Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker’s Guide, #5)

ISBN: 0345418778
ISBN 13: 9780345418777
By: Douglas Adams

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About this book

The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.Douglas Adams is back with the amazing, logic-defying, but-why-stop-now fifth novel in the Hitchhiker Trilogy. Here is the epic story of Random, who sets out on a transgalactic quest to find the planet of her ancestors. Line drawings.

Reader's Thoughts


I don't rate many books with a 5. I think the Hitchhiker books are brilliant in the way I believe Ron Wesley means something is brilliant that he is referring to in the Harry Potter books.Memory is a bit hazy because I am getting a little long in the tooth. But, I first heard about "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in 1981 or 1982 when I was a freshman at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. I had a friend who enthused about it. I don't remember if he carried on about the book before or after he got his handwritten letter from Douglas Adams. Regardless, my friend had written Douglas Adams a fan letter because he had loved the book so much. And Adams responded with a handwritten response (It was at least 2 pages, maybe 3 or 4 long)because my friend's letter had been the first fan letter he had ever received.Well, I had never heard of the book, and wasn't even interested in looking at the letter because my friend was in the habit of enthusing about things that ended up leaving me disappointed.But, I did read "Hitchhikers". I thought it was Okay, and have often wondered if I didn't see what was there just because I was digging my heels in, or what. When it came out I skimmed "Restaurant". Owned a copy of the 3rd book and never read it.About 10 years ago I reread "Hitchhikers" a couple of times and was finally won over. I think it is brilliant but could not bring myself to return tot he trough for the rest of the books.A few months ago my 14-year-old borrowed my copy, wanted me to check out the rest of the books for her and she recommended that I read them. Well, what else do you do other than read the rest of the books.I will happily admit that my friend was right, I was wrong. I would eat crow if I could read the words on that letter. I know, I know...there are probably real Adams fans out there who would salivate over this story.Me, when I heard about Adams' death all of those years ago, after his phenomenal success, I was sorry that he was finished. I also thought about my friend and his great good fortune, though, I am positive he would have traded it for the great man getting to live a few more decades.


Being the fifth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was hoping to get a few laughs as I did with the other books in the series but unfortunately I was a tad let down in that department. I didn’t really laugh at all. I just felt that Mostly Harmless had a more serious tone to it.I thought that Mostly Harmless was an alright book. It had some interesting parts but for the most part it just didn’t capture my attention too much. I also got a bit confused by the parallels in the book because I wasn’t sure what was going on. I managed to get my head around it toward the very end of the book.It was good to see a new character in the series, Random, who is rather random and quite a surprise.I don’t have much else to say about Mostly Harmless. I thought it was quite an interesting story but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I did any of the other books in the series. If you’ve read the other books in the series, however, this one is worth reading to finish the series.


Unmitigated failure. The tone is despondent, bleak, and harsh - with only the occasional spot of humor. Interesting scenes are few and far between. Contrived plot devices are thrown around as if Adams won them in a raffle. The story is purposeless and only loosely held together. The ending is a disaster. A friend of mine compared this book to Vogon poetry, and I couldn't argue one bit.Setting:The Galaxy - or rather, multiple galaxies, in multiple universes, all at the same time.Plot:Tricia McMillian - a version of Trillian that never ran off with Zaphod - is stuck in a rut, regretting her decision and lamenting the fact that she, and she alone, knows that alien life exists...until another group of aliens decides to contact her. Ford Prefect returns to the Hitchhiker's Guide offices, only to discover something terribly wrong there. Meanwhile, Arthur Dent, having lost Fenchurch and his happiness, is traveling through space in a desperate search for some Earth or vaguely Earthlike place to call home, entirely unprepared to discover that he's a father now.The plot is a mess. It starts off feeling like the story will be about Tricia and this alternate reality, promptly forgets about her and shifts gears into a rambling tale of multiple universes, and completely fails to make any sense or gain any inertia. The Tricia segment was the most interesting to me, but it is so badly underutilized. It probably could've been its own book, but is reduced to being a handful of inconsequential chapters. Ford's arc has very little actually happen, and is mostly a rehash of jokes from earlier in the series (and earlier in this book, in places.) Arthur's arc is by far the primary one...which makes it confusing as to why it's introduced last - a full 7 chapters into the story before you even see him (47 pages in my version.) And Arthur's arc is plagued by travesties like Fenchurch being magically removed from the story and having a crazy, bipolar teenage Random thrown into his life.Then there's the ending, which is terrifically unsatisfying. Not only is it bad, but it's coming on the heels of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, which had a much more satisfying ending and served as a perfect wrap to the series. Mostly Harmless not only undoes this beautiful, bittersweet ending, but finishes on a much more sour (and final) note. It's simply a terrible way to end a series, and feels like an insult every time I read it. In the radio adaptation of the book, they actually changed the ending to a completely original one in order to have it not suck as badly. Characters:Tricia McMillan is very interesting, which surprised me. Trillian is easily my least favorite character in the series, but this other version of her - the one that never ran off with Zaphod - is a strong, smart, interesting character who probably should've been the star of the book.Arthur has undergone a major shift. He's always been kind of simple, but was never dumb. In this entry, he's become a blithering idiot. Rather than having agency in the story (like in the previous volume) he just does what other characters tell him to do, and he seems to have trouble understanding anything that anybody else says.Ford feels flat and that really detracts from his segments.Zaphod is absent, but Random Dent serves as a sort of replacement for him. It's not a good tradeoff. Random is, as her name suggests, completely random and illogical in everything she does. She seems like a take on the impulsive, parent-hating teenager - only taken to the extremes. Much of her interaction is written away in exposition, but what you do see of her does not seem like anything resembling a functional human being...even a hormonal teenage one.Pacing:Tedious, but thankfully it's short.Notes:Douglas Adams wrote this during a period of serious depression, which does a lot to explain its tone and lack of humor. Adams himself was so dissatisfied with this book that he decided, years later, to write a sixth Hitchhiker's Guide novel, in order to end the series in a more proper way. Sadly, he died before he could actually write it, and only left a few notes on what he was considering doing...which would eventually lead to Eoin Colfer being given the reigns to write And Another Thing...Spoiler Zone!(view spoiler)[The way that Fenchurch was written out of the story really annoyed me. I don't necessarily have a problem with breaking them up in order to kickstart Arthur's story (even though the last book was specifically built around their romance), but Adams couldn't even be bothered to *try.* Fenchurch just randomly disappears in a unforeseeable hyperspace accident, for no reason, and we don't even see it - it's communicated via exposition. It was so contrived. Arthur needed to be single for this book, so Fenchurch up and vanishes via a half-assed plot device that hasn't been foreshadowed or set up in any way.I wish the story had been about Tricia. I was annoyed when she dropped out of the story, then *really* annoyed when she showed back up at the end, just to get killed off.My favorite part of the novel was Arthur's stint as the Sandwich Maker. That was a pretty brilliant little spot, but it winds up as trash once Random shows up. The scenes between her and Arthur were just painfully bad. Trillian, for what little she is there for, seems to be a completely different person than her previous depictions...but still an unlikable one. Previously, her major flaw was a lack of character - she was overly clingy, and just went along with everything Zaphod (and later Thor (and later Arthur)) did. Now she's a single mother, distant with her child and entirely focused on her career, so much so that she hunts down Arthur so that she has someone to dump the kid off on. The Elvis part threatened to be funny, but Adams decided to run that joke into the ground before he let Arthur & Ford leave the bar.I dislike the entire concept of the Guide Mk.II, and it doesn't make much sense in the story. There's not even a real attempt to make it make sense - Adams just drops this new thing in there with a few lines of technobabble, has it do lots of serious stuff, and hopes you won't notice that he didn't actually explain anything about it. It's basically a ready-made deus ex machina. The ending was atrocious for several reasons. I actually appreciated the reveal that the bar "Stravro Mueller's Beta" was actually the place where Arthur kills Agrajag, rather than a planet, as Arthur assumed. That was about all I liked. The idea of destroying the Earth across all possible existences, thus absolutely ensuring that all the main characters die in every possible eventuality, is kind of a dick move unless it was properly set up...which this wasn't. The Vogons are barely featured in the book at all, only to show up at the end and kill everyone. The implication is that they (somehow) bought out the Hitchhiker's Guide and (somehow) had the Guide Mk.II created in order to (somehow) ensure the destruction of all the Earths. None of that is really explained. This is all implied in the ending, but there's no real set up before that. It's sloppy writing making for a sloppy story.I wouldn't have a problem with everyone dying if there was a coherent plot that brought them down, but to have it just slapped on at the end there feels like a slap in the face. It is not a good way to end a series. I'm thankful that they finally got someone to write the sixth book that Adams had planned on, but I have some serious reservations about whether or not Eoin Colfer could possibly resurrect the story from this bad of an ending. I'm not sure if Adams could've done it. UPDATE: I've since read And Another Thing... and I was pleasantly surprised. It's pretty good. Not great, but most of its flaws stem from the fact that Colfer was stuck with the continuity that Mostly Harmless established. It provides a better ending to the series than Mostly Harmless, but not as good as So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish did.In all, I just wish this book had never been written. I would appreciate the Hitchhiker's Guide series *much* more if it ended with So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. That's where it ends in my head :D(hide spoiler)]/endreview["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


For some reason this fifth volume is not included in most collection of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I've only realised this recently. As with most of Adams' book, I finished the book with the feeling that I only sort of know what was going on and wasn't really sure what the point of it was but I had so much fun along the way that I didn't really care. This edition sees a new guide being created which works across all the dimensions. Queue chaos. Arthur Dent spends a great deal of time being a sandwich maker and loves it but my favourite part of the book was a space ship which got confused and lost of all it's inhabitants minds. An alien race who have no idea what there purpose was so guess is very funny. The ending of this one is really odd, it just sort of ends. It almost feels like it could have continued for a little longer and Adams had planned to write a sixth book but died before he had chance. It's a shame as there just feels like there is more to tell. All in all though, a brilliant addition to the trilogy.


(mild spoilers ahead)It's terribly amusing that the majority of reviewers have tossed this fifth part to the trilogy aside, banished it from their mental schemata of the series so as to acknowledge only that which ends well. I think it says a lot about the readership that they took in the entirety of the first four books without picking up on the melancholy and nihilistic subtext to Adams' writing. I mean, the first book ends with the discovery that the meaning of life is 42.... how much clearer does it need to be in order convey the ultimately meaningless adventure that Adams saw life in this universe to be? More importantly, at what point did that fact ever stop him from telling a spectacular story?It is the journey, more than the end, that defines us and the worlds we live in. I think Arthur's encounter with the man on the pole in Hawalius can be taken as a pre-emptive response to those who would invariably decry the novel to be "too bleak": humans seek to be protected from knowing the things we don't want to know about, and it leads us to miss a great deal of understanding, experience, and acceptance, sometimes with dire psychological consequences. A reader may not want to know how the story of Arthur and his companions ultimately ends, or how any story that goes on long enough must end, but it's a blind and willful ignorance that serves no purpose but to save us seeing reality, in all its complicated and multidimensional depth of cause and effect and pure probability.Personally, I found this book to be a brilliant and thought-provoking conclusion to a sharp, touching, and gloriously honest series. The ending of the novel, with Arthur at peace and Ford laughing wildly, is the most honest part yet. I pity any reader who doesn't get that.

Brandon Collinsworth

Well I would be remiss if I did not mention the ending before anything else. First of all this isn't technically the ending of the series, Douglas Adams just died before he wrote anymore Hitchhiker books, that being said this makes this the series ending for all intents and purposes. So with that in mind this is the worst ending of a series that could have ever possibly been conceived. In truth this shouldn't have been the ending of a book. If you are the kind of person that is all about the ending. Then this book will infuriate you. But the book is better than So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. Adams deals with the problems of that book from the outset, and they are all gone maybe not so cleanly. There are two things wrong here, first anytime you add children to a book, movie, or tv show things are going bad. And the kid is not going to correct it. Usually what happens is what happens here the kid is an annoying distraction that drives off the few hardcore fans that have stuck around. Luckily the kid doesn't stick around for the whole story, but Random, the kid's name, is just as annoying as Fenchurch, Arthur's love interest from So Long. Second, this goes to the heart of the serious. I think the problem is Douglas Adams lost his vision for clever and witty social commentary. It was just not in the last two books of the series. The stories were okay, but lacked that cutting wit that makes you laugh at the world. I will always have fond memories of this series, but they would have been fonder if I had stopped after Life, The Universe, and Everything. And that is what I am recommending to everyone.

MJ Nicholls

I read an excerpt of this in a shop last week and audibly chuckled on every half-glanced page. I felt compelled to write a few words in its defense. This beautifully melancholy book is oft-panned, and pointlessly, as Adams is at the peak of his sardonic savagery and ingenious brain wizardry in this bleak end to the trilogy of five. I love his riffing on New York and the dreamy pathos of the whole book. I must read it again.

Evan Leach

The fifth and final installment in the Hitchhiker “trilogy” is generally regarded as the weakest in the series (it’s the lowest rated on this site, for example). The story is focused on Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. Poor Arthur, who finally found happiness at the end of book four, has the love of his life whisked away from him senselessly and is back to wandering the galaxy alone. He finally settles down to a life that many would find mind-numbingly dull but that suits Arthur just fine. Just as he begins to grow accustomed to his new role in the universe, Trillian and then Ford show up to pull Arthur back into their chaotic adventures. Ford has discovered a plot that puts not just the Guide, but the universe itself at risk and, once again, a reluctant Arthur is pulled along for the ride. The book has two problems. The first is that it simply isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the first three Hitchhiker books. Series staples like Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android are nowhere to be found, and Trillian plays a relatively minor (if complicated) role. I think that part of what makes the first two books so hysterical is the interplay between all of these larger than life characters (including Ford) and the bewildered Arthur. Like a sitcom with a great cast, it’s at it’s best when all the key players are together. The comedy slips a bit in book three when the characters begin to drift apart, and by the fourth entry some of the regulars are beginning to disappear entirely. But in book four, Adams shifts the story from intergalactic mayhem to a (relatively) conventional love story. Unexpectedly sweet, the fourth book is able to alleviate the pain of losing the Zaphods of the galaxy by telling a different kind of tale.But very little is sweet about this book, which brings us to problem number two. Mostly Harmless is kind of a downer. Adams was apparently going through some personal problems when he wrote this, and described it as “a rather bleak book.” He expressed interest in writing a sixth novel to finish the series on a more upbeat note, but died before he had the opportunity. We are left with a somewhat sad ending to a great series, particularly (view spoiler)[ the grim, fatalistic conclusion (hide spoiler)]. While I begrudgingly accept that comedy is subjective and not everybody’s funnybone is tickled the same way, it’s hard for me to imagine somebody not liking the first two books in this series (even though I know these readers exist). But this one…let’s just say I can see how a reader would find Mostly Harmless to be mostly bleh.That said, it’s still Douglas Adams and I still liked the book. There are some really funny bits interspersed through all the melancholy: Colin the Android, Ford’s heroic crusade against the Guide’s expense accountants, and virtually every exchange between Ford and Arthur. It’s not the same caliber as the first two books in the series, but if you enjoyed the third and fourth books you’ll probably like this one. Readers who like happy endings may want to call it a day after book four, however. 3 stars. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


This is (as other's have suggested) a darker book than previous 'Hitchiker' books but in fairness only really in the dying chapters...there is still a lot of humour within and much to be enjoyed with regard the (mis) adventures of Arthur and Ford.In reality this is also the last of the Adams books and it does feel like the end of the saga too..everything gets wrapped up ultimately and there is continuity within this book..the Eoin Colfer sixth book is one which I now approach with trepidation and I feel at this point is one I should treat as maybe a side dish using the same characters much as the non Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes canon really..nothing to be feared but ultimately unlikely to be the same.Anyhow this book seems to represent the end of the line in the original books and does close things well..after the lighter romantic tone of the last book this returns to pessimism and misfortune and the comedy arising from that.

Henry Avila

The Milky Way Galaxy, is in a state of confusion, the dozen Universes ( you didn't know, there are more than one?), have exploded into each other. Nothing is what it was, historians have quit, what's the point, everything keeps on changing, since history is fluid. Tricia McMillan (Trillian in another existence, is not happy, the television anchor is back in England, after an unsuccessful job interview in New York City, at ten times more money too! Dead tired from the overnight flight, she can barley walk to her house, but her odd gardener, Eric Bartlett, points out strange marks on Tricia's lawn, space aliens undoubtedly, and being polite, pretends to care and listen . This interesting conversation must end soon, or she'll keel over, at last, the bed. Next day, Tricia can figure out what to do with the rest of her life, then the aliens land, in the back yard...Three thin, green figures, come down from their small craft, Grebulons, on a reconnaissance mission, would she like to visit them, on Rupert (Persephone)? The elusive Planet X, in the solar system, that astronomers have sought for many years. The tenth planet, in this world, mighty little Pluto, has been restored to its proper place, in the cosmos ! Before departing the unexpected guests, deny kidnapping Elvis, the like him ...The greatest story of all time, slowly falls apart like everything else, these creatures, can't remember who they are, what to do , where they came from, not even their own names, their ship has computer problems. On this frozen planet, Rupert (the distant Sun, is just another remote, cold, weak light, in the sky), with structures, in a cave, that look like a set from a cheap science -fiction film. The Grebulons ( a name unknown, to these space travelers), like watching television persistently, from Earth, copying all. Tricia's camera, shall produce fuzzy pictures, back home, she will be laughed at, if the video is seen by anyone...Ford Prefect, also has no luck, the Guide is under a different management, the new editor wants Mr.Prefect to write a restaurant column, how degrading. He quickly jumps out a window of the Guide's building, on one of the top floors, having noticed that the bosses, are evil Vogons. He'll think of something going down to save his hide, Ford sincerely hopes. Passing the 17th level, his life too, goes by, in his mind. A happy robot this time, stops the descending man from a bad ending ....Meanwhile Mr. Arthur Dent's, spaceliner, crashes on a primitive planet, Lamuella, but he's still alive. The only survivor, takes up a new profession, Sandwich Maker. Adored by the natives, he is a gift from the gods, what skill with his hands , nobody here would think of putting meat, from Perfectly Normal Beasts, don't ask, and whatever else, between two pieces of bread...Arthur is finally content, a job that he is good at ... But this universe cannot let people be that, Trillian/Tricia arrives, and hands him his unknown daughter Random, and hastily leaves, a product of his, Arthur's, need for monetary funds, depositing much, in institutions, around the galaxy, that paid well, for his seed. Random hates Mr.Dent, of course, the same emotion prevails towards her mother, and is not that crazy either, with all the other universes. Mr. Arthur Dent, will now experience what being a father entails, may God have mercy on your soul...


If you've gotten to book 5 of the trilogy, presumably you are a fan and really dig the quirky universe that Douglas Adams has created for you. If that's so, I strongly suggest that you stop at book 4, because Mostly Harmless presents a haphazard and dismal end to all our beloved characters and to anything fun and inspiring about that universe. It will probably depress you. Personally I was just stunned at the ending, like suddenly getting smacked with a dead fish, and the scattering of enjoyable scenes and turns of phrase earlier in the book absolutely did not make up for the distressing conclusion. I have other gripes about the story's quality of craftsmanship in comparison to the earlier books in the series (which, along with everybody else, I think are great) but those nits are inconsequential beside the big dull thud of the plot wrapup.


I feel like the bad guy after a break-up. It's not that this book was terrible, but I gave up after reading 2/3 of it. I started my relationship with the book without a lot of trust - the reviews I've read and heard have been overwhelmingly negative, and I really disliked the previous book in the series. But I figured that maybe my friends were all wrong, and no one could appreciate the book but me, and I just needed to give it some time. And then it let me down. It's not that it did anything all that wrong - the characters were more frustrating than ever, I think there were alternate reality things happening that were on a slow burn, there were a few ill-advised action sequences, and Adams kept forgetting to make it funny, but nothing was offensively awful on its own. I just lost hope. The first two books were so wonderful, and I devoured them with giddy joy, then I had to put a little more effort into liking the third book, and it paid off, then the fourth book let me down, and finally this last book kept failing to meet even my low expectations. Maybe the last third of it is genius, and Random becomes a character I can like even a little, but I didn't see any signs of that in the pages I read, and I'm going home as a quitter. Sorry, Mostly Harmless, it's not you, it's me. Except it's you too.

John Yelverton

I've tried to like these books, but they are so silly and pompous that I just can't.


The Hitchhiker's Guide Trilogy is like looking through a magnifying glass, then a microscope, and at the end of it, an electron microscope. The scope transforms, yet a linear narrative of sorts is present. I highly doubt Adams had the ending of this "trilogy" mapped out when he started out with the first book. The ending is probably fitting, but if you're at all human, you won't like it.


After reading the book I kind of wish I had left the series at So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish instead. So Long... was deliciously funny and filled with upbeat craziness, while Mostly Harmless was pervaded by an underlying sense of unease. To be honest, the ending felt a bit like Adams just gave up, shouted "I HATE THIS TRILOGY", and wrote a page before mailing it to his editor and warning him never, ever to mention Arthur Dent or Ford Prefect again. Of course, to be fair, Adams was going through a down period in his life (as so many others have already mentioned). While not a particularly satisfying read, this book does provide some sort of closure to the series, so it's best for those who need to know the ending to everything.

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