The Short Version: Arthur Dent finally returns home. Wait, what?! Wasn’t the Earth destroyed? And where are the dolphins? And who is the comely lass named Fenchurch and, excuse me, they do WHAT in the clouds?! Where’s Marvin, damn it.
The Review: I remember exactly two things about this book from the first time I read it. The first is that I didn’t like it. The second was the ending – the reveal that God’s Final Message to His Creation is (SPOILERS FOR YOU TOSSERS WHO HAVEN’T EVER READ ANY OF THIS SERIES) “We apologize for the inconvenience.” I liked that second bit.
The book has more adult charms, to be sure, than the original trilogy. Strange sounding comment, I know – what I mean to say is that it is less childish. There’s more adult topics, like sex. The book almost exclusively takes place on Earth. There’s a lot of commentary on humanity as a whole – more caustic, I’d argue. This makes for a markedly different reading experience from the original three books in the trilogy.
I found that I did, in fact, enjoy the change of pace. Seeing Arthur settle into Earth again was funny. Moving, even. I loved getting to see a different (more grown-up?) version of him and (as the author points out in an unexpected aside) suddenly realizing that he wasn’t some two-dimensional caricature but in fact a real legitimate person. Fenchurch is the perfect girl for him and their first date, along with the discovery that they both can fly… that was beautiful. Really top-notch romance, that.
The problems come from the last third or so of the book. Going to California, first off, was a bad idea. If you don’t like California already, it’s a bad idea to look at it from the view of a Brit – because you’ll only come away disliking it even more firmly. Also, the decision to essentially wrap up the plot with “not much happens after this” and essentially almost bullet-pointing to the end… that was a bit weak. I also didn’t love Marvin’s appearance at the end. Sure, it was nice to see a familiar face – just as Ford’s occasional appearances as he makes his way back to Arthur were fun diversions – but this felt wholly unnecessary. Strange. Wrong, even.
That’s the most accurate thing I can say about this book, honestly – there is something wrong about it. The stuff with the dolphins seems to matter… and then it doesn’t… and then it does again, suddenly, but it is cleared up so fast it makes your head spin. Fenchurch’s whole “she figured it out and went crazy!” thing doesn’t entirely seem resolved, even though I think Adams wants you to believe that the resolution comes from the Message…. but I don’t buy it. This novel (barely can be called that, by the way, at 167 pages) feels rough and unfinished.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5. I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would, considering how much I disliked it the first go-round. I didn’t love it, though – despite loving some of the writing. It just felt too rushed for me to really love it like the original trilogy. It was a bit too Star Trek IV, which (while funny) is perhaps the weakest of the series in that nothing really happens until suddenly it DOES and then its over. My thoughts, anyway. I’m excited to finally tackle the fifth and final book in the Trilogy now, though – I’ve never gotten this far before, so we’ll see what happens……