I'm going to have to be honest here and admit that I really wasn't all that impressed with this book. In fact the story was originally meant to be a six part Doctor Who series which was rejected by the producers, and I can see why – it just really didn't seem to be what I would expect from Doctor Who. Okay, the Doctor can be pretty tongue in cheek at times, and while there are suggestions that some Earth practices have extra-terrestrial origins, the who idea of cricket being a reflection of a huge intergalatic war really doesn't seem to fit well with the genre. I guess that having been rejected as a Doctor Who serial, being redrafted and made the third part of the Hitchhiker's Guide series sort of makes the story feel a little forced. Moreso it has a plot, and the one thing about absurdist literature is that it isn't really supposed to have a plot. Sure, the first book dealt with the search for the answer to the ultimate question, and the second dealt with the search for the true ruler of the galaxy, however they sort of sat in the background, and even then there was no real conclusion in the same way that Waiting for Godot really didn't have a conclusion.
The difference with this book is that the plot is front and centre. Arthur and Ford are trapped in prehistoric Earth however after parting ways for four years (and having some random person appear and insult him), they meet up again and discover a temporal anomaly in the form of a couch. So, what does one do when they see a couch in a place where it really shouldn't belong – well they sit on it. Anyway, the couch then proceeds to take them to Lord's at a time when the Australian Cricket Team simply cannot beat the English (and once again lose). All of the sudden these robots appear, hit bombs (that look like cricket balls) all over the place with bats that look like cricket bats, steal the ashes, and disappear. As it turns out the ashes aren't supposed to represent the 'death of English cricket' (well, they do, but that was only a representation) but rather are a piece of a key that is supposed to open the 'Wikit Gate' beyond which is imprisoned the world of 'Krikit'.
What is then revealed is that eons ago the world of Krikit was isolated due to a dust cloud, however one day a spaceship crashed, and after examining the spaceship, and realising that things existed beyond the sky, the inhabitants of Krikit decided to go and have a look, and it turned out that they didn't really like what they saw there. So, they proceeded to declare war on the entire universe. After a long and protracted period of hostilities the people of Krikit eventually lost (should I call them Krikitters? I'm not really sure) and they, and their world, were imprisoned in a field of slow time. However, a single spaceship full of robots managed to escape and proceeded to travel the galaxy and reassembling the key that would open the Wikit Gate. Ironically, parts of the key also included Marven's leg, a part of the infinite improbability drive, and the part of a trophy which represented the most gratuitous use of the world 'fuck' in a serious drama (though apparently when the book was released, this section of censored, so the world Belgium was used instead, which I have to admit is probably somewhat more clever that the other word that is used).
Look, as I have already mentioned, I wasn't particularly enamoured with this story, and I still have two more to go. I do remember liking the next one, but until I have read it I won't say anymore (though most people sort of write that one off as a load of rubbish). As for this book I don't want to write it completely off because there are some really good scenes, and jokes, in it, but it doesn't really have the panache that the previous books had. For instance, the whole discussion of flying being throwing yourself at the ground, and missing, was actually quite stupid. Okay, it did have a purpose in the book, but the Hitchhiker's Guide entry just simply didn't seem to be as clever as the entries in the first (and second) book. I guess that is the problem with a lot of books where they start off as a single book and quickly morph into a never-ending series (though Terry Pratchett seemed to have been able to solve that problem with his Discworld series).
Anyway, let us consider the title of the book, which is relates back to the original concept of the series, and in a way comes around to the question at the end of this book – what is life all about. The thing is that the answer to this question seems to be forever out of reach, or simply unobtainable through normal means (such as asking a computer, but then again how is a computer going to be able to answer such a question, particularly when the computer is limited by its creator). Okay, some people believe that they have the answer, which is what religion is all about. Actually, that is the prime definition of a religion, namely that it provides the answer to the questions of 'where did we come from, what are we doing here, and where are we going?'. Sure, most religions boil down to God, God, and God, but not all of them. Dare I say that scientific materialism answers those three questions: dust, whatever we want it to be, and dust. However I suspect that this whole scientific materialistic view of the universe is what created absurdism in the first place because despite providing the answers to these questions the answers weren't satisfactory.
Sure, the answers that end with God can be considered satisfactory answers, yet for some reason we insist on killing each other over the exact interpretation of what 'God' actually means. Okay, it technically means, as Bill and Ted put so well, 'be excellent to each other and party on dudes' yet this simple thing seems to be beyond us. Sure, there are some (such as myself) that imply that being excellent to each other also involves being excellent to God, but that sort of comes hand in hand. The baffling thing is that despite the fact that we agree that being excellent to each other is a really good idea we seem to not actually want to do it where we are concerned. In fact Adams even touches on that point namely because anybody who comes along and suggests that being excellent to each other would probably solve all of our problems ends up getting killed.
The problem is that our interpretation of being excellent to each other pretty much involves letting me do what I want to do and anybody who stops me from doing what I want to do is not being excellent to me. So, when we do things that are technically not being excellent to each other (such as polluting the world because, well, we want to live our hyperdisposable lifestyle) and people pull us up on it then we get upset and claim that being excellent to each other is not actually as great as it is cracked up to be and we might as well look for another solution to the ultimate question that doesn't involve me giving up all the really cool things that I have. Okay, I'm sure I could participate in this challenge that one of the social justice organisations is suggesting– namely living on one power socket, but I would cheat by having lots of powerboards and lots of extension cords so that my life isn't actually impacted all that much (or I could just live off my laptop as opposed to desktop and computer in the lounge room, but that is beside the point). Actually, come to think of it, there is a computer in the lounge room that I don't use – I think I should format the hardrive and turn that into my video machine as opposed to using my laptop, but I think I have drifted so far off topic that I might bring my story to an end now.