The Ultimate Legend

Yes, I finally got around to reading this absolute masterpiece that every true nerd wishes they had on their bookshelf. It is quick-witted, long-winded, and completely ridiculous through and through. Douglas Adams is quite the satirical writer if you know anything about him; by the end of the last book I almost couldn’t wait for it to end just so I wouldn’t have to try to comprehend another paragraph-long sentence that trailed off on some unrelated tangent. But you just gotta love it. This guy is tireless in his writing and delivers his full effort until the very last page.

This massive volume consists of 5 smaller novels to form the complete series:

#1

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What the movie is very roughly based on.

#2

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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Where you go to watch the end of the world and have it reset itself, with the rest of the inhabitants from the Universe from inside a fancy restaurant.

#3

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Life, the Universe, and Everything

Lots of random stuff involving Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, Agrajag, and Slartibartfast.

#4

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Arthur returns to Earth and learns to fly.

And #5

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Mostly Harmless

“Anything that happens, happens. 

Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen. 

Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again.

It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order, though.”

I don’t read science fiction often (for some obscene reason), but this one has reassured me that I have to add much more of it to my reading lists. In this genre, you can expose the corruption and irrational thinking of humans by using an alien perspective to point out our flaws. I don’t know how many times Arthur Dent, the simple-minded human, was looked down upon by more advanced races for his stupidity and general ignorance of the happenings in the universe.

This tale actually starts with Arthur’s house getting scheduled for demolition in order to build a bypass that’s being built just because bypasses need to be built (the same day the planet is scheduled for destruction by the Vogons for the same reason). So he’s confronted with this kind of absurdity right from the start, and it only gets absurder from there.

The fact that this is set in outer space makes the possibility for diversification very high,  with the different planets our characters go to. Each follow their own laws of physics that don’t need to make actual sense, other than because: science fiction.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect get picked up by the Heart of Gold’s Infinite Probability Drive in chapter 9. They are ejected from the Vogon airship into deep space, certain of death by asphyxiation in 30 seconds. The probability of their rescue by a passing aircraft in the vastness of space is so infinitesimally small that the ship’s Infinite Improbability Drive kicks in. Their odds are “two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against”.

Yet 29 seconds after they enter space they are picked up by the Heart of Gold. And here enters Douglas’s unreal sense of humor:

“A hole had appeared in the Galaxy. It was exactly a nothingth of a second long, a nothingth of an inch wide, and quite a lot of millions of light-years from end to end.

As it closed up, lots of paper hats and party balloons fell out of it and drifted off through the Universe. A team of seven three-foot-high market analysts fell out of it and died, partly of asphyxiation, partly of surprise.

The nothingth of a second for which the hole existed reverberated backward and forward through time in a most improbable fashion. Somewhere in the deeply remote past it seriously traumatized a small random group of atoms drifting through the empty sterility of space and made them cling together in the most extraordinarily unlikely patterns. These patterns quickly learned to copy themselves (this was part of what was so extraordinary about the patterns) and went on to cause massive trouble on every planet they drifted on to. This was how life began in the Universe.  

Five wild Event Maelstroms swirled in viscous storms of unreason and spewed up a pavement. 

On the pavement lay Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent gulping like half-spent fish.”

So… did these 2 just experience the beginning of creation, or did Adams just add that little story in there while following a random tangent before he described their rescue? It’s usually pretty hard to tell. And the rest of the book continues in much of the same way.

The genius involved in this kind of writing is actually hard to fathom. If this was a much shorter volume, this writing would be impressive then. But the fact that the entire story put together makes up 815 pages makes me think that Douglas Adams may have had some supernatural assistance. He could also be from another world altogether, which would explain everything and nothing. (See – just being exposed to his writing puts me in an unnatural state of mind where it’s easier to write without reason).

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Attempting to summarize and analyze and even comment on a significant part of this book would be like trying to explain differential calculus to someone who’s never taken a math class. Consider it extremely complicated in a clever way, and seeming like the whole time he’s building you up to deliver a punch line or terrible pun.

I really should have made a post about this book right after I finished it so that my reaction would be more fresh, but I still want to add it to my site so that I can look back and say, “Yeah, I totally read that shit!” Plus I’ll welcome any nerd points I can get. If you want to experience the humor and genius here, please read this one for yourself.

This was the longest book I finished last year, and one I’ve been looking forward to tackling for many many years. I wish I was able to write a more interesting and in-depth review of this incredibly creative and inspirational work of art. I finished this in June of last year, and it took me a couple months to get through it. A lot of other things have been on my mind since then, to say the least.

I am humbled and awed at such a gem.  And I feel smarter just for reading it. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first published in 1979, and still persists in our culture today. It holds great importance to those who haven’t even read the books. Straight masterpiece. Recommend to everyone on earth and far beyond.

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