The Short Version: The Earth, apparently, lies on a fault of space-time. A shady evil corporation has taken over The Hitchhiker’s Guide and the accountants are running things. Arthur Dent is making sandwiches on a distant planet and apparently he has a daughter. Things only get worse.
The Review: I had honestly no idea what to expect from this book. The back, as I’ve learned from the synopses of the other books in the ‘Trilogy’, provides little accurate information about the entirety of the plot and opts to focus on a specific and rather small section of it, to be honest. So I opted to go in with a blank – just see what happened.
Turns out, this might be the best (and it is definitely the darkest) book of the ‘Trilogy’. It is confusing as hell, with multiple universes layering onto one another and you’re never quite sure which is which. The whole thing with Tricia/Trillian caught me off-guard and it took me a few moments of putting the book down and thinking it through to catch up – that’s pretty impressive, stopping me like that. Then, there’s a lot of complicated discussion of continuums and such – slipping through universes and trying to collapse them into one.
To digress for a moment, I find that the reading of certain books can be radically altered by the universe-at-large during the reading. That is, if you’re in a weird mood when you read a book like this, you may find yourself more strongly attracted to it than you would’ve otherwise. I do wonder if this is the case for me: the last few days (but yesterday especially) have felt like the universe has gone off-kilter in a very Adamsian way. However, there was a certain darkness – rather, a certain adultness – that pervaded this slighty-off universe, much like the way it pervaded the book. This is easily the most adult and calmest of Adams’ books: there’s a plot, there are some Serious Issues, and I don’t much like InfinDim Enterprises – they’re completely a shadowy evil possibly-Vogonic corporation and the scenes where Ford is trying to figure out just what the hell is going on were genuinely distressing. Distressing is not a word often used in association with this series. The entirety of the series has, in fact, been refigured in my mind after having read this last book.
Adams had always said he wanted to write a sixth book and I know that the Adams estate commissioned Eoin Colfer to write it and that is got decent reviews… but I don’t think I shall read it. Yes, this book ends quite bleakly (although a bit hilariously. Agrajag makes a terrific reappearance) but it is a wonderfully final ending. I mean, yes, I read some stuff about And Another Thing… and the reappearance of Zaphod and The Heart of Gold make a lot of sense for getting the characters out of this otherwise terminal scenario… but I just don’t want to know. I believe that this book ends in a way where Adams was saying “Hey guess what: universe sucks. Things don’t always end well. In fact they rarely do.” That’s why Ford’s laughing so hard at the end – you’ve gotta have your fun while you can, because when it ends, that’s the ballgame.
Rating: 5 out of 5. I don’t know if it’s that this is the longest book in the ‘Trilogy’ or what – but it feels like the most complete. Adams jettisons Fenchurch pretty quickly – can’t have Arthur happy, obviously – and trims away a lot of the superfluous nonsense that sometimes cluttered the smaller, earlier books. This is a wholly imagined adventure and an altogether darker, more realistic (though I use that term loosely), and more human one. That new Guide is scary as hell – and I’m right there with Ford, fighting until the last breath.