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Book review: <i>So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish</i> by Douglas Adams

The earth was indisputably demolished forever back in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, and Arthur has been a homeless wanderer ever since. Or was the whole thing just mass hallucinations caused by a dead CIA agent in the drinking water? Arthur is back, on earth, six months after it was demolished... and he has a lot of catching up to do.

The story

Arthur heads back to the earth he knows and loves, hitching in spacecrafts and then in a car with an exquisitely beautiful unconscious girl and her git of a brother. Meanwhile, Ford is in a space bar with a bad rep trying to pay for an entire bar tab using American Express... which no one in the known universe accepts. He, too, soon discovers the re-existence of Earth and wonders if Arthur knows.

After resettling back into his old home, Arthur bumps into the exquisitely beautiful girl, Fenchurch, from the car he hitched in. He believes her to be the love of his life, and then loses her... again. He decides to find the prehistoric cave he lived in during the beginning of The Life, The Universe, and Everything, and finds Fenchurch again at that location. The two of them realise they are different; she was given a message by the universe and can’t remember what it is, and he is convinced that the world was in fact blown up. They think it may have to do with the bizarre fact that the world's entire population of dolphins have mysteriously disappeared. They head to Los Angeles, where a man lives, who keeps the world in an asylum (I know, just read the book) and claims to know the reason for the dolphins’ disappearance.

Arthur and Fenchurch decide they want to see God’s final message to creation, and try to hitch a ride. And then Ford Prefect rocks up, heavily space-lagged. Can the three of them head back into space and finally uncover the message that just may cause it all to make sense?

The style

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish is slightly different from the first three in the trilogy; firstly because it is primarily about Arthur, and secondly because the bulk of the story is set on Earth. However, don’t let this turn you off. So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish has always been one of my favourites. I’m not sure why, it could be because it wraps things up for Arthur quite nicely, or because it stars a lot of Arthur, or even because it’s set on Earth and is more plot and character focused without the distraction of weird things happening in space.

I really enjoy Arthur’s character development within So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish; he goes from being two dimensionally gormless (which is endearing in itself) to become a solid character, and he even develops a bit of gorm. Or gumption. Or spirit. Whatever you like. When left to his own devices, without the extreme weirdness of the other three, Arthur comes into his own and is everything you want in a bewildered Englishman. And, you get to see that he’s not completely pathetic around girls.

The conspiracy theory around the earth is also a good one; the CIA, dolphins, etcetera. While I won’t give it away, I think I like it because after reading the first three, the Earth simultaneously becomes more and less important... less because there’s all the rest of the universe out there, and more because that’s where Arthur, and the readers, come from. Bringing a bit of hitchhiking space weirdness to Earth was really being cried out for and came up with the goods.

On the down side, each time I read God’s final message to creation, I find it less funny and less satisfying. Hilarious as it was at fourteen, it’s just not the same now. I don’t know what else it could possibly be, but... it just leaves me with a sense of... hmmm.

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. And if you’re after news of Zaphod and Trillian, tough, because this book doesn’t have them. Also, like I said last time, while the books in the trilogy can be read separately, I recommend reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, and Life, The Universe And Everything 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 don’t notice the lack of Zaphod and Trillian quite so much.

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: So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish
Author: Douglas Adams
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 0345391837
Year published: 1995
Pages: 224
Genre(s): Humour, Science fiction
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