BOOK REVIEW: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide, #5)Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazon page

[NOTE: If you would like to read my reviews of the first four books, you can do so by following the hyperlinked title: 1.) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 2.) The Restaurant at the End of the Universe  3.) Life, the Universe, and Everything 4.) So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish]

This is the fifth and final installment in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (not including Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing, which I don’t.) Fans of the series will recognize “Mostly Harmless” as the sum total of the Earth’s entry in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The story focuses on a trio of characters from the original book’s cast: Arthur Dent (of course), Tricia McMillan (a.k.a. Trillian), and Ford Prefect–with the Random addition a new fourth feature character. As the series had already begun trending, this story is more human-centric than the earliest installments. The central story could be divorced from the sci-fi genre with relatively minor modifications. However, as Restaurant at the End of the Universe uses time travel as a sci-fi plot device, this book uses the concept of a parallel universe.

The story begins with our main characters separated from one another. Arthur Dent is making sandwiches of Perfectly Normal Beast (an Orwellian turn-of-phrase as one might expect) on the planet where he crash landed. Trillian, or one of them, is reduced to doing an interview with an astrologer. Ford Prefect is breaking into his place of employment to avoid the accountants in his usual manner of hijinks.

Adams throws each of these characters a monkey wrench. Dent finds out he has a daughter, Random Dent, and that her mother–Trillian–is dropping her on his doorstep. Ford discovers that the Guide is under new and nefarious management, and that they have created an edition with dire ramifications. Trillian, or one of them, gets her big break being picked up by a Grebulon ship only to discover they want her to advise them on astrology.

The notion that no one escapes the feeling of being without a home is a central theme in the book.

This isn’t Adams’ best work. The story has grown stale. It lacks the creative brilliance derived from plot devices like the Infinite Improbability Drive, and–while there may be something to be said for a story with more humanity– it leaves one missing idiosyncratic characters like Zaphod and Marvin. That being said, even at his worst Adams is amusing and thought-provoking. If you enjoyed his earlier books, you could certainly do worse than to finish the series. In the unlikely event that Adams isn’t your cup of tea, this final installment probably won’t revise your assessment.

View all my reviews

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