douglas adams

Book Review: Mostly Harmless

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Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #5) – Paperback, 230 pages – Published September 1st 2009 by Pan Books

Mostly Harmless is the final book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. It was originally mean to consist of only three books, but ended up far longer.

In typical Hitchhiker fashion, the plot is a bit all over the place. Everything cleverly fits together, and everything that happens is so absurdly peculiar that you can’t help but laugh.

Some things in this book are a bit hard to follow, but the gist is generally pretty easy to catch. As there isn’t a single plot exactly, I’ll try to summarise some of the main happenings in the novel.

Okay, so Earth had been demolished, Trillian was gone, and Arthur was in love with Fenchurch. But Fenchurch disappeared – literally, disappeared – and Tricia McMillan was back on Earth. It turns out that aliens are rather fond of astronomy, and Earth sometimes appears on the probability timeline, and sometimes doesn’t. During one of these times, Arthur ends up on a strange planet named NowWhat in the place where Earth should be.

It’s thanks to the Whole Sort of General Mish Mash – which is a lot more complicated than we ever believed parallel universes to be. On his travels, Arthur visits a village of oracles and becomes the Sandwich Maker in a small settlement on a peculiar planet, supposedly ruled by Bob. Everything was going swimmingly for him, until his daughter – yes, Arthur’s daughter – turns up, followed by a peculiar parcel from Ford.

Meanwhile, Ford himself had discovered that the Vogons had taken over the Guide, and created a strange new sequel. He jumped out of a window twice, lost a very expensive shoe, and then lost his ship to Arthur’s daughter after she threw a sharp stone at him. Basically, things weren’t going quite so well for Ford Prefect.

All the little ideas in this book are great – original, exciting, funny. Everything that makes the series so popular. None of these books have a straight-forward storyline, and that’s sort of what makes them so unique. Of course, the sequels are rarely as good as the first book, and this is no exception. However, I do believe this book has more of an interesting, easy-to-read vibe going on than the previous one.

Again, there’s no romance in this (yay!) and absolutely everything is completely unexpected. The Vogons have returned, but we still haven’t had any sign of Zaphod, or even Marvin. Kind of disappointing, as Zaphod was a real fantastic character! For most of the book, I’d give 3.5 stars, but in the end it managed to work it’s way to 4.

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Book Review: So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish

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So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy #4) – Paperback, 167 pages – Published October 1st 2009 by Pan Books

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!

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Book Review: Life, the Universe and Everything

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Life, The Universe and Everything (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #3) by Douglas Adams – Paperback, 199 pages – Published September 1st 2009 by Pan Books

I loved the first two books in the Hitchhiker series, and had heard that the rest aren’t quite as good. I’m afraid I have to agree on that with this book, though it isn’t a bad book by any means.

In this exciting novel from Douglas Adams, we find Arthur Dent where we left him – on prehistoric Earth. Having been separated for a few years, Arthur and Ford Prefect are reunited, in time to find a sofa appear before them. Something to do with eddies in the space-time continuum… The sofa takes the pair back to modern day Earth, on the Lord’s Cricket Ground to be precise. They witness the Ashes being stolen, and Slartibartfast teaches them about how the people of Krikket decided to destroy the universe on the discovery of there being one. The whole planet was encased in a Slo-Time envelope, except for one battle ship. This ship, armed with deadly robots, seeks the key to unlock the planet – part of which happens to be the Ashes.

Ford, Arthur and Slartibartfast take it upon themselves to save the Universe. But Arthur finds himself separated from the others, alone in a dark chamber. It turns out that he had been brought there by Agrajag, the soul of several beings he happened to have killed over the years. Most creatures aren’t aware of having been reincarnated, but Agrajag remembers each time he had been killed by Dent.

While escaping Agrajag, Arthur accidentally learns the art of flying – and is hit by a flying party. Ford and Slartibartfast – as well as Trillian with Thor the Thunder God – happen to be there. The robots soon arrive and steal another part of the key before the others get a chance to take it. Eventually, the robots gather the entire key, and Trillian figures out who has been manipulating the Krikkiters into destroying the Universe the whole time.

I’m a huge fan of this series, but I didn’t like this book quite as much. The random rambles seem to be just that at times, and although they are important to the plot in some way, I did tend to feel a little lost sometimes. And there are barely any new characters – certainly no main ones. While the original characters are all great, they just aren’t quite the same as they were.

It’s still eccentric, it still has subtle hints of humour, and it all fits together in a peculiarly clever way, so I have to give this book 4 stars.

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Book Review: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #2) – Paperback, 200 pages – Published September 1st 2009 by Pan Publishing

This is the second instalment of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which I’m absolutely in love with.

This novel begins with the Heart of Gold being attacked by the Vogons. You know, as you do. Obviously, nobody on board wants to die (apart from, perhaps, the Paranoid Android). They don’t have much time, so Zaphod Beeblebrox does the first thing that comes to his mind; he summons the ghost of his great-grandfather, Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth.

Zaphod suddenly finds himself in the lobby of the office blocks of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, upon the planet Ursor Minor Beta. To his unfortunate luck, he’s accompanied by Marvin, the depressed robot.

Thanks to the locked-off part of his brain (and a few hints from his deceased relative), Zaphod is certain that the reason he is where he is is because he needs to see Zarniwoop – a guy who he is pretty certain he’s never met before. Instead, an entire half of the office block is taken to Frostar World B, home of the Total Perspective Vortex. Being in this vortex is the worst fate anyone can suffer; being shown the true size of the Universe and feeling how very tiny you are to it in comparison.

Zaphod is led to the vortex by a disembodied mind, but surprisingly remains unaffected by what he sees. He then finds Zarniwoop on an abandoned airship, and is told that they are not, in fact, in the real world as such.

Anyway, Zaphod discovers that he has been carrying the Heart of Gold within his coat pocket, his friends safely on board. Zarniwoop revives it to its full size, and the crew ask the computer to send them to the nearest place to eat. It turns out that this would be Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. It’s located on Frogstar Planet B, but a fair while into the future – at the exact time the universe ends, in fact.

Marvin, having been left alone in the past, finally calls to tell his friends that he has been waiting for them in the car park the whole time. No longer interested in the Heart of Gold or the mission he required it for, Zaphod decides to steal a jet-black ship parked beside the limoship of a famous band. (They happen to be famous not due to their talent, but due to the sheer volume of their concerts.) As luck would have it, this ship is actually the stunt ship used in the band’s performances, and as its passengers their fate is to crash into the sun with it.

Using the unfinished transport device on board, the crew are sent safety. Trillian and Zaphod find themselves with Zarniwoop, on their way to interrogate the ruler of the Universe, who happens to live alone in a shack with a cat whom he has dubbed The Lord. Arthur and Ford, however, are aboard a ship full of frozen coffin-like items, which is fleeing a doomed planet and heading for a new home.

Upon this new planet, Ford and Arthur meet the ape-like beings who already live there. With the coming of the new people, these beings begin to die out. Much to Arthur’s dismay, as this planet turns out to be Earth two million years before its destruction. And if these native creatures don’t survive, then that means the human race is evolved from the idiots that crash landed there.

Desperate to help the natives along their revolutionary path, Arthur attempts to teach them the art of Scrabble. Sadly, this doesn’t quite work. All this really achieves is them discovering the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, which they already knew to be forty-two. What they really want to know is the original Question, which they are certain is not six multiplied by nine.

This sequel is just as fantastically crazy as the first, and I love it just as much! The characters are all very much the same, with their unique personalities and quirks. Arthur’s love for tea also plays a huge part in this story…

It’s clever in the most absurd way, and as subtly hilarious as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyI love it so much, it’s definitely in my favourites! Five stars for this book by Douglas Adams.

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Random Fridays

‘Perhaps,’ interrupted the green blur who had by this time resolved into the shape of a small wizened dark-suited green waiter, ‘perhaps you would care to discuss the matter over drinks…’


The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, page 77

Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Paperback (Film Tie-In Edition), 323 pages – Published April 1st 2005 by Pan Publishing

I actually read the film tie-in edition of this book, but practically ignored the photos and skipped the interviews and afterword, I’m afraid.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally published in 1979 but has remained a favourite of many people throughout the years. A lot of people will probably think of the famous film adaptation upon hearing the title, but I must admit that this book is fabulous and definitely worth a read.

It begins with an ordinary man names Arthur Dent, who’s house is about to be demolished. His friend Ford Prefect – who turns out to be a native not to Earth, but to a planet somewhere around Betelgeuse – abruptly arrives bearing news of the end of the world. The pair hitch a ride on the attacking Vogon airship, surviving the destruction of the planet Earth.

This book is a bit all over the place, but to give you the gist of it: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy, steals the Heart of Gold – a one-of-a-kind spaceship named after the Infinite Improbability Drive. After Ford and Arthur are thrown off the Vogon ship, they’re rescued just in the nick of time by Trillian and Zaphod aboard The Heart of Gold. As luck has it, Trillian turns out to be the girl Arthur had tried to win the heart of at a party, and Zaphod the guy who won her instead.

The crew set off toward a legend of a planet – Magrathea, where customised planets were supposedly built. Here, Arthur is told the truth about Earth – and how the mice were in charge – by Slartibartfast and the rodents Trillian brought to space with her attempt to buy Arthur’s brain, due to it having the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything, to which the answer is 42 (as determined by the Deep Thought computer).

Arthur is also informed that dolphins are far more intelligent than any human realised, and had made many attempts to warm us of the impending doom. One message of theirs, had we bothered to listen, translates to So long, and thanks for all the fish.

This book is so fantastically eccentric. I absolutely adored it! The characters are just great, and the humour is so subtle. Everything fits together in weird, ingenious ways, and every piece of (seemingly) irrelevant story is so well written, and I loved every bit. Even the bit about the sperm whale, and his thoughts throughout his short lifespan. Poor whale…

And poor Marvin… To be a maniacally depressed robot doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

This is definitely in my favourites, and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. (In fact, I’m about to grab the second book right now!) I have to give The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 5 stars out of 5.

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