What’s with me and starting my reviews of a series partway through? In any case, after I devoured the first four novels in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series last summer, I started to get a bit saturated with the whole thing and had to take a break, until picking up the 5th addition, Mostly Harmless, now. To be honest, I’m not really sure where I last left off… But remembering the characters is really all you need for this one. Of course the plot ends up all in a mishmash once you get into it, but what else would you expect with the series at this point? And while it’s nice to revisit those familiar faces and the fun writing style of Adams, this novel is definitely not the greatest thing I have read, or even close to being the best of Adams’ work to date.
Mostly Harmless starts us off with the theory of alternate, parallel universes: those universes that would have existed had you made a different decision at some point or another in your life (Sliding Doors! Everything is Sliding Doors!). Here, there is a new Trisha McMillan, one who hadn’t gone with Zaphod all those years ago, just situated elsewhere in the infinite galaxy, apart from the real Tricia/Trillian, who is now a famous reporter all across space and time. Meanwhile, Arthur has lost his newfound love, Fenchurch, and is once again just bobbing about the universe, trying to find some place for him to situate himself that resembles his long lost home on earth. And all the while, Ford Prefect is shambling about the offices of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, soon learning that something not quite right is going on, in the form of Vogons and the creation of a new guide. After a while of flipping back and forth, we eventually see all these stories collide in the form of a young lady named Random, who just wants to find a place to belong in the vast universe, like Arthur (and that’s not the only way in which they are related).
Overall, Mostly Harmless feels a bit more cohesive than some of the sequels to the first Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have to date, by just focusing on the three main characters and their respective stories until they converge. At the same time, however, the ending left me feeling quite unsatisfied. Not in a cliffhanger, kind of way, but in a bit more of a sad and slightly befuddled sort of way; the end of the whole thing just started to fall into a bit of a slump, trying to press a message of belonging into it, repeating an earthly scenario from the beginning of the series, and lacking in any real development on the parts of the characters, which left me feeling a bit disappointed since they’ve all been on such a journey with so many changes since the beginning of it all.
Yet as always, Douglas Adams’ dry, matter-of-fact presentation of the most ridiculous and outlandish ideas and phrases makes up for a lot of the downfalls. I know his style isn’t for everyone, but I personally really love it, as it almost feels like he’s just shrugging his shoulders going, “That’s how it is. Take it or leave it, it doesn’t make a difference to me if you don’t want to believe me” whenever he explains these ridiculous ideas of his.
So in the end, Mostly Harmless is certainly not the best of the series (that would still the first one, in my opinion), and the tale of Arthur, Ford, and Trillian really seems to have lost a bit of its steam along the way. But if you just want to keep going anways, or find yourself a fan of the quick and strange manner of Douglas Adams, then I’d still recommend taking a gander at this instalment.
[Be sure to check out the Cannonball Read group blog for more reviews.]