Book Review: Don’t Panic – Douglas Adams & The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (2009 Revised Ed.) By Neil Gaiman

  • dontpanicgaimancoverPaperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books; 5 Rev Upd edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848564961
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848564961

“It’s all devastatingly true – except the bits that are lies” – Douglas Adams

I recently received a preview copy of the book Don’t Panic – Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2009 Revised Edtion) from the fine folks at Titan Books.

Originally published in 1988 and revised first in 1993, and again in 2002 & 2003. Don’t Panic has been revised yet again for 2009 and it is the definitive companion to Douglas Adams’s life and work, released just in time for the 30th Anniversary of Hitchhiker’s Guide this October.

If you think of the Hitchhiker’s Books in DVD terms, Don’t Panic could easily be considered the literary equivalent of a Bonus Disc, complete with author commentary.

Critically acclaimed, award winning author Neil Gaiman celebrates the life of Douglas Adams who, in a field in Innsbruck in 1971, had an idea that became The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — the radio series that started it all, the five book “trilogy,” the TV series, and everything that followed. Don’t Panic also tells the stories of the other projects that Douglas worked on throughout his life, until his untimely death in 2001.

Neil Gaiman is my absolute favorite author and Douglas Adams has always been a close second. I know the ever humble Gaiman would more than likely cringe at the thought of being placed above Adam’s on anyone’s favorite author list, but I have to be honest. That being said, reviewing this book from a completely unbiased perspective was a nearly impossible task.

While I have always been and will always be a fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide, I can honestly say that I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book if it had been written by anyone other than Neil Gaiman. I really never thought a pseudo biography about Adams’s life and work would have been intriguing or entertaining enough to sit down and read, but thanks in part to Gaiman’s style and the fact that this entire book is written as if Gaiman was channeling Adams himself, from the Introduction to the Acknowledgements – it was difficult to put down.

Gaiman’s research for this book is both astoundingly thorough and fascinating, from Douglas (ironically) Hitchhiking through Europe in 1971 with a stolen copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe” to the Invasion of the USA by first the book, followed by the broadcast of the Radio drama on National Public Radio in 1981 and on through the variant texts of Hitchhiker’s and an excerpt from Douglas Adams’s treatment for a Doctor Who film, it’s a treasure trove of information. The variant texts and the treatment for the Doctor Who film are both part of the appendices, which also contains the original synopsis for Hitchhiker’s Guide, a Who’s Who of the major characters from the series, and The Definitive ‘How to Leave the Planet’. I would honestly recommend this book for the appendices alone.

One of the chapters in the book that truly shines are the letters from fans to Douglas and his responses to them. His responses to those letters are almost as entertaining as anything else he had written and proves that his wit and  way with words were not confined to only the stories he had written.

‘Don’t Panic’ is written in very much the same style as the Hitchhiker novel,  there are 37 short chapters (the first being chapter 0), followed by five appendices. Contained within are a bevy of direct quotes from various people who had surrounded Adams during his life, in addition to quotes from Adams himself. The book is an absolute treasure trove of Douglas Adams and Hitchhiker trivia, should you read this book and find yourself summoned to a game show based on Mr. Adams and his works, you should be the odds on favorite to win.

I can virtually guarantee that if you give this book a thorough read and then pick up the five book “trilogy” again (or for the first time), it will give you a real appreciation for the hard work, utter brilliance and tiny bit of insanity that went into creating one of Science Fiction comedy’s greatest literary works and perhaps impart a bit of sadness for the works that never came to pass.

To take a quote from the book,

So long Douglas, and thanks for all the words.

I give “Don’t Panic – Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Neil Gaiman” Five Out of Five Stars


Get more information over at Titan Books or Pick up your own copy of Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy right HERE

Jason Moore
Written by Jason Moore

is a member of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films and the Founder/Editor In Chief of SciFi Mafia®