Home > Book, Genre, humorous, Review, scifi > Book Review: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (Series, #5)

Book Review: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (Series, #5)

Woman wearing glasses and a man's face on a green book cover.Summary:
Arthur Dent thought his zany days earth-less days were over.  The whole Earth-being-blown-up was undone, and he found a woman to love.  But when they’re traveling through the universe together, she suddenly disappears and Arthur finds himself in a parallel universe where the exact Earth he once knew doesn’t exist.  Meanwhile, Ford Prefect pays a visit to the Guide offices and finds that something just isn’t quite right.

Review:
Thank goodness I didn’t let the flop of the fourth book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish deter me from finishing the series.  Adams returns to his strengths in this entry–outerspace adventures of Ford and Arthur, not to mention zany robots and odd cultures on other planets that manage to reflect the oddities of our own.  Plus, the storyline actually moves the original plot of the Earth being destroyed by the Vogons forward.

Some of the jokes rank right up there with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  One that sticks out in my mind is when Ford messes with a robot’s circuitry making it endlessly joyful.  It was a delightful flipping of the endlessly miserable robot, Marvin, featured earlier in the series.  It was quite enjoyable to see how hilarious both extremes are.  Also of note is the village religious man on a planet Arthur winds up on, who is quite clearly making the village’s religion up as he goes along, and the villagers are semi-aware of this, but shrug and let him.  That said, at least half of the jokes, while they tickled my funny-bone in a pleasant way, didn’t have me actually laughing like the first couple of books did.  It was a pleasant read, but not uproariously funny.

Entire essays and theses could be written (and probably have been) on the themes in the Hitchhiker series.  Excuse me. Trilogy.  From belonging to homelessness to the purpose of life, Adams’ work has it all, which is what makes it good humor, actually.  It’s humor pointing out the most basic questions of life in a setting that removes it from our own experiences enough to make us see it in a different light.

Some readers will probably be unhappy with the ending.  I enjoyed it and saw the humor in it, in spite of it being rather dark.  I know that Adams expressed some discontent with it and was in the middle of writing a sequel, The Salmon of Doubt, when he died, which has now been posthumously published, as well as a sixth entry written by Adams’ widow and Eoin Colfer.  I don’t cotton to posthumously published works assembled by people who are not the author, nor continuations based on what people “think the author would have wanted.”  For all we know, Adams could have changed his mind yet again.  I prefer to view Mostly Harmless as the end of the series, as it was the last book truly finished by Adams.

Mostly Harmless is a wonderful closing chapter to the series that contains delightful meta jokes, as well as new territory, and neatly ties up the experiences of the characters.  Fans of the series won’t be disappointed with this entry, which is a delightful jump up from the fourth book, but they may be left a bit sad to see the end.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Raven Used Books

Previous Books in Series:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Life, the Universe, and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, review

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  1. July 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Ok, so I just finished the first one (for the first time). One of these days I will get around to reviewing it–but your reviews are one of the things that gave me a kick in the right direction, so thanks!

    • July 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      Oh yay! I hope you’re enjoying the series as much as I did. :-)

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