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Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

1/01/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Mostly Harmless (volume 5 in the trilogy of five) in the USA - or Buy Mostly Harmless (volume 5 in the trilogy of five) in the UK

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pub: Pan Macmillan. 230 page small enlarged paperback. Price: 7.99(UK), $14.99 (CAN), $22.99 (AUS). ISBN: 978-0-330-50858-2).

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Little did I know twenty years ago when I first became enthralled by 'The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy' that twenty years later I would be completing a review of the entire series to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the first book. That sentence may seem rather long and unnecessarily complicated, but it's typical of the rambling ideas that Douglas Adams weaves throughout his work. His sentences are usually funnier and more clever than that though.

'Mostly Harmless' is the final book in the series, bringing an end to a seemingly unique series. Final, that is, until the recent release of a sixth, authorised, post-humorous volume. That's another matter, though. The title refers to the entry in the Guide that refers to the Earth and was allegedly used by Douglas Adams for this book in homage to the newsletter of The Hitchhiker Fan Club. I suspect he could come up with his own titles.

Like the previous volume, 'So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish', this final volume takes a darker and less manic tone than the original trilogy. On numerous occasions the Earth has been destroyed and restored for various obscure reasons but, throughout, the Guide has brought comfort to Arthur Dent with the friendly words 'Don't Panic' on the cover. As the plot unfolds this time it seems possible that the Earth could be destroyed completely, once and for all and even the Guide is replaced with a much more sinister new edition. It's all a bit more depressing than the previous books, without even the depressed humour of Marvin the Paranoid Android to make things seem better. Would the series have been better left earlier on when we were all happy and enthused? I don't know. Will it get better with the new sequel? I don't have high hopes.

This is not to say that 'Mostly Harmless' isn't a well-written and clever book in its own right. It' just not as much fun.

Gareth D. Jones

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