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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Here is my first book review (how is it only the first?!). This is the first book I read of the New Year, and it was a brilliant if bonkers beginning…

Written by: Douglas Adams
Published: 1980
Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy
Pages: 200
Rating: 4/5

When all questions of space, time, matter and therestaurantuniverse nature of being have been resolved, only one question remains – ‘Where shall we have dinner?’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe provides the ultimate gastronomic experience, and for once there is no morning after to worry about.

I read the first book in Douglas Adams’ series, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in 2013. I had no idea what to expect. After reading it I realised the books were very much like marmite: you either love them or you hate them. I also read the first of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, The Colour of Magic, last year and got much the same impression. I have to admit I much prefer Pratchett’s books to Douglas Adams, but I was still on the ‘love’ end of that marmite spectrum.

I often think it’s best to judge a book series not by how good the first book is, but by how good the second book is. I started The Restaurant at the End of the Universe on the day after New Year with something some people in white lab coats probably call “tentative expectation”. I always think that, with the Hitchhiker’s books, there is quite a thin line between the writing being exciting and witty, or a bit boring.

I didn’t enjoy The Restaurant at the End of the Universe quite as much as the first book, as I couldn’t attach myself to the storyline quite as much. It seemed to be less of an adventure and more of an intergalactic rambling club. I’m sure Douglas Adams would not hesitate to point out it is an intergalactic rambling club, but that’s beside the point. I couldn’t help but switch off once or twice.

“In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely regarded as a bad move.”

Hitchhikers as a series is meant to be mind-bogglingly loopy, and it is. Sometimes you lose track of what the main objective actually is, or you can’t get your head around a particular sentence, but that’s fine; it’s all part of the fun. This style works most of the time, but it can slip into confusion. I think one of the main faults was that the group splits up in the second book, and we focus on more of what Zaphod is up to. Arthur Dent does not play any major part in the story – he just tends to be “there” – and Trillian barely has a few lines.don't panic

However, I hate to be overly negative, because this is a great book. It’s often laugh-out-loud (or LOL as the kids call it) funny, it’s extremely inventive and I thought the ending was actually the best part of the book. I hate to use the word “sad” but it was actually quite poignant. If there’s anything this book does that you can fully understand is that it makes you realise the vastness and infinite complexity of space and the Universe that we live in. It gets you thinking about the future and the past and our place in it.

“Reality is frequently inaccurate.”

Despite there being, at some points, too many characters than necessary, we, as readers, are much closer to them at the end of this book than at the end of the first, particularly Arthur and Ford. You feel genuinely concerned and disappointed (for the characters) at the end (I won’t trouble you with spoilers!) and you seriously wonder how they’re going to get themselves out of this mess. But, as these are the bonkers books that they are, there will always be a way out. And I’m sure it’s going to be extraordinary.

Just remember to take a towel with you.