased.

These folks, however, are most upset that Scholastic is involved in helping to promote the book with materials offered to schools:

Yet there is a limit, and Christian parents ought to stand guard on behalf of the next generation. The Golden Compass—book or movie—does not belong in our schools.

Again it’s interesting to note how fragile they consider their religion to be that it needs such efforts on their part to keep it protected even from total fictions that challenge it. At least with Pullman’s works he’s not trying to pretend it’s reality.