Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, September 7, 2012

1992: Hitchhiker's 5: Mostly Harmless (Adams, Douglas)

Book 5: Mostly Harmless (4/5)

The universe is going to pits because of everyone’s chrono-ill-logical travel dalliances. One version of a parallel Earth has Tricia McMillan who never traveled with Zaphod and has become a “mathematician and astrophysicist by training and a television presenter by experience” (191). Her television personality has attracted the attention of a Grebulon ship stranded on the 10th planet of Rupurt, however the aliens aboard have forgotten their names and their mission and simply wish to watch terrestrial television all day. Their interest in astrology is counterintuitive to Tricia’s bank of knowledge, but she’s unwilling to let another chance at space travel slip by her. When she eventually returns to Earth, her first big story is the landing of a spacecraft and its female occupant.

After having lost his love Fenchurch in a “perfectly normal hyperspace hop” (56), Arthur seeks out a home which is most Earth-like for him to retire on. After a most disappointing stay on the colony planet of NowWhat, which “had not been been a success and the sort of people who actually wanted to live on NowWhat were not the sort of people you would want to spend time with” (54). Arthur quickly decides to leave but crash lands on a planet where his unique skill of sandwich crafting is appreciated. Another parallel form of Tricia, Trillian, who HAD traveled with Zaphod, has become a galactic reporter throughout time and space, finds Arthur stranded on the planet and offers him a genetic gift whose “outbreaks of bitter recrimination would give way without warning to abject self-pity and then long bouts of sullen despair which were punctuated with sudden acts of mindless violence against inanimate object” (126-27).

Ford Prefect has infiltrated the headquarters of the Guide and finds it under new management whose idea is to “sell one Guide billions and billions of times” rather than “sell billions and billions of Guides” (49). The new editor-in-chief Vann Harl assigns Ford to the lowly rank of writing restaurant reviews for the Guide, but Ford attacks the man and steals his Ident-i-Eese card for access to the headquarters’ high-security areas. For even easier access to the organization’s credit banks, Ford enlists the employment of “a security robot the size of a small melon” (41) which he short-circuits “to be happy whatever happened” (44) and bequeaths the name Colin. His now ever-jubilant companion assists him in accessing secure areas and ever saves his life. While at the headquarters, Ford also discovers an odd ebony-colored bird-like tome which is called the Guide Mk II. Ford is not happy with this and now he's "worrying about the fabric of space/time and the causal integrity of the multi-dimensional probability matrix and the potential collapse of all wave forms in the Whole Sort of General Mish Mash and all that sort of stuff" (200).


Douglas Adams actually ties this one up to a better degree than the last three books of chaotic randomness and it’s even more humorous than the original Hitchhiker’s novel. The silliness isn’t just silliness for silliness sake, but all the silly bits in this novel do come together in the end, something which can’t be said for the same three previous books. Colin the security robot is better than Marvin the paranoid android, the slaphappy Heart of Gold computer, or the job satisfaction circuits of the same ship’s doors; Colin is gurgling, bubbling, and titillating itself with pleasure in all things. The end to the book and the series is rather abrupt and takes a few moments to reflect on; and yes, the naysayers are correct when they say the ending is dark, but I don’t want to read Book 6: And Another Thing… (2009).

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