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Book Review: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (Series, #5)

June 10, 2010 3 comments

Woman wearing glasses and a man's face on a green book cover.Summary:
Arthur Dent thought his zany days earth-less days were over.  The whole Earth-being-blown-up was undone, and he found a woman to love.  But when they’re traveling through the universe together, she suddenly disappears and Arthur finds himself in a parallel universe where the exact Earth he once knew doesn’t exist.  Meanwhile, Ford Prefect pays a visit to the Guide offices and finds that something just isn’t quite right.

Review:
Thank goodness I didn’t let the flop of the fourth book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish deter me from finishing the series.  Adams returns to his strengths in this entry–outerspace adventures of Ford and Arthur, not to mention zany robots and odd cultures on other planets that manage to reflect the oddities of our own.  Plus, the storyline actually moves the original plot of the Earth being destroyed by the Vogons forward.

Some of the jokes rank right up there with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  One that sticks out in my mind is when Ford messes with a robot’s circuitry making it endlessly joyful.  It was a delightful flipping of the endlessly miserable robot, Marvin, featured earlier in the series.  It was quite enjoyable to see how hilarious both extremes are.  Also of note is the village religious man on a planet Arthur winds up on, who is quite clearly making the village’s religion up as he goes along, and the villagers are semi-aware of this, but shrug and let him.  That said, at least half of the jokes, while they tickled my funny-bone in a pleasant way, didn’t have me actually laughing like the first couple of books did.  It was a pleasant read, but not uproariously funny.

Entire essays and theses could be written (and probably have been) on the themes in the Hitchhiker series.  Excuse me. Trilogy.  From belonging to homelessness to the purpose of life, Adams’ work has it all, which is what makes it good humor, actually.  It’s humor pointing out the most basic questions of life in a setting that removes it from our own experiences enough to make us see it in a different light.

Some readers will probably be unhappy with the ending.  I enjoyed it and saw the humor in it, in spite of it being rather dark.  I know that Adams expressed some discontent with it and was in the middle of writing a sequel, The Salmon of Doubt, when he died, which has now been posthumously published, as well as a sixth entry written by Adams’ widow and Eoin Colfer.  I don’t cotton to posthumously published works assembled by people who are not the author, nor continuations based on what people “think the author would have wanted.”  For all we know, Adams could have changed his mind yet again.  I prefer to view Mostly Harmless as the end of the series, as it was the last book truly finished by Adams.

Mostly Harmless is a wonderful closing chapter to the series that contains delightful meta jokes, as well as new territory, and neatly ties up the experiences of the characters.  Fans of the series won’t be disappointed with this entry, which is a delightful jump up from the fourth book, but they may be left a bit sad to see the end.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Raven Used Books

Previous Books in Series:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Life, the Universe, and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, review

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Book Review: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams (Series, #4)

March 30, 2010 6 comments

Dolphins in the sky along with a green glob holding a towel and giving a thumbs up.Summary:
Although the planet Earth definitely blew up, Arthur Dent has found himself back on it again, and not in the prehistoric past like before.  Everything seems about the same, except that the dolphins all have disappeared and apparently there was a mass hallucination of the planet blowing up caused by a CIA experiment.  You’d think this would require all of Arthur’s attention, but instead he’s rather highly focused on a woman named Fenchurch who claims the Earth really did blow up and insists something has felt off ever since.

Review:
It’s no secret that one of my favorite comedic books is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the second book in this series.  While I felt that the third book suffered a bit, it was still pretty damn funny in my opinion.  I really wish I could say the same about this.

I still enjoy Adams’ writing style.  It’s tongue in cheek, snarky, and self-referencing.  It is a pure pleasure to read.  This still holds true here, but the problem is that it’s just not laugh out loud funny.  Oh, there are bemusing moments, but mostly it’s a case of jokes falling flat.  I think the reason for this is that what makes the books funny is Arthur Dent–average British dude–stuck into the bizarre situations that are the rest of the universe with only the equally bizarre Ford Prefect as a true companion.  Indeed, my favorite bit of this book is when Arthur and Ford are reunited.  Without that Arthur stuck in outerspace element, you wind up with a rather run-of-the-mill, “huh, something odd is going on on planet Earth” book.  It’s cute, but it’s not surprising, and the element of surprise is what makes the rest of the series so funny.

I also wasn’t fond of Adams’ obvious response to the fan question, “Does Arthur ever have sex?!” with the addition of the love interest, Fenchurch.  He may think it is witty to reference this and answer it, but I was disappointed.  I enjoyed wondering if poor Arthur spent 8 years devoid of sex.  It added a certain element of mystery to him.  This whole part felt kind of like a cop-out.

I don’t want to sound like I hated the book, because I didn’t.  When compared to books not written by Adams, it actually holds up quite well.  It’s enjoyable and has some unique scenes.  It’s just, in comparison to the rest of the series, I was left a bit disappointed.  I still plan on finishing reading the series, though.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

Previous Books in Series:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Life, the Universe, and Everything

Buy It