The Short Version: Dinner at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe gets postponed because Zaphod has a mission… that he just can’t entirely remember. There’s a fair amount of jumping through time and space and the idea of meeting with the guy who runs the Galaxy. By the end of it, Arthur and Ford are stuck on prehistoric Earth, as though it was some kind of sick joke.
The Review: This book (of the four-of-five I’ve read previously) always stuck out in my mind as my favorite. In the same way that The Empire Strikes Back only improves upon A New Hope and “Heavier Things” was a better album than “Room For Squares”, this is a rare sequel that improves upon the predecessor. Sure, Adams recycles a few jokes here at there – literally word for word, sometimes – but that can be forgiven because, for the most part, this book dispenses with the setup that made the first book so… tedious isn’t the right word but it is the word I’m going to use.
The adventure picks up right where it left off, essentially, but things rapidly spiral out of a) control and b) reality and c) any sort of comprehensible sanity. Zaphod finds out he’s the center of the universe (but, alas, it’s apparently a pocket universe and not the real one). Dinner is had at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Ford makes a damn fool of himself. Trillian doesn’t do much in this book, I suddenly have realized. Oh and Arthur discovers where humanity came from. And the Question to which the Ultimate Answer was meant for: “What do you get when you multiply six by nine?”
This book is leaner, funnier (laugh-out-loud funnier – I’d say I had almost twice the number of out-loud laughs as I did with Hitchhiker’s and I had quite a few with that book), and overall better. The absurdity is still there but it has been raised to another level – so if you weren’t onboard the first time, you’re bound to be completely lost this time. If you can just close your eyes and enjoy the ride, though, you’ll probably give this a Rating: 5 out of 5. Though I will submit one caveat: as I sit here thinking about this book, I thought for a moment I was forgetting some series of events because I summed it all up so fast. Then I realized that, as Jones said in the intro, you don’t come to this book for plot. There isn’t a ton of it and the book is exactly 200 pages… so yeah, it’s light and fluffy. Sometimes you just need that, you know what I’m saying?