Monday, February 17, 2020

Mostly Harmless

Douglas Adams
Completed 2/17/2020, Reviewed 2/17/2020
4 stars

The fifth and final installment of the Hitchhiker’s series must have just struck me the right way at the right time.  It’s the least liked of the series by the majority of fans, but I really enjoyed it.  Like all his books, it’s hard to know where it’s going.  Everything is absurd and random.  It’s darker than the previous books and has an abrupt ending.  It is said that Adams wrote this book during a particularly difficult year and was thinking of writing a sixth book to bring it to a better conclusion.  Tragically, he died before writing it.  Still, I liked what he tried to do here and feel satisfied that the “trilogy” had closure.

The plot, once again, is rather convoluted.  The book begins with Tricia McMillan (Trillian’s real name) as a TV reporter going to an interview for a job on a morning news program in the US.  It turns out that this is a parallel universe Trillian who met Zaphod Beeblebrox at a party but did not go into space with him.  She does, however, meet aliens who seek her out to recalibrate astrology from the point of view of the newly discovered tenth planet, where they’ve been hanging out.  Ford Prefect goes back to the Guide’s main office only to find that the Guide has been bought by a new company and wants him to work as a restaurant critic.  Arthur Dent lost Fenchurch, his new love, when the spaceship they were on jumped dimensions.  Distraught, he tries to get back to Earth but keeps finding it in different dimensions where it’s sometimes not there, but mostly it’s different from the Earth from his original dimension.  He ends up on a primitive planet, hailed as a gift from Bob, their god, as master sandwich maker.  Trillian finds him and presents him with his daughter, who she had via the sperm Arthur sold to get money for his journey to find a home.  When Trillian wanted to have a baby, she searched the galaxy sperm banks, but the only human sperm was Arthur’s.  Hijinx ensue.

There aren’t as many comical asides in this book.  What’s funny is the absurdity of everything, right down to the long diatribe on sandwich making that precedes discovering that Arthur is the master sandwich maker on a primitive planet.  You can tell there was something the matter with Adams when he was writing this book.  The levity isn’t there.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s dark, dark and absurd.

The writing style, like in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, is more novel-like rather than a collection of skits.  More thought went into the development of the plotlines.  The characterization is good as well, breathing life into Tricia and the resuming the despair of Arthur.  The only negative thing I can say about the book is the removal of Fenchurch from the story.  I felt like it was too convenient, as if Adams just couldn’t think of what to do with her character, so he had her disappear during the dimension shift.  It was an easy out that I bet even Adams felt bad about. 

I give the book four stars out of five, mostly because I thought the book was well written, even the abrupt ending.  It pulled many things together, albeit rather quickly.  I just wish Fenchurch was in it, because I thought Arthur deserved some happiness, more than just one book’s worth. 

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