• The Good: Scifi, humor, all-around madness
  • The Bad: You may have to prepare yourself a very well-made sandwich
  • The Literary: Epitome of its genre

You would think by this point that Arthur Dent would be done with it all. His planet blew up; the woman he loves disappeared in a space/time puff; and he crashed on the remote and backwards planet Lamuella, where the inhabitants fear the all-powerful Bob. Instead, he finds simple happiness in a quiet life of making sandwiches. Tricia McMillian (the alternate timeline version of Trillian who didn’t leave a party with Zaphod Beeblebrox) is a British television news anchor, interviewing for a high paying job in New York. It doesn’t go well, and she finds herself thinking of that time a space alien invited her to go on his spaceship, and like a fool she went to find her bag. Back at the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy headquarters, Ford Prefect finds the Guide under new management by the Vogon company InfiniDim Enterprises, and  they are reassigning him to be a restaurant critic, so he proceeds to throw himself out of a window. He’ll think of something on the way down.

I’m sad to be at the end of this series, which I am re-reading for the first time in two decades. As I mentioned in my review of the first book, there exist a few singular stories that you read in a lifetime that set the bar for all other stories to come. This series does more than hold up. With some more life experience under my belt, I appreciate things I missed last time, especially how the individual novels construct a larger story arc. Everyone comes together in the end, just at the wrong place and time, which also happens to be the same place and time as the first novel in the series.

What surprises me upon reading reviews and forums of Mostly Harmless is that many folks didn’t like this last book. It’s decidedly darker than the first four in the series, especially compared to the previous installment. But I struggle to understand what exactly these readers thought they were reading all along. Maybe an adventure comedy space opera? For sure, it’s some of that, but mostly, it’s a story that asks the purpose of the life, the universe, and everything, and answers 42. The nihilistic subtext has been there all along, and I fear readers forgot about the cold probability of the universe, which is what makes the adventures and stories of the novels that much more meaningful.

But don’t let the end ruin the means. I love so many scenes in this book that fill my heart with absurdist joy:
  • Tricia’s interactions with a hotel concierge who refuses to remember her name or the fact that she just talked to them a few minutes ago
  • The Grebulons, aliens who have forgotten who they are and their purpose but enjoy watching Earth TV and following astrology
  • And there’s the Maximegalon Institute of Slowly and Pointlessly Working out the Surprisingly Obvious

In addition, the scifi is wonderfully based in reality, with a focus on parallel universes. The sentient Hitchhiker’s Guide Mk. II has unfiltered perception of the universe, an ability to manipulate spacetime, and potentially its own objectives. Since it is designed to be sold across dimensions, it communicates as a bird who must first determine how many dimensions it’s in and how it’s customer perceives space time.

Highly recommended for any ape-descended life form that still thinks digital watches are a pretty neat idea! Martin Freeman does a fantastic narration in the recent audio edition.