I like this book. Like a lot. After Adam’s last first final book in the trilogy(1), like every time I’ve read this series, I think “Cheese…I don’t remember if the rest is more of the same or what”, and then I’m always pleasantly surprised. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish feels like Adam’s second attempt to end the series and in a way it is what I accepted as the end of the series until I got my first omnibus version. If this book ended the series, like for good (no more prequels, no more post-humorously published volumes, please just let the series die a dignified death), I would have been extremely satisfied. Maktub.
Three Sentence Summary:
- Arthur has been hitching across the galaxy after the events of the last book and is inadvertently and curiously dropped off on Earth in England where he gets a ride with a jerk who introduces Arthur to his medicinally sedated “mentally unstable” sister, Fenchurch, the first human woman Arthur has seen in who knows how long(2) and naturally falls obsessively in love with her however after calling several hospitals asking after her, after arriving home to an eight year pile of junk mail, and generally being super hardcore creepy he notices a fish bowl that has an inscription on it reading “So Long and Thanks” which prompts him to sleep on the events of the rainy evening.
Arthur decides he wants to find the cave in which he used to live in on prehistoric Earth and discovers that Fenchurch lives in a flat that was constructed precisely on top of Arthur’s cave in prehistoric Earth which is the second time he’s seen her now (he picked her up hitchhiking sometime between the fishbowl thing and showing up on her door step) which firmly establishes this story as a romantic comedy science fiction, maybe a first of its kind, and so following the formula Fenchurch makes a big reveal about her “mental instability”, as it turns out Fenchurch is the girl mentioned in the first book who had received the question for life, the universe, and everything moments before the Earth was destroyed, which is code for she floats inches off the ground all the time constantly (literally) and when Arthur notices this he teaches her to fly and they have lots and lots of flying sex.
Eventually Arthur and Fenchurch receive a lead onto an enigmatic scientist, John Watson aka Wonko the Sane who looked like…I’ll just have to quote it:
If you took a couple of David Bowies and stuck one of the David Bowies on top of the other David Bowie, then attached another David Bowie to the end of each of the arms of the upper of the first two David Bowies and wrapped the whole business up in a dirty beach robe you would then have something which didn’t exactly look like John Watson, but which those who knew him would find hauntingly familiar.
…and with all this David Bowie power combine Arthur and Fenchurch are shown that if they hold the fish bowl they got up to their ear they can hear the dolphins explaining to humanity about the impending Volgon demolition and that they tried to warn us however they (the dolphins) are off to another dimension before this Earth is destroyed so they can create a new Earth for the Humans and then a wild Ford Prefect appears via a giant robot shaped spaceship that causes mass mayhem and however dunk Ford is he explains…nothing(3) but there are some cut away Ford POV chapters showing where he was when he discovered that his copy of the Guide has the full version of his entry on the Earth and how he got from there to the Earth and after finishing his surprisingly accurate drunken rehash of his POV chapters(4) they decide to hijack the same robot-spaceship that Ford arrived on to go see where God’s Last Message to his Creation is and read it but on the way they meet Marvin who explains that due to continuity (errors?) that he is now about 37 times older than the universe it self which has made him almost nonfunctional however Arthur and Fenchurch help Marvin to the destination where God’s Last Message to his Creation can be read and after reading it: (get ready for the feels)
“I think,” he murmured at last from deep within his corroding, rattling, thorax, “I feel good about it.”
The lights went out in his eyes for absolutely the very last time ever.
This book is closest to my heart in the series. I love Fenchurch. Finally Arthur has a love interest AND this woman isn’t an insulting gender-genre cliche AND she actually is a fairly interesting character. I’m not generally crazy for romances in literature(5) but after growing with Arthur over the last few books it feels so satisfying to give him his home back and someone to love and be loved.
Take this thought from Arthur’s head:
“Perhaps we ought to first sort out,” said Arthur, “where I’m taking you.”
Very close, he hoped, or a long way. Close would mean she live near him, a long way would mean he could drive her there.
See? It’s crap like THIS that makes me really makes me peel with “aww”.
I did not like Marvin. Like at all. I wanted him to die the entire series. This death is simultaneously satisfying and heartbreaking and every time I read it I feel those heart strings.
Above points are all in favour of this book making a strong cannidate for the end of the series but an subtle absence is felt with out Zaphod or Trillian in this book as much as their characters were 100% throw-away(6) in the overall series (including the prequel short story) and their stories were pretty much resolved(?7) after the events of Life, the Universe and Everything however I just kind of wanted to see them…or have mention of the heart of gold finding god or something improbable like that. Would have been a much stronger ending than the “seriously? WTF, man. What is your deal INTRODUCING A BRAND NEW CHARACTER IN THE EPILOGUE THAT SERVES NO PURPOSE?! Seriously, can’t have any nice moments here…” (drops mic, walks out, turns off light switch on way out)
- Go ahead and re-read it. It makes sense in the context of this series.
- Given the time traveling and dimensional travel, I’m pretty sure there is no right answer.
- He kind of rambles on for a few pages while the giant robot does giant robot things.
- His drunken rambling makes about as much sense as some of his chapters, like the one where he keeps listening to the “Tick Tick Tock Tock”ing and giggles about it. I think Adams was getting paid by the word by this book because there are much easier plot devices to get Arthur and Fenchurch a ride off planet.
- Unless it’s something silent and complex like John Grady and Alejandra in All The Pretty Horses by McCarthy and I’ll just read it over and over and over…or really anything Cormic decides he wants to write about I’ll read because his prose is just so so lyrical and violent like broken church stain glass sparkling in the morning sun.
- I can think of a much more amusing scenario where in Zaphod’s causal absence, Ford steals the Heart of Gold and abducts Arthur and they go have space adventures and Trillian only exists because of the phone number joke in the first book which could have been replaced with Fenchurch and hell I think we’re on our way to an interesting reboot of the series, eh?
- ? Honestly I care so little about their character arcs that I won’t check the source text (sitting right in front of me).