A Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
This is the story in continuation. The Restaurant at the end of the Universe begins from where The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ended. Ford Perfect, Trillian, Arthur Dent and Zaphod Beeblebrox are suddenly attacked by a Vogon ship, as they left the planet Magrathea.
A cup of Tea had caused the problem, the computer remained jammed to put through that difficult demand, and the Improbability Drive failed to function. Destiny played its part, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the Fourth ancestor of Zaphod’s saves them.
Zaphod and Marvin disappear and reappear at the Offices of the Guide on Ursa Minor Beta. When they reach the fifteenth floor, half of the building is suddenly lifted off of the ground by Frogstar Fighters. Zaphod passes through and experiences many a strange places and events and finally finds a space liner abandoned 9 centuries ago. The passengers in it are still alive through an intense life support system. They are yet to receive the supply of ordered lemon-soaked paper napkins.
The situation is further confounded with the confusing situation about numbers, arithmetical calculations and the English syllables. The shrunk Heart of Gold in the jacket pocket of Zaphod, makes this mystery character more mysterious. His friends emerge out of it and are assimilated into it, under strange procedures. The story ends with Zaphod and Trillian return to the Heart of Gold, and it is commandeered by Zarniwoop.
The writer creates one impossible situation after the other and in stories of this genre, suspense is the natural outcome. Adam’s wit and humor add more punch to the storyline. The fight between the computers is comparable between the fight amongst the human beings. My reaction to the climax of the story is, let more such stories come out from the pen of Douglas Adams.
b) Setting: Discuss how the setting (time and place) enhanced the story
The objective of the characters in the book is to reach the restaurant at the end of universe. A time wrap technology is put into operation; they dine and go back to resume their normal activities, at the same time the end of universe continues to happen.
The trips can be made daily. But they are difficult, the robots and computers are not co-operative. Odd situations arise, as the computers are created with emotions and intelligence. An interesting part of the story is that an order for lemon-soaked napkins remained unexecuted for over 900 years in a spaceship. Some of our slow-moving government departments need to take lessons from this episode.
c) Characterization: Discuss the characters, their motives, your reactions to them:
The characters are enjoyable. One can experience lots of fun and satire in the writings of Adams. The characters provide first grade entertainment. When there is no logic in the plot, it is futile to expect that the characters will be logical.
Reading this novel means to travel on a “Travel as you like” ticket; or sailing in a rudderless boat. The sum and substance of the story is like the mind of a directionless and destination less youth! The ‘mental’ condition of most of the characters is like that of an ejected pilot from a crashed plane-you don’t know when you will land or whether you will land safely! But they are no ordinary comical situations.
There is an element of genius right through the entire story. Just turn the next page-the contents of the previous page will make that happen with you! The characters have a lasting quality about them and they faithfully discharge the duties and responsibilities for which they are created. As compared to human beings, they do better in this respect.
d) Themes: What were some of the issues or lessons that emerged from the novel?
Man’s obsession with making machines and dependence upon advanced technological equipments, will not do well to him in the long run. They will complicate and confuse his life and take away the charm from his activities. Adams brings life into the machines. Like human beings they to have emotions.
Adams has given the example of Elevators (Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Happy Vertical People Transporters) which are tired of their monotonous job of going up and down.
Adams describes the distress of the Elevators, thus: “Not unnaturally, many elevators imbued with intelligence and precognition become terribly frustrated with the mindless business of going up and down, up and down, experimented briefly with the notion of going sideways, as sort of an existential protest, demanded participation in the decision making process and finally took to squatting in basements sulking.” (Adams, 1980, p.47) –an apt comparison to the demands of the labor force engaged in doing monotonous and repetitive jobs. No satisfaction, no joy in such types of work!
e) Style: Discuss what was unique or interesting about the writer’s language or style. Sometimes dream sequences or flashbacks, symbols, or vivid imagery enhance a writer’s
The plight of Marvin, the robot evokes sympathy. He is capable of any function; he is smart and strong but remains depressed. He possesses amazing language processing skills and he utilizes it to narrate his mental torture. He is neglected by everyone; he has no solutions to his own woes.
The situation where an unarmed Marvin succeeds in defeating the ruthlessly powerful battle robot looks as if it is a real-life situation. It speaks about the vivid imagination of the writer. In spite of the frightening situations created that make one’s heart throb and palpitate, the novel is a comedy. That makes it highly readable.