I’ve just spent a long time watching my cursor blink. This was after I’d begun a rec/review of this book and then decided to start over. The problem is very likely that Douglas Adams is impossible to follow in any capacity. I apparently think that I am one of the funniest things to happen to Earth since clowning came into fashion at the beginning of time, but even my brain admits that there is no way I can write a competent, funny review of this book which has any chance of getting across how perfect and wonderful it is. So instead of reading the blather which follows, you should really just get yourself the book and read it instead. http://www.amazon.com/Last-Chance-See-Douglas-Adams/dp/0345371984/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340219152&sr=1-1&keywords=last+chance+to+see
Astonishingly, my local used book store has gifted me with at least two copies. I have a hard time believing anyone who has read this book was willing to let it out of their sight afterwards. But – there is some benefit to continue reading if you so choose, because this all leads to bonus Stephen Fry at the end, saving you the research.
This book was born of what Adams calls ‘some sort of journalistic accident’. It was the very happiest of accidents, because it produced a work which casts Adams in a role for which he is perfectly suited – that of translator and interpreter. In 1985 a magazine sent him, along with Zoologist Mark Carwardine, to Madagascar. Their task was to seek a glimpse of an aye-aye, a very rare lemur, in the wild. In a precipitous moment which surely indicated from the start that this partnership was charmed – Mark and Douglas managed to spot the animal, at night (the aye-aye is nocturnal), in the rain, and their photographer captured the image for posterity. It had been many years since anyone else had laid eyes on an aye-aye in the wild. Adams is hooked, and he and Mark make an appointment to seek out more endangered species around the world – in three years, because of some pesky books he has to write beforehand.
What follows is a rousing tale of travel to places which are very definitely not tourist friendly in a time when travellers had to do quite a lot of ‘telexing’ to make arrangements, and the picture of what you would encounter once you arrived could be unbelievably distorted from the reality in which you eventually found yourself. For example, conflicting reports abound regarding at what point they will need to acquire a three-day-dead goat in order to bait a Komodo Dragon – whether or not they will be forced to share a choppy ride in a small boat with the dead goat then becomes a point of serious concern.
While in China in search of the Baiji – the Yangtze River dolphin – Adams decides it would be a good idea for them to put a microphone into the water so that they can get an idea of what the dolphins are up against. The animals are endangered because the noise pollution in the river messes with their sonar and they are consequently being chopped up by boat propellers at an astounding rate. This leads to a hilarious hunt for condoms carried out in three languages, one of them sign.
Only Douglas Adams could have written a book so heartrendingly bleak as he ponders the fate of these species and yet so damn funny that you will be laughing out loud – I promise. Near the end, he translates to a readership of laymen the convoluted world of the scientist conservationists who are working on these projects going on around the world who are desperately trying to keep endangered species from tipping over into extinction. For a real-life look at some of the work being done today in this area, (though this particular video is focusing on collection of specimens rather than the endangered aspect of the equation) go watch this rather wonderful video – if you will be upset by the sight of dead birds and rodents respectfully collected for scientific research and the benefit of future generations of both animals and people, please skip this portion of today’s lesson. :-) http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/multimedia/film-discovering-mount-gorongosa
And as a lovely follow up and tribute to his friend, Stephen Fry also travelled with Mark for a stint. http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/archive.shtml
Oh! And if you go there you can listen to the original radio show that Douglas Adams did! Score! As soon as I have speakers I’m on that!