The Tom Stranger stories are the best comedies I have read since Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979). Both cross the conceptual line between stories and radio performances. Both are great comedies.
The format is similar. The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent (2016) and Tom Stranger in… A Murder of Manatees (2018) feature a hapless everyman (Jimmy the Intern, Arthur Dent), a buxom but wise assistant (Muffy, Trillian), a ridiculous friend of tremendous power (Wendell the Manatee, Zaphoid Beeblebrox), and in-universe wisdom (excellent customer service, bringing a towel), and an effortlessly successfully traveler (Tom Stranger, Ford Prefect). The Tom Stranger books reminded me of how happy I was to originally read Adams “Hitchhiker series, his related work, and everything else by him. They reminded me how eager I was for more.
But Larry Correia‘s stories are not simply HHGTTG knock-offs. Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker” series was undergirded with depression — the books become increasingly dark, through the pitch-black ending of Mostly Harmless (1992). Instead, the Tom Stranger books have an undertone of, well, literature, with jokes that are set up and pay off, including in both stories gags that bookend the adventure. When I think of what the same fate would mean for Tom Stranger — Jimmy the Intern having his friends and family and life destroyed at the end of the series — I realize that Hitchhiker is a tragedy with jokes and not a comedy. But so far each of the Stranger books have been a comedy, in the classical sense — the ending is happy, and the reader is at peace.
The Hitchhiker books were build on top of Douglas Adams’ atheism. The guiding philosophy for Tom Stranger’s universe, on the other hand, is libertarianism with pleny of mockery of social justice warriors. Dolphins are easily offended, a degree in gender studies is an indication of worthlessness, and a hapless intern accidentally starts a tiki torch march. Religion is neither supported nor attacked in the Tom Stranger books, as Social Justice is never brought up that I can recall in Hitchhiker. They were written in different eras with different concerns.
Adam Baldwin‘s narration and performance, especially as Tom Stranger and Wendell the Manatee, are terrific.
Hitchhiker has the benefit of an author’s lifetime effort. Stranger compromises two stories. But on a page-per-page basis, Stranger is superior.
I read The Adventures of Tom Stranger and A Murder of Manatees in the Audible editions, performed by Adam Baldwin. The most scene in the second book, “Tom Stranger: Customer Service Response Panel,” is available online.