Life, the Universe, and Everything coverCricket, Talking Mattresses, and the End of the World (Again)

“We can’t win against obsession. They care, we don’t. They win.”
― Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything

Back for a third splash, or should I say thorough soaking, in the fountain of never-ending absurdity, the crew of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tackle a scientifically advanced spaceship (running on the mathematics specific to restaurant bills) to stop a homicidal far-away planet and along the way they meet living mattresses, a Greek god, a never-ending space party, a vengeful (and particularly unlucky) entity named Agrajag, and the ultimate purveyor of world destruction . . . plus some darn exciting cricket plays.

Once upon a time, long ago and all that stuff, the peaceful planet of Krikkit, fond of singing and stargazing, is unexpectedly met by an off course  spaceship. The Krikkiters don’t care for the company at all and knowing that the world is just filled with potential visitors, are driven to seek the only answer: a homicidal purge of the galaxy. Determined to give up their simple singing days to develop the galaxy’s most advanced technology, all for the purpose of space-time travel, the creation of super-efficient killing robots, and some universe level genocide – because the possibility of unannounced guests really does suck – the Krikkiters become a  problem at the galaxy scale. Everyone else bands together for the greater good and locks crazy Krikkit in a Slo-Time envelop. The envelop can only be opened – or should I say unwrapped – by the Wikkit Gate key. It’s safely locked away from the Krikkiters, or so everyone thinks, until it becomes evident that a rouge ship of killbots is loose outside of the envelop and searching the universe for the gate pieces, intent upon getting the party (read massacre) started all over again.

Unluckily for Ford Perfect and Arthur Dent, the killbots decide to invade a cricket game that they have just arrived at after some weird adventures and toils to return from solitude and lands of talking bog mattresses. That’s when things get even odder than usual with the arrival of the Starship Bistromath, Slartibartfast, and eventually Zaphod and Trillian. Marvin, the depressed robot, is sadly out of play until an essential intervention at the very end.  Mix and add a dash of salt and you have the recipe for more interstellar hijinks and some Monty Python worthy moments looped into some truly strange, or should I say deranged, side stories.

alienLife, the Universe, and Everything throws the readers right into the quagmire where we left off after a rather good repast at Miliways (consult book two). If you’re trying to read out of order, well good luck old chum – this particular piece of insanity will mean absolutely nada… If you’ve been following the adventure thus far, you’ll remember a previously disjointed conclusion that left the major plays fragmented, abandoned here and there across the universe. In a strange effort to get them back, we’re thrown right in and everything is hastily and inexplicably brought together to get everyone in the right spot for the real plot, Krikkit, to eventually, slowly begin. Everything happens too fast and with too little direction and it’s pretty far into a seemingly flailing bad-trip of a novel before we figure out where we’re going or at least what we should be focusing on.

Once Krikkit’s history is explained, and some peculiar restaurant math and especially deranged space-time physicist stuff is burbled to prelude Slartibartfast’s sudden appearance and ship, readers begin to get more down with the sickness and into a crazy that at least has a somewhat tangible direction. Before that, we’re admittedly getting sick of the schizophrenic everywhere and nowhere, this-is-funny-because-you-have-no-idea-what-it-means absurdity that ranges from cricket plays to galloping sofas. It’s still jerking and stalling like an old jalopy, and the silliness is more annoying than delightfully quirky, but a bit of the old tongue-and-check charm slowly creeps back into the tale.

Still, it takes some idiosyncratic loops and apathetic attempts at universal salvation before we’re mentally involved (i.e. care about) the characters’ worlds again. It doesn’t have the natural flow anymore and the forced nature takes away from the formerly suave ridiculousness. Not to say that some of Douglas Adam’s irresistible charm isn’t in display. Arthur Dent’s encounter with a being, Agrajag, whom he has accidentally thwarted in all its lives is a pleasantly sarcastic detour with a hint of the old glory. Every now and again some sentences shine, especially when we get to the never-ending party in the sky and Adams takes a moment to take some fine honed criticism and stick it to one of the many figures that skits in and out of this galaxy sized projection.

Yet . . . Krikkit just isn’t with it. Steadily losing strength from the admittedly un-mimicable brilliance of the first book, Life, the Universe, and Everything is a little too disjointed and quirky. For once in Adam’s ever devolving world, we’re just lost enough to be well and truly lost – and a little fed up with it. We still laugh and snort at points and every now and again there is a classic zinger that is so quote worthy, yet the entirety of the story feels like the mindless jabbering of a robot on meth. It’s amusing enough in bits and pieces but there is a collective sigh of relief at the conclusion – and enjoyment that the confusion has finally released us.

“The Somebody Else’s Problem field is much simpler and more effective, and what’s more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people’s natural disposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”
― Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything


–         Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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