The Salmon of Doubt consists of a collection of essays and interviews (along with a fragment of an incomplete novel) culled from the author’s hard drive after his untimely death of a heart attack in 2001. The essays and interviews reveal a highly intelligent and witty renaissance man whose interest in science and technology led to advocacy for endangered species (including a brief adventure involving dressing like a rhinoceros for a fundraising jaunt through Kenya and swimming with manta rays off the coast of Australia) and a career as an amateur cheerleader for (and occasional critic of) the Apple Macintosh computer. Similarly, his inquisitive nature led him to abandon religion as a teen and then to embrace atheism wholeheartedly after reading The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins; a good deal of the book touches on Adams’ “radical” atheism as well as his fascination with evolution. Especially noteworthy for writers is the fact that Adams also reflects at length on his tendency to procrastinate and his penchant for distraction.
Given the timeframe for some of the essays on technology, they teeter somewhere between sounding dated and inspiring a vague sense of nostalgia for dial-up modems and other computer peripherals from the 80’s and 90’s. Perhaps most maddening, however, is the fact that the incomplete novel for which this collection is named is just getting interesting when it ends abruptly with no hope for resolution—with a dead rhinoceros in a swimming pool and Dirk Gently standing on the side of a highway in New Mexico wondering who hired him and what he’s been hired to do. The effect of this abrupt ending, of course, is to underscore the loss of a great, gifted, humane, funny, and incredibly intelligent writer.
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