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 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!
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.
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 11 August 2001
I'm sometimes surprised when people find part of a series not as good as the rest. This time, I see it from a different perspective. The best parts of the real "trilogy" were when Arthur Dent was trying to get to terms with the overall differentness of space - the nutri-matic, Improbability Drive, and so on. But this book is merely about Arthur Dent's "exciting" adventures on Planet Earth. The romance with Fenchurch is far too "real" for these books, and has little of the zaniness I expected - more like a cheap romance novel. The only interest is when Arthur leaves the planet to meet space again, and the bits with Ford. I'd recommend it to fans perhaps, if only for the sense of completeness. But read this, then read the original, and see the difference in plot and quality.
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.
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.
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 28 July 2016
Originally there were the two series of the radio show which Adams rewrote and reorganised into two books. And for a long time that was it, that was all there was of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Then one day I was in a bookshop when there it was: A new Hitch Hiker's hook by Douglas Adams, black cover with an old fasioned ring pull on the cover (the ones that detached from the can to cause maximum environmental damage).
Having essentially completed what appeared to be the story arc in the first two books, what was going to be next for our heroes? Arthur and Ford were last seen stranded on prehistoric Earth and Zaphod and Trillian were missing after teleporting from Hotblack Desiato's stunt ship. Would this be a tried and cynical cash in, retreading old ground but failing to capture the magic of the originals?
Needless to say, Adams didn't disappoint, creating a plot around an alien race creating a weapon capable of destroying the universe, and it is up to Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian to save the day, along with Slartibartfast who had to be co-opted in to make the plot work since the other four would far rather have been at a party getting drunk (or in Arthur's case drinking some proper tea).
Yet more footnotes and extract from 'The Book' ensue with Adam's imagination creating a number of new comic inventions - Agrajag, how to fly, Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. All of it moves with pace and brio as if the characters are enjoying the freedom of a new book, even if there is a universe to save and only one party.
This fourth novel in the inexplicably inaccurately named "Hitchhiker's Trilogy" is the easiest to read so far, the funniest, and the most down to earth.
Down to earth, that is, once you discount the flying romance into which our hero Arthur Dent willingly throws himself, completely forgetting to come down. Yes, this is a romance novel - Arthur and Fenchurch flying to the sea, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!
A Zaphod-free zone, Adams introduces hilarious new characters, such as the Rain God and the raffle ticket lady, with guest appearances by Ford Prefect and my favorite Marvin.
Mysterious fish bowls with cryptic inscriptions, disappearing dolphins, an inside-out house (not an inside out-house) and of course, a final message from God himself, round out this hilarious book.
Unfortunately, you won't appreciate it fully without reading the preceding three novels, so get busy - it's well worth your time.