sábado, 27 de março de 2010

And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer, Extract

And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer


   If you own a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy then one of the last things you would be likely to type into its v-board would be the very same title of that particular Sub­Etha volume as, presumably, since you have a copy, then you already know all about the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor. However, presumption has been the runner-up in every major Causes of Intergalactic Conflict poll for the past few millennia, first place invariably going to Land-Grabbing Bastards with Big weapons and third usually being a toss-up between Coveting Another Sentient Being's Significant Other and Misinterpretation of Simple Hand Gestures. One man's 'Wow! This pasta is fantastico!' is another's 'Your momma plays it fast and loose with sailors.'
   Let us say, for example, that you are on an eight-hour layover in Port Brasta without enough credit for a Gargle Blaster on your implant, and if upon realizing that you know almost nothing about this supposedly wonderful book you hold in your hands, you decide out of sheer brain-fogging boredom to type the words 'the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy' into the search bar on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, what results will this flippant tappery yield?
   Firstly, an animated icon appears in a flash of pixels and informs you that there are three results, which is confusing as there are obviously five listed below, numbered in the usual order.
   Guide Note: That is if your understanding of the usual numerical order is from small to large and not from derivative to inspired, as with Folfangan Slugs who judge a number's worth based on the artistic integrity of its shape. Folfangan supermarket receipts are beauteous ribbons, but their economy collapses at least once a week.
   Each of these five results is a lengthy article, accompa­nied by many hours of video and audio files and some dra­matic reconstructions featuring quite well-known actors.
   This is not the story of those articles.
   But if you scroll down past article five, ignoring the offers to remortgage your kidneys and lengthen your pormwran­gler, you will come to a line in tiny font that reads 'If you liked this, then you might also like to read . . .' Have your icon rub itself along this link and you will be led to a text only appen­dix with absolutely no audio and not so much as a frame of video shot by a student director who made the whole thing in his bedroom and paid his drama soc. mates with sand­wiches.
   This is the story of that appendix.
   So far as we know. . . The Imperial Galactic Government decided, over a bucket of jewelled crabs one day, that a hyper­space expressway was needed in the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy. This decision was rushed through channels ostensibly to pre-empt traffic con­gestion in the distant future, but actually to provide employ­ment for a few ministers' cousins who were forever mooching around Government Plaza. Unfortunately the Earth was in the path of this planned expressway, so the remorseless Vogons were dispatched in a constructor fleet to remove the offending planet with gentle use of thermonuclear weapons.
   Two survivors managed to hitch a ride on a Vogon ship: Arthur Dent, a young English employee of a regional radio station whose plans for the morning did not include having his home planet blasted to dust beneath his slippers. Had the human race held a referendum, it would have been quite likely that Arthur Dent would have been voted least suitable to carry the hopes of humankind into space. Arthur's university yearbook actually referred to him as 'most likely to end up living in a hole in the Scottish highlands with only the chip on his shoul­der for company'. Luckily Arthur's Betelgeusean friend, Ford Prefect, a roving researcher for that illustrious interstellar travel almanac The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, was more of an optimist. Ford saw silver linings where Arthur saw only clouds and so between them they made one prudent space traveller, unless their travels led them to the planet Junipella where the clouds actually did have silver linings. Arthur would have doubtless steered the ship straight into the nearest cloud of gloom and Ford would have almost certainly attempted to steal the silver, which would have resulted in the catastrophic combustion of the natural gas inside the lining. The explo­sion would have been pretty, but as a heroic ending it would lack a certain something, i.e. a hero in one piece.
   The only other Earthling left alive was Tricia McMillan, or Trillian to use her cool, spacey name, a fiercely ambitious astrophysicist cum fledgling reporter who had always believed that there was more to life than life on Earth. In spite of this conviction, Trillian had nevertheless been amazed when she was whisked off to the stars by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the maverick two-headed Galactic President.
   What can one say of President Beeblebrox that he has not already had printed on T-shirts and circulated through­out the Galaxy free with every uBid purchase? ZAPHOD SAYS YES TO ZAPHOD was probably the most famous T­shirt slogan, though not even his team of psychiatrists understood what it actually meant. Second favourite was probably: BEEBLEBROX. JUST BE GLAD HE'S OUT THERE.
   It is a universal maxim that if someone goes to the trou­ble of printing something on a T-shirt then it is almost def­initely not a hundred per cent untrue, which is to say that it is more than likely fairly definitely not altogether false. Con­sequentially, when Zaphod Beeblebrox arrived on a planet, people invariably said 'yes' to whatever questions he asked and when he left they were glad he was out there.
   These less than traditional heroes were improbably drawn to each other and embarked on a series of adventures, which mostly involved gadding around through space and time, sitting on quantum sofas, chatting with gaseous computers, and generally failing to find meaning or fulfilment in any corner of the Universe.
   Arthur Dent eventually returned to the hole in space where the Earth used to be and discovered that the hole had been filled by an Earth-sized planet that looked and behaved remarkably like Earth. In fact this planet was an Earth, just not Arthur's. Not this Arthur's, at any rate. Because his home planet was at the centre of a Plural zone, the Arthur we are concerned with had found himself shuffled along the dimensional axis to an Earth that had never been destroyed by Vogons. This rather made our Arthur's day, and his usu­ally pessimistic mood was further improved when he encountered Fenchurch, his soulmate. Luckily this idyllic period was not cut short by bumping into any alternate Uni­verse Arthurs who may have been wandering around, possi­bly in Los Angeles working for the BBC.
   Arthur and his true love travelled the stars together until Fenchurch vanished in mid-conversation during a hyper­space jump. Arthur searched the Universe for her, paying his way by exchanging bodily fluids for first-class tickets. Even­tually he was stranded on the planet Lamuella and made a life for himself there as sandwich maker for a primitive tribe who believed that sandwiches were pretty hot stuff.
   His tranquillity was disturbed by the arrival of a couriered box from Ford Prefect, which contained The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Mk II in the form of a smarmy pan­dimensional black bird. Trillian, who was now a successful newswoman, had a delivery of her own for Arthur in the shape of Random Dent, the daughter conceived with the donated price of seat 2D on the Alpha Centauri red-eye.
   Arthur reluctantly took on the role of parent, but was completely out of his depth with the truculent teenager. Random stole the Guide Mk II and set a course for Earth, where she believed she could finally feel at home. Arthur and Ford followed, to find Trillian already on the planet.
   Only then is the Mk II's objective revealed. The Vogons, irritated by the Earth's refusal to stay ka-boomed, had engi­neered the bird to lure the escapees back to the planet before they destroy it in every dimension, thus fulfilling their origi­nal order.
   Arthur and Ford rushed at semi-breakneck speed to London's Club Beta, pausing only to purchase foie gras and blue suede shoes. Thanks to the old dimensional axis/ Plural zone thing, they found Trillian and Tricia McMillan co-existing in the same space-time, both being screamed at by an emotional Random.
   Confused? Arthur was, but not for long. Once he noticed the green death rays pulsating through the lower atmos­phere, all of the day's other niggling problems seemed to lose their nigglyness - after all, confusion was not likely to slice him into a million seared pieces.
   The Vogon Prostetnic had done his job well. Not only had he lured Arthur, Ford and Trillian back to the planet Earth, but he'd also managed to trick a Grebulon captain into destroying the Earth for him, thus saving the crew several hundred Vog hours' paperwork with the munitions office.
   Arthur and his friends sit powerless in London's Club Beta and can only watch as the ultimate war on Earth is waged, unable to participate, unless involuntary spasming and liquefaction of bone matter counts as participation. On this occasion the weapons of destruction are death rays rather than Vogon torpedoes, but then, one planet-killing device is pretty much the same as another when you're on the receiving end . . .


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