Skip to Content

Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic

Book adaptations of video games are rarely good, but they are also not generally written by Terry Jones, nor based upon ideas by Douglas Adams; as Starship Titanic is such a rare beast, I thought I might give it a go. Sadly, however, it was still a bit of a disappointment.

Douglas Adams was very fond of text-based games with high levels of user interactivity; the kind where the course of the game is very much dictated by the player's actions. The multi-branching scripts that are required for this kind of game are, of course, very different from the linear narratives typical of books, and this really shows in Starship Titanic: there isn't really much of a plot.

Lots of things do happen, but they rarely seem to do so for any discernable reason. Sadly, this is not the inspired madness of things suddenly happening that characterises all of Adams' work, but the confusing things suddenly happening that suggests the author was trying to incorporate all the best bits of every possible play through, and somehow force them all into a single, coherent narrative. It's a bit clunky, and at certain points you can almost see the faint traces of multiple choice dialogue options beneath the surface.

Despite this limitation, the book started off fairly well. The humour was recognisably that of Adams and I was averaging one laugh out loud moment a chapter. Considering that the chapters are fairly short, this is far higher praise that it sounds. Unfortunately, just as the plot seemed to lose its way, so too did Terry Jones seem to lose his sense of humour. Suddenly, all the of the 'jokes' were about the characters having distinctly one track minds, and it devolved into the kind of crass humour that considers saying something racy the height of sophistication.

Mercifully, the book was fairly short, which feels like the worst of heresy to be saying about something that could have been a wonderful spin-off from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.