Off the Shelf

"So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish"

By Marcus Pan

So Long,and Thanks For All the FishThis 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 best.

"So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish" by Douglas Adams
Originally published by Crown Publishers, Inc. © 1984 by Douglas Adams
ISBN# 0-671-52580-8

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