Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, September 7, 2012

1984: Hitchhiker's 4: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (Adams, Douglas)

Book 4: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (2/5)

Landlubber Arthur Dent quits his time in space after eight subjective years rabblerousing about the universe in time and space. Back in his country, back in his town, back in his house, and back in his bed—dusty it may be but damn it good to be home, but why exactly he is now the proud owned of a fishbowl which reads “So Long, and Thanks—“ he has no idea. While hitchhiking on the motorway with a duty-free bag from Alpha Centauri, Arthur is picked up by a man in a Saab whose sister, a complete whack job the man conveys to Arthur, is crumbled up in the backseat. The girl, Fenchurch, who Arthur immediately falls in love with due to some mystic quality about her, is “merely barking mad” (26) but she maintains that she witnessed the Earth get blown up.

Meanwhile, a lorry driver names Rob McKenna, later to be dubbed the Rain God or a “Supernormal Incremental Precipitation Inducer” (141) with “Spontaneous Para-Causal Meteorological Phenomenon” (140) to make it rain where he goes, be it in Darlington, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Germany, Denmark or Yugoslavia. With 231 different words to describe the type of rain he’s experienced, he know a thing or two about the wet stuff that falls from the sky.

Also meanwhile, Ford is knocking about the galaxy rigging a speaker system that repeats the time in England on a spaceship which houses a frozen alien. He intends for the alien to eventually wake up and to know exactly what it is, even if that time happens to be in England and light-years away. Regardless, Ford realizes that his fifteen years spent on Earth weren’t wasted at all when The Guide updates his old two word entry of “Mostly harmless” to an entire library’s worth of information on the planet Earth, its cities, its bars, and its beaches.

Arthur and Fenchurch eventually hit it off quite well and discover each other’s uniqueness in defying gravity. Where Fenchurch could simply levitate, Arthur had the power of flight since his time on Krikkit, which he teaches to Fenchurch. However, the town senses something odd fluttering about the sky and it suddenly becomes news… but the eight-year absence of dolphins from aquariums and the seas has since become non-news, though Fenchurch and Arthur are dying to understand their connection to the man in California who says he has the answer to their disappearance.

Oh, a giant robot destroys billions of pounds worth of downtown London property, Marvin makes a desultory appearance, and Ford, Arthur, Fenchurch, and the Paranoid Android all visit “Quentulus Quazgar Mountains. Sevorbeupstry. Planet of Preliumtarn. Sun Zarss. Galactic Sector QQ7 Active 7 Gamma” (142) to gaze at God’s Final Message.


The non-sequential return to a parallel Earth is a little jarring and much too terrestrial to be considered part of the “trilogy.” It’s not as hare-brained as the previous three novels and maintains a more traditional plot flow while disregarding the wildly eccentric oddities sprinkled throughout (i.e. the Rain God is disembodied from the general plot and Ford’s mucking about is senseless in context). Zaphod? Trillian? Pshaw!

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