Welcome back to the review series of Adams’s most well known science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy. Today I’ll be sharing with you my thoughts on the third book in the series. Which is…tough and I’m prepared to loose some followers over my views but if you decide to unfollow because I cannot praise easily the weakest book in the series…well so long and thanks for all the fish (haha get it? that’s the next book in the series). Alienating (hahaha) jokes and bad puns aside, lets get in to it.
Three Sentence Summary
- Arthur is still on prehistoric Earth, generally loosing his mind when Ford comes out of nowhere and explains how he’s spent the time being a lemon jumping into a glass of gin then proceed go skipping after an anachronistic couch floating by which happens to be a time anomaly that transports Arthur, Ford, and it self on to the field of Lord’s Cricket Ground two days before the Earth was destroyed by Volgons however a spaceship full of murderous robots from the planet Krikkit come destroying things until they steal the ashes(1) and leave a scene of chaos while Slartibartfast comes in and recruits Arthur and Ford to help him save existence from the Krikkit bots.
- Zaphod is hungover and depressed somewhere and Trillian leaves or something meanwhile Slartibartfast explains to Arthur and Ford the strange history of the Krikkit wars and what caused this once peaceful race of robots to go on a galaxy wide quest to destroy everything and what stopped the Krikkit wars in the first place but why they’re still floating around and what their plan is while en route to a multi-generational party however because Arthur is a bloke who is just made to be hated (for some reason, I find him to be the best character in the series by a long shot) he somehow is transported to a cathedral of hate created by a reincarnating being, Agrajag, who claims that Arthur has killed him/her/it in every single one of his incarnations and is now looking for revenge however through it’s bad guy monologue it’s revealed that Agrajag has pulled Arthur too early from his respective timeline because he hasn’t yet been to Stavromula Beta yet and killing Arthur would create a paradox but Agrajag has no fucks left to give and tries to kill Arthur anyway causing the Cathedral to collapse and Arthur to fly away until the multi-generational party strikes him in the small of the back and he’s reunited with his friends.
- There’s an anit-climatic and fairly confusing resolution to the Krikkit wars involving another warmongering race and another super computer named Hactor who created an ultimate destroy everything in existence bomb but after talking to Hactor for a while the Krikkit bots return home and Arthur and the gang go back in time again to just moments after the Krikkit bots arrive on Earth originally to return the Ashes and Arthur almost ends existence by bowling a bomb at…I don’t get cricket so I’m just gonna call the robot with a bat ready to be pitched to a “batsman” because I can’t figure out if that guy is the wicket or the defender of the gate (is the gate the wicket?) or what the stumps are or what role they play with out much more research than I’m willing to do for this book review, but instead does something pretty bad ass and then they head towards a quiet and idyllic planet when they find a crazed journalist who tells them about a guy who got way too much truth serum and was exiled to a court room somewhere to protect everyone from going mad from all the truth he’s spitting and the gang figure that if anyone knows the question to life, the universe, and everything it would be this guy however he is done and has forgotten and with his dying words he tries to tell Arthur where God’s last message to His creation is but dies in frustration and Arthur is left on the Krikkit planet to master flying and where he decides to learn bird language.
“Where to begin?” is what I’m asking my self in writing this review and I’m guessing Adams was asking himself when beginning this book since it was the first in the series to be a book first rather than an adaptation from the radio series and it shows but that’s not entirely a good or bad thing.
I want to like this book as much as the first two. He, Adams, made some really excellent decisions such as almost completely cutting out Marvin, Trillian, and Zaphod which have at this point become a loathsome, cliche, and whiny (respectively) trio who couldn’t even seem to stand each other and how they made it into the final cut must have been at someone’s instance because they really offer nothing to the story other than being in ownership of the heart of gold which, frankly, at this point Adam’s could insert some other deus ex machina ship (like say a second one from a parallel dimension or from an alternate timeline) and it would be an improvement as long as we didn’t have to see the miserable three anymore.
Adam’s had some really solid jokes in the first couple of books and a generally kind of quirky fun approach to the absurdity of significance, the state of the universe, saviour figures, ethical meat consumption, the ecological price of technological progress, and generally just kind of had a way of saying “hey look at this, its pretty funny right? Now keep thinking…” which was great. However I feel like he was running out of material by this point in the series or he really needed a break because aside from the immortal character born with out the capacity to handle the existential weight of immorality and therefore created his own purpose of insulting everyone and everything through space and time, I just didn’t see much of that sarcastic philosopher voice that was holding together this series.
Not to say that this book is all bad or not worth reading because there are some of my absolute favourite scenes and lines in this book.
“I’ve seen that one before,” he said. His eyes wandered slowly up to the date, which Ford was idly tapping at. His face froze for a second or two and then began to do that terribly slow crashing trick that Arctic ice floes do spectacularly in the spring.
This is just after Arthur and Ford are transported back to modern Earth and Arthur is finally home. For some reason I’ve always imagined the world ending on a Thursday in spring, probably April I could never get the hang of April, which ties the season bit to current time, his word choice for “froze” reinforces the horrible cold terror you can almost feel vicariously as his eyes shift up and his face falls just like the ice floes.
And suddenly he tripped again and was hurled forward by his considerable momentum. But just at the last moment he was about to hit the ground astoundingly hard he saw lying directly in front of him a small navy blue tote bag that he knew for a fact he had lost in the baggage retrieval system at the Athens airport some ten years previously in his personal time scale, and in his astonishment he missed the ground completely and bobbed off into the air with his brain singing.
What he was doing was this: he was flying.
This is the first time Arthur flies and it’s as the Cathedral of Hate is collapsing around him. I love every single flying scene in the series from this point out but this first one is so chilling to me. I guess maybe it’s more a personal bend, I would day dream as a kid staring at birds flying so free and floating on currents. The way he describes flying in this book I guess it kind of reminds me of what I’ve read is called a “living prayer” in Buddhist literature where after mastering the art of meditation a disciplined individual can exist wholly in the moment, like in between heart beats, where the mind is completely quiet. No interior monologue, no thoughts, just being. Though it’s not entirely accurate, since Arthur frequently thinks about anything other than his proximity to the ground, but something about it makes me feel something similar to the “living prayer”. Like I said at the outset of this review series, I have a long and complicated bookmance with these books and I guess like any other relationship there will be things that only make sense to those in the relationship.
At the end of the day, if I re-read the series or recommend it to someone, I will say Life, the Universe, and Everything deserves a read. Life, the Universe, and Everything is like this friend you have that makes you cringe sometimes but you still love them because of that adorkable joke they just cracked. I guess that can apply to both the book and…the titular abstractions.
- I needed to look this up because I’m an American and not into sports at that (except football is pretty cool, like real football, the one you play with your feet not the popular American sport Handegg Ball or more commonly known as “football”. The Ashes are basically a more humourus version of the Stanley Cup but only once every 4 years instead of every year and only between the English and the Australians. Honestly it’s a lot more involved and pretty funny to read about and I recommend following the link. This does not count towards the three sentences.