Douglas Adams,
The Restaurant at the
End of the Universe

(Pan, 1980)

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe begins where The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy left off, only Zaphod Beeblebrox's idea of stopping for dinner at the aforementioned restaurant is delayed a bit (or an incredibly long bit, depending on your upcoming temporal location). Having escaped the legendary planet Magrathea without having been killed by intergalactic policemen or, in the case of Arthur Dent, having his brain sucked up and studied for the inherent Question of Life, the Universe and Everything that is undoubtedly hardwired into it somewhere, the hoopiest cast of space travelers in the galaxy thought their troubles were over, or at least greatly lessened.

They were completely wrong. The Vogon ship that destroyed the Earth shows up to destroy the last two remnants of that now-dead world, namely Arthur Dent and Trillian McMillian. Unfortunately, Arthur's increasingly strident demands for a cup of real tea have the entire computer system onboard the Heart of Gold focused on that task rather than anything as silly as escaping imminent destruction.

This is just the beginning of this particular set of adventures. Other highlights include a visit by Zaphod's dead great-grandfather, a night of drinks and food at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Zaphod's experience inside the universally feared Total Perspective Vortex, a trip in the mega-rock band Danger Area's stunt ship into a sun, a meeting with the real Ruler of the Universe and a return trip to Earth -- sort of.

Nobody crams as much comedy per page as Douglas Adams. While The Restaurant at the End of the Universe isn't quite as amazing as its predecessor, that is only because its predecessor was so amazingly original and different from everything that came before it. The satire Adams employs, often quite subtle, is as brilliant as always; anyone who reads this book will laugh, but only some will realize that he or she is really laughing at himself and the absurdity of human life that Adams is playing on. These characters are more real to me than many of the people I know in real life. Best of all, they don't change: Arthur Dent remains the rather bemused, clueless soul he has always been; Ford Prefect is just Ford, only more so; Zaphod -- well, Zaphod's just this guy, you know; and poor long-suffering Marvin the Paranoid Android is still the most depressing (yet hilarious) robotically engineered life form in the galaxy. If these crazy characters and Adams' brilliantly comedic narrative don't make you laugh, you would be well advised to don a pair of Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses because you are headed smack dab into big trouble indeed.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 28 May 2005

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