The Earth is to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Arthur Dent discovers that his friend Ford Prefect is in fact an alien doing research for the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Together they stow away on one of the Vogon spaceships sent to carry out the demolition. They escape the Vogons and are picked up by Zaphod Beeblebrox in a ship with Infinite Improbability drive. They all travel to the headquarters of luxury planet builders where it is revealed that the Earth was a large computer, all the humans on it parts of the mechanism, and mice the true rulers of the earth being in fact hyperdimensional beings. While humorous, the humour tends to be of the type which pokes fun at everything, reducing any set of beliefs to simple narrow-minded ignorance.
Tricia Macmillan is taken by alien Grebulons to the 10th planet in the solar system, Ford Prefect raids the offices of the Hitch Hiker's Guide in search of a new assignment, discovers it's been taken over by Vogons, and steals the Mk II Guide. Arthur Dent hitchhikes round the galaxy a bit before settling down as The Sandwich Maker on a primitive planet, at which point Trillian turns up with their teenage daughter and leaves, the Mk II guide arrives, closely followed by Ford, whose spaceship is stolen by Arthur's daughter Random. Ford and Arthur ride a herd of interdimensional buffalo, steal Elvis Presley's spaceship, track down Random, the spaceship, the Guide, Tricia, Trillian and Arthur's Nemesis, on Earth just in time for the planet to be destroyed by Grebulons as a result of reading their horoscope in an incredible feat of reverse temporal engineering set up by the captain of the Vogon Destructor Fleet.
A poor successor to the earlier books in the series. The laughs are fewer and more shallow, the zany and absurd information from the Guide which punctuates the earlier books and makes up for the lack of credible plot is missing, and the characters have lost their charm. There are entertaining sections, notably the description of Arthur as Sandwich Maker, and Ford's infiltration of his own employer's office. Overall though, it suffers in comparison. The one particularly negative point is that Arthur sells blood and DNA to finance his travels. It is as result of his selling some of his semen to go first class that his daughter is born. There is nothing graphic involved, just the sad fact, which one is not allowed to forget as the daughter speaks of herself as being a ticket upgrade.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.
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