Off the Shelf
"So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish"
By Marcus Pan
This is the fourth novel in Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to
the Galaxy" series that has began its popularity in Adams' home country of
England and has gotten just as well known in many other countries. It is
suggested that when one reads a series of books, one continues on from the
first to the last. There is another, fifth, book in Adams' Hitchhiker series
(and a plethora of short stories and the like as well) called "Mostly
Harmless," but I'm going to stop here with the fourth one for now. There are
two reasons for this stopping; 1) I don't have "Mostly Harmless" in my
possession and 2) I wasn't quite as pleased with the "Fish" and feel that
"Harmless" is probably worse off than this one.
In the Hitchhiker series, Arthur Dent and Ford go bopping
around the universe hitching rides from a number of interesting alien species.
Arthur learns much of the universe in this time, including such interesting
bits as how to fly which he teaches Fenny, his love for at least the space of
this book, how to do as well so they can have invigorating sex on the wings of
Boeing 747s passing o'er head. This cheers up an old lady on the plane so much
her life suddenly becomes meaningful again. But that's immaterial, really.
Let's start from the beginning. In the first book of the
series the Earth was destroyed. How comes it then that Arthur hitches a ride
back to his home planet and steps off the ship only to find his house in
perfect condition excepting the pile of mail and his starved cat? It's quite
simple, you see. By one of the other two more intelligent species that lived
here with us the planet was saved by pulling an extra from some time warp
somewhere or other. Then they left. Can you smell the cheese here?
Arthur meets Fenny, who is the only one on the planet who
feels that the Earth's destruction wasn't a split second hallucination, and
after flying around the stratosphere naked for a bit (see above) they
eventually travel off with Ford Prefect to a far part of the universe to read
the message that God left for his creation by hitching a ride on a visiting
spaceship that sat on and wrecked a good portion of Harrods. They meet Marvin
on the way who is now 27 times older than the universe itself due to various
time travelling binges and together they read God's Final Message to His
Creation as built in huge letters that burn with unending fire in the mountains
of Quentulus Quazgar. And that's that.
This book didn't seem to fit in the series with the last
three. First of all, there were no witty and hilariously funny interruptions by
the actual book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to explain various
nuances throughout the universe. Second, the carbon-copy Earth explanation that
Adams' gives is just simply sad. I was hoping for some hair-raising, somewhat
scientific and cuttingly witty explanation as to how the Earth survived the
Vogon Constructors. Instead I got a Ritz cracker with a dollop of Cheez Whiz on
top. Third, if you want any form of action beyond flying fucks, go elsewhere.
Sure, great, Arthur got laid. Now let's get back to hitchhiking, ok? And the
last thing I'll say is that Adams' heart just didn't seem to be in it. You can
tell, from the moment Arthur steps onto his home planet, that this is the case.
According to the grapevine he wasn't planning on continuing the Hitchhiker
story beyond "Life, the Universe and Everything" but due to contractual
obligations he churned out "Fish" and "Mostly Harmless."
There are a few funny bits in "So Long, and Thanks For All
the Fish." Unfortunately, they're few and far between. If you are really into
the Hitchhiker series, nothing I say can prevent you from continuing into this,
the fourth book. But you have been forewarned
it's not Adams at his
"So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish" by Douglas
Originally published by Crown Publishers, Inc. © 1984 by Douglas
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