Off the Shelf
"The Restaurant at the End of the Universe"
By Marcus Pan
The 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
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
Originally published by Crown Publishers, Inc. © 1980 by
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