Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, September 7, 2012

1980: Hitchhiker's 2: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Adams, Douglas)

Book 2: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (3/5)

Having fled from Magrathea and the clutches of avaricious mice, Arthur, Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod are bound for quick bite to eat when they are intercepted by a Vogon ship. Under the vicarious commands of Gag Halfrunt, the Vogon Captain’s “private brain-care specialist,” the ship attempts to seize the Heart of Gold, whose shields hold out long, though the computer system is taxed by Arthur’s effort to synthesize authentic tea and milk. For protection, Zaphod calls forth the spirit of his great-grandfather who sends the Heart of Gold into an “unknown distance through the dimensions of time and space” (23).

Zaphod is zapped to the surface the Ursa Minor home of the publishing company’s building which produces The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For some intrinsic reason he can’t pin down, Zaphod needs to seek a meeting with Mr. Zarniwoop, who is “in his office, but he’s on an intergalactic cruise” (30). After the flighty use of an elevator operating under the “curious principle of ‘defocused temporal perception’” (37), Zaphod is serendipitously met by Roosta, a hitchhiker with good intentions to save Zaphod amid the barrage from the Forgstar Fighters. Eventually threatened with placement in the Total Perspective Vortex and defeating it with his maniacal ego, Zarniwoop is found and within his own pocket, the Heart of Gold is found in the lint bed and enlarged to reveal Trillian, Ford, and Arthur, the Monkeyman.

After a unique experience at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Marvin the valet hijacks the all-black stuntship of Hotblack Desiato from Disaster Area, “a plutonium rock band… generally held to be not only the loudest rock band in the Galaxy, but in fact the loudest noise of any kind at all” (90). Being a automatic stuntship rather than a piloted craft, the ship is on course for a solar intersection—a sundive into the sun of Kakrafoon. With a teleport on the fritz being the only way off, they dive in.

Arthur and Ford find themselves aboard a colony ship full of frozen occupational rejects headed for planet-fall at any moment. The two traverse the Eden-like planet for months and returns to the colonial encampment where the occupational rejects are having their “five-hundred and seventy-third meeting of the colonization committee of Fintlewoodleix” (182). Aghast at their bureaucracy, the dynamic duo try to teach the “cavemen” to play Scrabble. Meanwhile, Trillian, Zaphod, and Zarniwoop attempt to make contact with “the man who rules the Universe,” (160) who is as conversationally cryptic and evasive as his cat is fond of songs and fish.


Exploring the errant uses of the Infinite Improbability Drive and teleportation, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe slips from being witty to being absurd. The chaos resulting from the insurmountable coincidences becomes duller by the moment. There are fewer scenes of laughter than The Hitchhiker’s Guide and even fewer scenes which explores the insane galactic journey of Arthur Dent, whose backseat role in this cavalcade is more pronounced than the previous book. Zaphod, however, is thoroughly penned into this sequel but only adds simple comic value to a plot which doesn’t seem to move anywhere.

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