Life, the Universe and Everything: the unimssable The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Part Three.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
As far as the characters are concerned, Arthur - despite having spent five years living as a caveman since we last saw him - remains a blundering fool in a dressing gown. The only difference perhaps is the appearance of a beard, decorated with a rabbit's bone (this, surprisingly, holds some significance as the story progresses). Thrilled to find himself propelled back in time, Arthur has the dubious pleasure of witnessing a cricket match at Lords, and is partly responsibly for the mass-hysteria that ensues. Slartibartfast takes on a larger role in this story, as he leads the intergalactic group around the universe and attempts to thrust his authority upon anyone who will listen.
One of my favourite parts of the book is that describing the alien with a chip on his shoulder: Bitter about the treatment he has received from his fellow space creatures, he makes it his mission to personally insult every living organism in the universe. Arthur's reaction in particular is very amusing. I also liked the description of the party that had quite literally taken on a life of its own. The original guests, all too stubborn to leave, found themselves spending their lives in the alcohol-strewn room, and as they began spawning children, the phrase 'survival of the fittest' aptly describes the consequences. The strongest party-goer genes were passed on to the next generation, and so the decades of partying continued.
I was disappointed that the evil Vogons failed to make an appearance this time around. Vindictive they may have been, but hugely entertaining nonetheless. Instead, Adams opted to introduce a race of killer white robots. They are far less intereting unfortunately, but Marvin the paranoid android goes some way in readdressing the balance as far as entertainment goes.
All in all, Life, the Universe and Everything os a fantastic book. Short, yes, but I favour quality over quantity any day. It's an enjoyable way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, and fans of Douglas Adams won't be disappointed.
As such this novel feels a little strained at times in bringing all the original Hitchhiker's cast back for a third outing, with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect's idyllic prehistoric life at the end of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe transformed into a nightmare they can be rescued from, and Marvin having his death in the previous book undone. By far the biggest change though is Slartifartbast, who has changed from an eccentric planet designer into the main plot-driver of the book, essentially taking over the Doctor's role as would be saviour of the universe and guardian of the timelines, with his new background in the Campaign For Real Time replacing the role of Doctor Who's Time Lords.
However, the odd strained moments are more than offset but the typically brilliant concepts on display - including the Hitchhiker's art of flying by throwing oneself at the ground and missing, Slartifartbast's Bistromathematical spaceship, and the re-acquaintance of the sentient bowl of petunias from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy that results in Arthur Dent glimpsing his own future.
Not quite up to the standard of the first two books in the series, Life, the Universe and Everything is nevertheless clever enough and funny enough to be essential for fans of the earlier novels.
Arthur Dent, for starters. The single most misunderstood and unfortunate character in science fiction. We also get to see the return of our other favourite space bums; apathetic Ford Prefect, foolishly clever Zaphod, down-to-earth Trillian and the heroic (not) Marvin the robot (who depresses an evil robot army to death). The idea that cricket is mankind's only memory of an intergalactic war tickled me especially.
Whilst inventive, the Bistromathics (in which calculations are made by eating at an Italian bistro) proved to be a bit too tedious for my tastes. Also I felt the book ended in a bit of an anti-climax.
Not essential reading as the first two are, but good nonetheless.
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