Fiction Reviews

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

(1980/2009) Douglas Adams, Pan Macmillan, £7.99, Can$14.99, Aus$22.99, pbk, 206 pp, ISBN 978-0-330-50859-9


This is the second novel Pan Macmillan have re-released as part of all five of the original Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy in the 30th anniversary year of the first's publication which itself came out a year after BBC Radio 4 first broadcast of what was to become a minor national phenomenon that was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Phew… Got that?

In a nutshell The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is SF comedy at its very best. If you are unfamiliar with it then check out my review of the first novel in the Hitch_hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five (soon to be six).

This book covers much of the ground appearing in the second half of the first radio series together with the 'Christmas edition' (or first episode of the second series) and so for my money is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at its best: as after the first series, though good The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy never reclaimed the dizzy heights of its start. This is no doubt because Douglas Adams was a painfully slow writer and the success of the first series, and first two books, meant that the pressure was on to deliver more and something had to give. Alas it was a bit of the extremely high standard he had previously set. But no matter, this novel is one of those that presents Adams' writing at its very best.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe continues the story straight on from Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: so you really need to get that book and read it first.

This book begins with a bit of a re-cap. 'In the beginning the Universe was created. This had made a lot of people very angry and had been widely regarded as a bad move…' The high-point of the novel takes place at the restaurant at the end of the universe denoted in the book's title. What you do is deposit a penny in a savings account to pay for your meal and then travel forward in time to the end of the Universe where, due to compound interest, your savings have grown to the fantastically huge amount needed to pay for the astronomically expensive meal. Our heroes – Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian – find themselves at the restaurant having travelled through time. There they are re-united with Marvin, the hugely depressed robot, who took the long way round (waiting until the Universe ended). After the meal they steal a space time ship and end up back on Earth but before it was destroyed by the Vogons (see the first book).

This edition has an introductory foreword by Terry (Monty Python / Brazil) Jones and at the end there are four pages of photocopied business letters from the Douglas Adams' archives.

This book is part of a proverbial science fiction classic and deserves your attention. Besides, without it you will be lost in the space-time continuum.

Jonathan Cowie

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