The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Book Review

restaurant-at-the-end-of-the-universe

Cover Image – Following through with my intention to post all the old school cover art I remember reading the series for the first time in, this is the second in the series.

Happy Monday everyone!

Today we’re continuing with my review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series with the second book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe(1).  Without further ado.

Three Sentence Summary:

  1. The Vogons come and attack the ship with Zaphod and company leading while at the same time Arthur accidentally jams up the computer with a request for a cup of tea placing the crew in a situation where the inert ship is unable to defend it self nor take evasive action thereby the most logical solution is to have a seance to summon Zaphod Beeblebrox’s great-grandfather, Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth, who decides the best line of action is to create a circular plot hole that will lead Zaphod Beeblebrox to discover that he is the most important being in this universe however discovers he inhabits an artificial universe that was created by Zarniwoop, a man whom Zaphod worked in collaboration with but does not remember because that is a part of the piece of his brain Zaphod had removed/blocked.
  2. Zaphod, Arthur, Trillian, Ford and Zarniwoop head to the closest place to eat which because of the improbability drive picking at it’s mathematical will how to fill that request ends up being Milliway’s the closest place in space (to where they were parked) but they had to travel “five hundred and seventy-six thousand million years” into the future to a restaurant created independent of time that continually exists for several hours before the climatic end of existence providing an existentially fun and terrifying experience but Zaphod and company decide to leave early to beat traffic which leads them to stealing a famous rock-star’s friction-less pure black ship which they later discover is only a spare prop made for destruction and never intended for manual piloting which gives the characters the necessary gumption to discover a teleporter that A) requires someone to sacrifice themselves to press the “teleport” button and B) has no directional systems installed so it spits the characters off into two convenient groups: Zaphod, Trillian, Zarniwoop; and Arthur/ Ford.
  3. Zaphod, Trillian, Zarniwoop are transported back to the Heart of Gold where Zarniwoop commandeers the ship to complete his mission to find the ruler of the universe which bores the hell our of Zaphod and Trillian so they leave Zarniwoop trapped behind in the space time anomaly that the ruler of everything occupies meanwhile Arthur and Ford are transported to a ship of fools who are rejects from the humanoid species, the Golgafrinchans, who end up crash landing on prehistoric Earth and discover that the Golgafrinchans will eliminate the native hominoid species who were the final piece in the “computer known as Earth” algorithm and because of this view of events in time there chance for ever finding the ultimate question.

Thoughts:

The second book in the series keeps with the existential absurdist themes from the first book and if I remember right, “Adams himself considered Restaurant to be his best novel of the five”.  In the second installment Adams continues getting more experimental with switching POVs(2) and unusual perspectives as seen in chapter 17, p. 222, behind the curtain at Milliway’s with the host Max checking on oblivion, switching between first person perspectives of both things one a cosmic dinner host and the other is a gaunt hallow personification of oblivion and with expanding on articles from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (as in the device in the book, not in reference to the first book of the series) like chapter 19 p. 243 which serve a solid foundation for strong jokes

The Universe — some information to help you live in it. 

1 AREA: Infinite

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy offers this definition of the word “Infinite”. 

Infinite: Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real “wow, that’s bit,” time. Infinity is just so big that, by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy. Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is sort of the concept we’re trying to get across here.

However there’s an exchange between Arthur and Zahpod that sort of sums up my general feeling about the second book

“Look Earthman,” he said angrily, “you’ve got a job to do, right? The Question to the Ultimate Answer, right?”

“What, that thing?” said Arthur. “I thought we’d forgotten about that.”

I felt like the series intended not to have a purpose but introduced the idea of an ultimate question and ultimate answer but then it decided that it’s bored with that and tries to forward story lines with the disappointing, and the disappointment grows with time, female character(3), Trillian, the annoyingly depressed, the annoying grows with time too, robot, Marvin, and the flat, he doesn’t get any dimension so he can’t get any more flat with time, Zaphod.  Thankfully though Arthur and Ford, and mostly just Arthur, still have fun and funny story lines.

Speaking of Arthur and Ford, there’s this one scene just after they get transported from Hotblack Desiato’s ship onto the Golgafrinchan’s Ark (p. 259)

“That noise. That stomping throb. Pounding feet. Listen!”

Arthur listened.  The noise echoed round the corridor at them from an indeterminate distance. It was the muffled sound of pounding footsteps, and it was noticeably louder.

“Let’s move,” said Ford sharply. They both moved — in opposite directions.

The scene goes on but this reminds me of this story where something similar happened to me and a friend in high school.  We were both there after classes for something and it was a rainy day so the wrestlers would run up and down the halls and stairs instead of on the track.  My friend and I didn’t know any of this.

Her and I were in a hallway and we here a throbbing pounding in the ground, like vibrating through the ground into our shoes and we kind of look at each other and from both directions come this herd of meaty athletes.  She grabbed my hand and pulled us into a class room a the last moment (or at least that’s how my memory of it is, the moment was already so cinematic that I’m sure that’s how it had to have happened).

The scene I want to close out on is the one when Zaphod and company are at Milliways and the talking cow comes out to show it self off to the table before it kills it self for butchery (p. 224).  Sometimes I wonder about these things, like what the future of meat and food is going to look like. We’ve developed the first lab grown burger (haha I almost called it a “hamburger”) which seems like a step in the right direction however I wonder how things like that will change our evolutionary psychology. On the one hand, we have the Adam’s extreme where we are intimately familiar with where the meat comes from and have the consent and even the desire from the animal but the price is you have to recognize that you’re ending the life of one thing for your culinary entertainment but is somewhat closer to the nature of eating and the life-death cycle than ground meat cultures grown in an artificial environment however the grown meat not only never was a sentient being, thereby no killing is involved, which changes the nature of sustained survival: nothing has to die to become food.  It’s something to consider, as the nature of food and life and death changes with the advent of bleeding edge science non-fiction technologies, which I believe was Adam’s primary objective as a story teller, to give the reader something to consider.

Don’t forget to check in Friday for Fin’s Special Birthday Comic!

Footnotes:

  1. Milliways, is the name of the restaurant at the end of the universe, to be specific.
  2. Point of View
  3. I wanted to say protagonist but Trillian does so little and what little she does do is non-important or is somewhat questionable.
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