Life, the Universe and Everything

Life, the Universe and Everything is the third book in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, preceded by The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and followed by So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

The title, as is the case with the titles of all five books in the series, comes from some dialogue in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (in this case, in chapter 25):

'O Deep Thought Computer,' he said, 'the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us...' he paused, '...the Answer!'
'The Answer?' said Deep Thought. ‘The Answer to what?’
'Life!’ urged Fook.
'The Universe!’ said Lunkwill.
'Everything!’ they said in chorus.

Here's what Douglas Adams had to say about the book, with regard to the story's other incarnations: "In the summer of 1982, a third Hitch Hiker book was published simultaneously in Britain and the United States, called Life, the Universe and Everything. This was not based on anything that had already been heard [on the radio or television versions of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy]. In fact it flatly contradicted episodes 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the radio series."

I suppose I should include a SPOILER ALERT at this point.

Once again, picaresque

Life, the Universe and Everything, like its companion volumes, is more or less a picaresque story. Oh sure, there is a bit of a plot involving the premature and cataclysmic end of the universe, but the plot is merely incidental to the kind of wordplay and humour that Douglas Adams' readers delight in, neatly summarised by Ikura as "irony, dry wit and quirky phrasing." Even if the plot was absent, and the book was instead a series of short stories and extended jokes, it would succeed. Once you've read the book, you can pick it up at any time thereafter and flip open to any old page and begin laughing.


See, these are the bits that people remember - they could exist without the plot. Rather than being amusing extensions of the plot, the plot instead appears to be merely a framework within which these apparent asides can be presented.

The plot, for what it’s worth

That said, there is a plot with a twist here, and what I’d like to do here is untwist the backstory to that plot. But first, the plot:

Now, to untwist the backstory

Twenty billion years ago, the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax employed Hactar, a supercomputer, to design "an Ultimate Weapon" for them that would completely vanquish their enemies.

Hactar designed a bomb that, when deployed, would connect the hearts of every major sun and thus precipitate a universal supernova, ending all life in the universe.

The Armorfiends summarily used the bomb to blow up a munitions dump.

When the bomb failed to detonate, the Armorfiends discovered that Hactar had got the guilts about destroying the universe, and had made the bomb impotent. They proceeded to pulverise Hactar.

Hactar, however, was a special type of computer, whose constituent parts contained the DNA for his overall structure; so even though he now resembled a cloud of dust floating in space, he was in fact functional.

Hactar decided to fulfill his original function, and encompassed the star Krikkit and its sole planet. As a dust cloud, Hactar's presence obliterated any view of the galaxy or universe beyond.

After ten billion years, sentient life evolved on Krikkit, blissfully unaware of the concept of 'others'. Slowly nurtured by Hactar, the Krikkiters eventually discovered a universe beyond their sun, and since it conflicted with their concept of life, the universe and everything, they decided to get rid of it - the rest of the universe, that is.

Armed with Krikkit robots, the Krikkiters descended upon the galaxy with a hitherto unknown ferocity, and the ensuing struggle with the galactic defenses lasted for roughly two thousand years.

At the war crimes trial, the Krikkiters were sentenced to have their world enclosed in a Slo-Time envelope, inside which time would proceed at an almost infinitely s-l-o-w pace, relative to outside: ten billion years in the galaxy-at-large would equate to five years on Krikkit. At the universe's end, Krikkit would be released from the envelope, and the Krikkiters would continue their existence as the solitary inhabitants of the universe.

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