Before reading Mostly Harmless – the fifth and last book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy” – I looked at some reviews written by other readers. Many of them were negative. Douglas Adams was depressed when he wrote it. The ending was terrible. And so on.
Personally, I thought this was a great book. In saying that I refer you to the following paragraph from Mostly Harmless:
“We live in strange times. We also live in strange places: each in a universe of our own. The people with whom we populate our universes are the shadows of whole other universes intersecting with our own.”
We see the truth of this statement every day on the review pages of Amazon and Goodreads. People seem to look out on the same universe. However, there’s a clue to the reality of multiple dimensions in the fact that good books in one universe are bad in another. Mostly Harmless takes – for me at least – a thrilling trip through alternative universes.
Mostly Harmless begins and ends with the story of some interstellar explorers called the Grebulons. A meteorite damages their ship, resulting in the loss of all stored memories. The crew know they set out to monitor something, but have no idea what. By chance, they end up on a planet in the outer reaches of Earth’s solar system monitoring the only material they can find to monitor – TV shows beaming out from Earth. Cagney and Lacey and M*A*S*H seem to be particular favourites. The Grebulons’ situation contrasts with that of the Vogons who hove into view as the book comes to its conclusion. The Vogons know exactly what their purpose in life is. If you compare the clear, small-minded and unpleasant purpose of the Vogons, with the benign TV watching aimlessness of memory-deprived Grebulons, things look different vis-a-vis the aimless TV viewing. The best lack all conviction; the worst are full of passionate intensity, as Yeats would have said. It’s like there’s an alternative universe where casual TV watching is a deeply meaningful activity, as is reading books that some people think are not very good.
I send this message from my universe to yours – Mostly Harmless is a great book.