Top critical review
Clever and funny, but repetitive and in need of a good editor
on 5 July 2013
Like many, I originally read the Hitchhiker books when a teenager and loved them. Revisiting them now, decades later is kind of strange. Reading them on a Kindle I am reminded of just how much technology has changed since the books were written. The eponymous Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy sounds just like a Kindle Keyboard, even down to the size of its screen! I am also reminded of how much I must have changed. The books are still choc full of clever ideas and are often funny, but now they also appear at times uneven and repetitive.
Many of the gags in The Restaurant at the end of the Universe are repeated verbatim from the first book (such as the one about civilizations passing through three distinct phases). Adams is quite open about this, saying sections of the fictional guidebook are worth repeating - so he repeats them. The scenes at the restaurant are great with some brilliant ideas and clever descriptions, but others would benefit from editing. The scene with the ruler of the universe drags with repeated pencil jokes and what is effectively the last scene, set on a beautiful planet, runs for five chapters (with not much action).
There seems to be a shortage of strong female characters too. As far as I can see, Trillian might as well have not been present for much on the first book, as most of the dialogue is (very entertaining) wisecracking between Zaphod and Ford. This is true of Restaurant also. Trillian does not feature at all in the final five chapters and it's a case of out of sight out of mind, as the other characters don't give her a second thought either.
I am sure that The Restaurant at the End of the Universe will continue to be considered a classic, which is only correct as there is so much inventiveness and creative comedy on show here, but it's not perfect. I just wish someone had been peering over Douglas Adams shoulder when he was writing it, occasionally reminding him that sometimes less is more.