This is the fourth book in Douglas Adam’s infamous The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. As is always the case, the first couple of books are definitely the best, but I always have to read the whole series after I start!
So in this book, Arthur Dent returns to Earth alone – amazed to find that is hasn’t, in fact, been demolished. Here he find Fenchurch, a girl who found a piece of knowledge suddenly when the Earth was supposedly destroyed, only to lose it again soon after. In order to discover the truth of the situation, Fenchurch and Arthur go to the Asylum in California – a peculiar inside-out house belonging to John Watson (or Wonko the Sane) and his wife Arcane Jane.
All three people have an identical silvery glass bowl, engraved with a final message from the dolphins before they disappear.
Ford Prefect soon joins Arthur and Fenchurch, and together they all hitch a ride on a flying saucer belonging to a large robot, leaving planet Earth after discovering all their lizards are retired. They head to the mountains of Quentulus Quazgar, where God’s Final Message to His Creation stands, hoping this will help Fenchurch’s missing memory situation. While trekking across the Great Red Plain of Rars Ford and Arthur are reunited with a familiar old robot, who seems to have nothing better to do than complain about life…
This is really quite a short book, with only 167 pages including the epilogue. It also doesn’t have such a clear, exciting plot as the first three books. There is also a bit of romance in this novel (that takes place in the clouds above London), and I can’t say I’m particularly fond of this. I mean, I don’t mind it, but is it really relevant?
The details are still Douglas’s strong point in my opinion. Take Wonko the Sane, for example. His house is designed to be outside on the inside, as he believes the rest of the world has gone insane and that the whole planet is practically an asylum. Hence, the only escape is his home – Outside the Asylum.
Arthur and Ford, the main original characters, are still fantastic. Their pointless comments and conversations, their quirky personalities, their odd lives are all very prominent still. Ford returns to Earth with a terrible case of space-lag, making it hard for him to keep his train of thought. And Arthur… Well, life doesn’t tend to go to plan for him very often. He repeatedly meets the grumpy Rain God, and even loses Fenchurch’s phone number she’s written on the back of his raffle ticket. Poor Arthur.
I really do like this series, and I’m about to start reading the next book (Mostly Harmless) in a matter of minutes. The previous book, Life, the Universe and Everything, is where the series began to deteriorate. This book certainly isn’t as good as the first one, so I’m going to have to give it just 3.5 stars. Still a good book, but not up to the standards the series started with!