Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

Last Chance to See
Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

As everyone here probably knows by now, I love Douglas Adams's writing style. He was both funny and honest, even when writing fiction.

Last Chance to See is - sadly - not fiction. In it Adams and Carwardine document trips to see some of the rarest animals in existence - animals on the brink of extinction - along with meeting some of those working to save them. The trips took place in the mid to late 1980s, and at least the first one was for a magazine article. It is possible all of their trips resulted in articles that were later substantially rewritten to put them into book form.

Of the book itself I can say this: Adams can write. He does nearly all the writing, despite the author credit to Carwardine, and it's classic Adams in style, even if the subjects are a lot less funny than his usual.

He managed - in just a few pages - to convince me that I never want to go to Africa, for example. Maybe things have improved in the 20+ years since these things happened, but I rather doubt it, human nature being what it is. Seeing the creatures there might be inspiring, but details of getting there and the governments one has to work through render Africa a less than ideal vacation spot in my opinion.

He tells heart breaking stories about the animals and places they go see, but frames them with enough humor - mostly at his own expense - to make the presentation something I could continue reading. (I'm one of those who can't watch programs about endangered animals. They make me cringe to the point where I have to turn them off. As a member of the human race I am at a minimum guilty by association and resource consumption, and I don't like it.)

Last Chance to See is worth reading. Adams drives home some key points and shows how silly (and stupid) we are as a species in the process.