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Book review: <i>Mostly Harmless</i> by Douglas Adams

Here it is, Mostly Harmless, the final book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy... as Douglas Adams neatly ties up a huge confusion of space-time anomalies. In the best way it could possibly be done.

The story

The universe is a very confusing place. Particularly when tackling, or becoming unwittingly involved with, parallel dimensions and the like.

The story begins in New York, where an alternative Tricia MacMillian is auditioning to become a television anchor. Having been invited to leave a party with a two headed alien from outer space some years ago, and missed her opportunity, Tricia is very conscious that she missed a big opportunity. Meanwhile, her parallel self Trillian has also become a reporter, zipping around space-time covering wars in the future that may never happen, and other exciting things.

Ford has discovered something rotten in the offices of the Guide. Far from being his old zany workplace, it’s been taken over by Infinidim Enterprises, a group of people Ford is pretty sure he doesn’t want to know. So he takes the opportunity to make some covert changes, uncover some pretty big stuff, and send that pretty big stuff to the most reliable person he can think of—Arthur.

Since the unexpected and devastating loss of Fenchurch, Arthur has been searching parallel universes for his version, or a close approximation, of Earth. He eventually settled on one after his spacecraft crashed into it, and became the community’s revered sandwich maker. Yes, it was all going pretty well for Arthur, who was the closest to content he’d been in some time, when all of a sudden Trillian arrived with an unexpected surprise for him, and shortly after that, Ford’s parcel shook things up even more.

The universe is in cahoots against them... can Ford and Arthur save the day before the Earth is destroyed... again?

The style

I’m in two minds about Mostly Harmless. On the one hand, I feel like space, time, and parallel universes, all concepts that can cause deep and profound confusion, are dealt with by Douglas Adams in the most clever and comprehensive and funny way possible. Could you or I have done it? I think not. This is , tying everything together, collecting the multitude of loose ends and putting them all down on paper neat and tidy like.

On the other hand, Mostly Harmless is, in my opinion, the weakest of the five. There are elements of it that are funny, of course, and like I said, It’s extraordinarily clever—I certainly couldn’t produce any work of this genre and calibre even if I tried for the rest of my life. However, there were certain facets of it that I just didn’t like so much—the character of Random, for instance, and her whiny teenage-ness—and everything just fell a bit... flat. Compared with the other four, it’s just not the same, not up to the same standard or quality. It just doesn’t have the same oomph, if you like, and to be completely honest, Douglas Adams could have just stopped at number four and I’m sure we all would have been happy.

But don’t let me put you off. Don’t read the other four and not this one. And if you love Douglas Adams, you might as well read all his stuff. I certainly didn’t hate it, and I am only being comparatively negative towards it because I loved everything else he did so much.

Who is this book for?

Primarily Douglas Adams fans, and certainly those who have been primed for the storyline by reading the first four books in the trilogy. Because Mostly Harmless is really rounding the whole sha-bang up, isn’t really much use as a solitary read with no back story. So while Mostly Harmless could be read separately, I recommend reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, Life, The Universe And Everything and So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish first, or, even better, reading them all together 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, or get hopelessly lost right at end of a series.

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

There are four others 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 hitchhikers books it is still pretty damn funny.

In short

Title: Mostly Harmless
Author: Douglas Adams
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 0345418778
Year published: 2000
Pages: 240
Genre(s): Humour, Sci-fi
Review Type: 


I really think that this is one of Douglas Adams' best books of all time. We have almost all the passengers who were once on board the Heart of Gold (Marvin the Paranoid Android's curcuit board wore out, and we don't know what happened to Zaphod Beeblebrox). Arthur Dent is now a regular hitchhiker on the new system, Trillian (Tricia McMillan) is a news reporter for the future, and Ford Prefect is back and working for the most remarkable book in the Universe, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Except the Guide has been taken over by Infinidim Enterprises, and everything fun is gone. They've brought in Vogons as security, and only one guide is being made. The Galaxy is collapsing.

But something more sinister is lurking in the shadows for the cast-confusion, death, and somehow, a child-Random, one of the three last humans left...

A grand finale for the Hitchhiker's series. I give you a tale of love, of hate, of utter bewilderedness, and of the fate of humanity- Mostly Harmless.

I should have stopped reading the series after the third one, then the quality is going downward.

It's an entertaining book, but I think the review overrates it. I saw the parallel dimensions as an easy and confusing way of building the plot.

Now about the style, I nearly skipped some part of the books where the author was suddenly going totally out of context, for pages sometimes, trying to be funny, just come back to the main plot with a twist.
Don't get me wrong, Adams already did that in the earlier books, and I loved them. But here, the magic isn't working anymore.

I also hated the end of this 5th book, it just doesn't fit. It's similar to the end of a TV show ending prematurely because the funds have been cut off.

The book is not a MUST read if you didn't read the previous ones, and if you did, you will be disappointed.
That said, how can't you read it if you already read the 4 others?