on 17 June 2004
Anyone who has read and enjoyed the sublime Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is sure to welcome the third book of the series with open arms. At the same time however, they may quite rightly be concerned as to whether the high standard of the earlier books can be matched by Adams' third effort. If at all possible, 'Life, the Universe and Everything' is even more far-fetched than its predecessors. Not that that's a bad thing, of course: "Arthur felt happy. He was terribly pleased that the day was for once working out so much according to plan. Only twenty minutes ago he had decided he would go mad, and now here he was already chasing a Chesterfield sofa across the fields of prehistoric Earth."
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.
on 30 March 2000
The charge levelled at this book that it is unlike the rest of the Hitch Hikers books is true. It isn't like them much at all. What it retains are the best features; Douglas Adams's fantastically complex yet simple (yes I know it's a complete contradiction) writing and the strong characters that have been built up from Earth's armageddon. His style of embellishment makes you want to read great passages of the book again, partly because you didn't quite understand it the first time you read it, partly because the ideas contained within the writing are thoroughly mind-mangling when first read and deceptively simple when you figure out what the hell is going on, but mostly because the actual language he uses flows around your head like the psychedelic blobs in a lava lamp as they are being poured down a transparent plughole. It (the fourth book in the series) is wonderfully strange, admirably barmy, and surprisingly innovative for sci-fi in bringing in one or two romantic scenes that make you wish you were in them and not next to a sick bucket. This is one of the only books I have read that has made my face try to express confusion, surprise, wonder, and laugh out loud all at the same time. Anyone who complains that it is not exactly the same as "the good old days" of Hitch Hikers has no imagination or soul.
on 31 July 2000
I loved this book for it's basic simplicity, yet unfathambly complex story. It made a change to the usual space trips of the previouse three books, and i think if it had continued along the same track it could easily have become dull. It wasn't so fast moving but the humour was superb and it still leaves you something to think about to lifes complexities. I just loved Gods final words - a great way to end it!
Arthur Dent is reunited with Ford Prefect and together they, reluctantly, try to prevent cricket (or rather Krikkit) from destroying the universe.
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.
Life, the Universe, and Everything is rather different from the preceding two books in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. It’s quite funny, particularly in a few rather memorable sections, but it is not consistently funny from beginning to end. Parts of it were so unspectacular that I barely remembered what I had just read, and one aspect of the concluding scenario is still rather incomprehensible to me, a case of deus ex machina I just can’t place in the context of the whole story. All of our favorite characters are back: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, Marvin the woefully depressed android, and even Slartibartfast; unfortunately, they are rarely together, and I sometimes lost track of Zaphod in particular after reading a number of chapters that ignored him entirely. Much of the action is also rather contrived, such as the sudden appearance of a couch on prehistoric earth upon which Arthur and Ford travel forward in time to the last two days of earth’s existence. On several occasions, characters seemed to zap to another place and time by no discernible means. The game of cricket is particularly important here, to the point that I really wish I understood what the sport is all about, but I admit it was a clever plot device to tie the sport to a particularly nasty, universe-threatening planet ten billion years in the past. The planet of Krikkit, you see, set out to destroy the rest of the universe because its people basically just wanted to be left alone. Throughout the novel white Krikkit robots appear out of nowhere to seize special items needed to unlock their planet from the Slo-Time envelope established around it at the end of the Krikkit Wars. This is a bad thing because the people of Krikkit still want nothing more than to destroy the entire universe. In a rather murky way, Arthur Dent is called upon to save the universe, and that is also not a particularly good thing.
There are a few highlights to the story. The subplot involving Agrajag is particularly good. In the course of Arthur Dent’s journeys through space and time, he has been responsible for the deaths of a great number of creatures—insects, flies, at least one rabbit, etc. Quite coincidently, as Arthur tries to argue, every single one of these creatures was Agrajag in his multiple reincarnated forms. Naturally, a body develops a hatred for the brute who keeps killing it time and time again, but Agrajag has gone so far as to build a veritable shrine to the entity he hates most in the cosmos, complete with a gigantic statue of Arthur Dent simultaneously killing him in a great number of his past life forms. I also particularly enjoy Adams’ take on learning to fly; it takes a special knack, one which consists basically of throwing yourself to the ground and missing—the easily distracted Arthur Dent is a natural at it.
Overall, the plot just meanders too much to suit me. Transitions of characters from one time and place to another make very little sense, major characters are abandoned for too long at a time, and the plot is not laid out neatly enough for it all to make sense to me. On the whole, much less seems to happen in this book than often happened over the course of a few chapters in the first two books of the trilogy. This is still an entertaining read, but even the comedy lacks some of the satirical and witty zest that typified Adams’ earlier successes.
on 21 February 2000
I liked this book, as the comedy was good(like in the other books in the 'trilogy'). However, I felt a bit disorientated. The style is quite different from the previous books. It is altogether more serious, dealing with love, which, when involved with Arthur Dent, is slightly unsettling(especially the scene with the flying; you'll now what I mean when you read it. Suffice to say that it seems a little out of character for bland, unexciting Mr Dent). I would have been more happy if it had continued with Arthur, Ford, Trillian, Zaphod and Marvin all travelling across the Universe in the Heart of Gold. It would have been like Star Trek, only funnier.
Written by Douglas Adams, "Life, the Universe and Everything" was first published in 1982 and is the third instalment of his legendary five-part "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy. It opens around five years after "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" finished, but follows up on what has happened in the previous books - as a result, it's the wrong place to start !! The series started life as a radio show, before becoming a book, a television series, a play and a bath towel. Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge in 1952 and died in May 2001.
Recent years haven't been kind to Arthur Dent. Having seen his home flattened by bulldozers, he barely escaped with his life when the Earth was demolished by the Vogons - officially to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Arthur was rescued by Ford Prefect, a roving reporter for "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy". The pair were later picked up by an old school-friend of Fords, Zaphod Beeblebrox - the two-headed, three-armed, renegade ex-President of the Galaxy and owner of the most powerful and unpredictable ship in the universe. Having met Slartibartfast, the man who designed Norway, and eaten at the restaurant at the end of the universe, an unprogrammed teleport sees Arthur and Ford landing on...a prehistoric Earth.
As the book opens, Arthur has been living alone in a cold, damp, smelly cave for five years. Living alone in what would become Islington roughly two million years later, he hasn't had any company since the surviving Golgafrinchans went on holiday about three years previously. Ford, having spent the last three years in prehistoric Africa, is now responsible for the giraffe and returns just in time to save Arthur from madness. He has detected eddies in the space - time continuum, which he suspects may provide the pair with an escape route. His suspicions are proved correct : the pair catch an over-active Chesterfield sofa which carries them forward through time and deposits them at Lords Cricket Ground - just two days before the Vogons are due to demolish Earth. The arrive just in time to see England defeat Australia in a very important cricket match, a spaceship containing robotic 'cricketers' arriving to kill people and steal the Ashes (the 'trophy' being played for) and Slartibartfast trying to stop them. Slartibartfast kindly agrees to give the duo a lift, meaning they won't have to hitch a ride with the Vogons again. However, he seems to expect them to help him save the universe - a task that involves them discovering that cricket is actually derived from Krikket and that robotic cricketers are generally best avoided. Ford, on the other hand, aims to be exceedingly drunk and would rather visit Eccentrica Gallumbits - a very capable lady of negotiable affections.
This is an extremely silly and very easily read book - though it probably does assume a certain awareness of cricket. Hugely enjoyable and definitely recommended - though only after having read the previous two instalments !
on 26 December 2010
Having really enjoyed the first two books in the series, both of which I have rated 5 stars, I was disappointed by this book. It took as its theme cricket, or as it is called in other parts of the universe, krikit. While this pan-universal activity made an amusing plot device for a while, it really was too contrived for sustaining a whole book. The wonderful Slartibartfast makes a very welcome return, but in a spaceship that is operated by the Bistromathic Drive, a system run by the goings on within a reconstructed Italian restaurant. Having introduced the brilliant Infinite Improbability Drive in book 1, introducing another way to power a spaceship was just too much.
The story involves the characters travelling from one place to another, to another, which I began to find tiresome. Each place seemed to have relatively little to do with the story, but more to do with the next idea that the author had dreamt up.
The first two books relied heavily on their strong dialogue, their origins being radio scripts. This book lost some of that funny dialogue, but gained a storyline (Arthur and Slartibartfast have to save the universe), but somehow it didn't work for me.
Following a highly productive breakthrough period when he was simultaneously knocking out scripts for both Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who, Douglas Adams famously struggled with writer's block during the later half of his career as a novelist. Previous Hitchhiker novel Life, the Universe and Everything was itself a re-worked Doctor Who story, and by the time of 4th Hitchhiker novel So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish you can feel the author struggling to find a story to tell.
If there is a problem with this novel, it's that there simply isn't enough story here. Previous instalments in the Hitchhiker's series may have been short, but they were packed with fantastic mind bending SF concepts, which are almost entirely absent here. The main storyline consists of Arthur Dent returning to a mysteriously no-longer-destroyed Earth, and having a romance with Fenchurch, the girl who in a throwaway line in the original Hitchhiker's novel had a divine revelation on how to achieve world peace just before the Earth was destroyed by the Vogons. Arthur and Fenchurch's romance is touching, especially a chapter where they both fly through the clouds together, but storywise it doesn't really go anywhere - the identity of Earth's saviours is fairly evident from the books title (though incidentally, why is there a picture of a sea lion on the cover - misdirection?), and Fenchurch never remembers her divine plan for world peace.
At the end Adams tags on a coda where Arthur and Fenchurch meet up with Ford Prefect and Marvin (who dies, again) to read God's Last Message To His Creation, following up on the finale of Life, the Universe and Everything, but if anything this feels almost tagged on simply to please the fans of the previous novels. The only ideas that are original to this book, such as the unwilling Rain God, or Wonko's inside-out asylum, are mildly amusing but nothing more.
So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish is by no means a bad novel, and thanks to Adams prose it is engagingly readable, but it is a novel all about character - specifically having a few nice things happen to Arthur Dent for a while- and sorely lacking in plot, so don't expect anything much to actually happen beyond Arthur's romance. A pleasant read for fans of the previous 3 novels in the series, but by this stage Douglas Adams just seems to have run out of ideas, and was grinding a novel out for the sake of it.
on 30 March 2013
I'm not sure how I feel about this one. It was a short and very quick read, and I did enjoy huge parts of it. I think, however, that Adams digressed from the core of the story in this one. And I'm not sure if that's necessarily a bad thing, but it's just different.
In this story, Adams takes you away from all the journeys around space and random jumps between space and time. We're, confusingly, back on Earth now, a few months after its demolition (although it has been 8 years for Arthur). We are told from the very beginning that this will be the story of the girl who figured it all out before it was taken away from her by the Earth's destruction. So I knew that this girl will be playing a huge part in the story. Indeed, she does. In fact, this story is essentially a love story between Arthur and this girl, Fenchurch. They fall in love, almost immediately, and most absurdly - no surprise there, as everything in this series tends to happen that way.
I have to admit, I wasn't completely taken with their romance. It felt awkward and not real. Even though I was enjoying this change in Arthur, and the change in pace of the books, at the back of my mind was the constant reminder that we are going off track, and I wanted to know what happened to the galaxy, how we found ourselves to be back on Earth when it was destroyed, and what the hell is the ultimate question?!
I did like the characters we met, including Fenchurch, the Rain God, Wonko the Sane and so on. I'm not sure what role they play in the overall storyline, but that is something that I suppose I will find out soon enough.
This book works well as a sort of intermission between books, before you go back to the madness and nonstop action. We know nothing of Zaphod or Trillian in this book, Marvin makes a cameo appearance at the very end, ending in a way that made me very very sad. Ford comes and goes, but we're mainly stuck with Fenchurch and Arthur.
My favourite scene in this book is when Arthur tells Fenchurch a story that involves 'biscuits', that had me laughing out loud. I also really liked God's final message to his creation. But at the end of it all, I just want to go back to the chaos of it all. There seemed to be many random things that made absolutely no sense and Adams opted to leave unexplained. Like the dolphins, and the fish bowl, and the Rain God, and the Earth not being demolished? I'm just confused I suppose.