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Book review: <i>Life, The Universe And Everything</i> by Douglas Adams

The third book in the (but by no means the last!), Life, The Universe And Everything follows the adventures of Zaphod, Trillian, Arthur and Ford. Having learned how the universe is governed, the quartet now have an unexpected and even more difficult challenge... saving said universe.

The story

Arthur has been living in a cave on prehistoric earth, almost completely alone, for the last four years... but it feels like two million. Suddenly, Ford rocks up, followed by a chesterfield sofa that just so happens to be going their way... anywhere but Arthur’s prehistoric cave is preferable. And so they wind up at Lord’s Cricket ground, four days before the scheduled destruction of the Earth.

At Lords, they encounter Slartibartfast and a collection of vicious, cricket playing robots. Slartibartfast spirits them in his Bistro Mathematics powered spacecraft, to fill them in on the latest danger to the universe... the warriors of the planet Krikkit. The Krikkit warriors are travelling round, collecting seemingly innocuous artifacts with the deadly intention of releasing their masters.

Meanwhile, Trillian leaves Zaphod on the Heart of Gold, who is sulking because he’s lived out his purpose and feels like life is a little futile. Trillian, Ford, Arthur and Slartibartfast end up at a flying cocktail party, Arthur having been diverted temporarily just prior to meet his nemesis and learn how to fly. There, they meet the winner of the prestigious “The Most Gratuitous Use Of The Word ‘Fuck’ In A Serious Screenplay” award, and the Krikkit robots invade again.

Can they save the universe in time? Which little chronically depressed robot will come to the rescue? And can they learn the ultimate question about life, the universe, and everything?

The style

While Life, The Universe And Everything got slightly more mixed reviews that the previous two, I must confess that I thoroughly enjoyed the first couple of pages, which included Arthur and Ford and that old gag of “eddies in the space time continuum, is he?” etc. Which, frankly, I still find utterly hilarious. Life, The Universe And Everything is, once again, a classy story. It’s funny in all the right places, Arthur is pathetic, confused, and English in all the right places, and the time-space continuum takes a beating again.

I think possibly Life, The Universe And Everything received more mixed reviews because Adams presented rather a complete story inside it (that of Trillian, Zaphod, Arthur, Ford and Slartibartfast saving the universe from the Krikkit warriors) and while there were elements from the first two books it isn’t quite so tied in. Life, The Universe And Everything does, however, introduce some of the key ideas explored in the forth and fifth books, and I personally like it very much because I’ve always thought there had to be more of a point to cricket than there actually appears to be.

Anyway, to the critics of this book, which has all of the excellent qualities of sci-fi humour we have come to know, love and expect from Adams in the first two books, I say “read it as a compendium then, you twits. And, for Gods sake, stop critiquing one of the funniest men on earth, I’d like to see you try and consistently produce such hilarity”. So there.

Who is this book for?

Anyone with a decent sense of humour, particularly for people who think they will never like science fiction. If you don’t get that dry British wit though, this book may not be for you. Furthermore, some critics have considered this to be one of the weaker books in the trilogy. So, while the books in the trilogy can be read separately, I recommend reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe first, or, even better, reading them altogether in one of the compendiums. Then they all sort of merge into one big book and you won’t have to pass judgments on each one separately.

If you like this book, you would also like...

There are four other books in the trilogy and Adams has also written a particularly funny couple of books about a holistic detective named Dirk Gently, well worth a read, plus a couple of other random books. Also, if you like the sci-fi humour genre, get a hold of Grant and Naylor’s Red Dwarf Omnibus, which while it isn’t as clever as the hitchhiker’s books it is still pretty damn funny.

In short

Title: Life, The Universe And Everything
Author: Douglas Adams
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 0345391829
Year published: 1995
Pages: 240
Genre(s): Humour, Sci-fi
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