Completed 2/9/2020, Reviewed 2/9/2020
The fourth installment of the Hitchhiker’s series was a surprise. I really enjoyed it. Like the first two, it doesn’t have much of a plot, but the storytelling is much tighter and there are fewer asides. It’s not necessarily laugh out loud funny, but I often had a smile on my face. Unlike the first three, the majority of it takes place on Earth and Arthur Dent is the main character, not merely a MacGuffin (that is, a person, object, or event that is necessary to the plot but irrelevant itself). Rather than being the butt of many of the jokes, he gets to have a real plot line and much deeper character development.
The plot is very straight forward. In a nutshell, Arthur comes back to Earth five months after it was supposedly destroyed (eight years his time), finds his way home, and falls in love. The woman he falls in love with is named Fenchurch (don’t ask). She like everyone else on Earth had the “hallucination” that Earth was destroyed by the Vogon construction fleet, but she actually remembers the Earth being destroyed. She doesn’t believe it was a hallucination. In addition, all the dolphins have disappeared. She has a strange story to tell, having received a message in her sleep that she doesn’t quite remember, as does Arthur from his hitchhiking around the Galaxy, so they hit it off pretty quickly, although how they meet is a strange story in itself, sort of a Sleeping Beauty trope. Anyway, they try to pursue answers to their questions about the message, the Earth, and the dolphins.
In the meantime, Ford Prefect is getting into trouble in space and is desperately trying to find a way back to Arthur. He too finds that the Earth seems to have escaped destruction when his copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy updates itself so that the entry for Earth changes from “mostly harmless” to Ford’s full account from his fifteen years of research. Eventually, he catches up with Arthur and Fenchurch and joins them in their search.
What I liked most about this book was the romance. It was both touching and funny. It was simply nice to see Arthur get his due after being the hapless schlemiel for three books. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Arthur teaches Fenchurch to fly and they are intimate at airplane altitudes. It is the butt of a few jokes later on in the book.
I give this book four stars out of five. It felt like Adams was becoming more of a novel writer rather than a skit writer with this book. I don’t mean to diss the previous books, but it seemed like he was growing as a writer. Even though this book was pretty short, it packed a lot of punch.