Off the Shelf

"The Restaurant at the End of the Universe"

By Marcus Pan

The Restaurant at the End of the UniverseThe second book in the four-part trilogy (there being four books in a trilogy being an example of Adams' weirdness), "The Restaurant at the end of the Universe," picks up where the Hitchhiker's Guide left off. The group made up of Arthur Dent and Trillian, the last human life forms left in the universe following the earth's destruction to make way for a hyperspatial bypass, the two cousins from the Betelgeuse 5 area known as Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox and the manic depressive robot Marvin stop off at Milliways, the restaurant at the end of the universe. Here they have a bite to eat after choosing what's good from the cow who wants to be eaten and offers his rump, shoulder and other healthy bits much to the horror of Arthur Dent.

As Adams' storyline moves ever onward, more plots develop leading to a possibly confusing tirade of activities throughout the known universe that some readers may have a bit of trouble with. The psychiatrists and philosophers of the world seem to have had a hand in the destruction of the earth five minutes before the Ultimate Question was revealed that could, very well possibly, put them and their comrades out of business. Zaphod has discovered that there is a "locked off" portion of his brain that he himself had a hand in somehow in which there is hidden something important he must do. As it turns out his ultimate plan is to meet the "Ruler of the Universe," who lives somewhere on a planet that is impossible to reach without, of course, the Improbability Drive ship he has stolen earlier. The esteemed ruler turns out to be somewhat of an idiot who can't really answer much at all and keeps forgetting simple things like, for example, how pencils work. But Zaphod finishes with his destiny that was set out for him quite a long time ago.

Meanwhile, Ford and Arthur find themselves zipped about two million years earlier in time and crash land on prehistoric Earth with a group of vagabond telephone sanitizers, middle management executives and hairdressers. Seems their original planet, Golgafrincham, tricked them into believing their planet was doomed and off they went with the dead promise of others being behind them on the way. Bumbling along on prehistoric earth the Golgafrincham's first order of business is to establish leaves as a currency and then burn down the forests due to their availability in an effort to control the inflation caused by such widespread availability.

Arthur tries to teach a caveman how to play Scrabble, which turns out to be quite impossible because "grunt" is the only word they know and they can't spell it. But Arthur's idea of introducing a random pattern into his brain to get at the coded "Ultimate Question" which is imprinted in his subconscious using the makeshift Scrabble tiles manages to allow him and Ford to learn just what the question is that goes with the answer "Forty two." I will not tell you that…read the book.

The importance placed on the "Ultimate Question" in the first book, Hitchhiker's Guide, has suddenly died by the end of Restaurant. Almost like a plot winding down into nothingness, it seems to have become a moot point. Adams puts barely no mention of this question and answer in further books so as you go along the first two to discover the answer, instead of it becoming the important issue it was previously it suddenly becomes unimportant. That annoyed me.

Again, I finished this book in only days due to its quick reading, fluid writing style and hilarious bumblings that you're sure to have trouble putting down. With all the plot additions and twists that are occurring by this time you'll be hard pressed to find a suitable break in the action, even between chapters, where you can put it down without losing the fluid movement of the story. Pick it up when you expect to have fairly large blocks of time in which to read straight through a good portion of it.

"The Restaurant at the end of the Universe" by Douglas Adams
Originally published by Crown Publishers, Inc. © 1980 by Douglas Adams
ISBN# 0-671-53264-2

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