Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review: So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish

I have a confession to make.  I broke one of my cardinal reading rules: Thou shalt not knowingly read a series out of order. I am so sorry. Please, I beg for forgiveness. 

I did have a good reason, though.

At Christmas time I received the book So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish as a gift from a rather special someone.  It is the fourth book in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.  While I have the first book languishing on my TRB pile, I have yet to actually read it.  Books two and three had not even been a blip on my radar.  Yet there I was in early January with book four in hand.  Do I set it aside while I read the previous installations of the series, or do I ignore my reading OCD and dive right into Arthur Dent's travels?  I chose to ignore the voice screaming in my head that I was a horrible reader.  How could I wait when the special someone who bestowed the gift of the book handed it over with the comment "You remind me of Fenchurch."  I had to find out what he meant.

::le sigh::

Back on Earth with nothing more to show for his strange, long trip through time and space than a ratty towel and a plastic shopping bag, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past 8 years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination.  But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription, the mysterious disappearance of the Earth's dolphins, and the discovery of his battered copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all conspire to give Arthur the sneaking suspicion that something otherworldly is indeed going on.

God only knows what it all means.  Fortunately, He left behind a Final Message of explanation.  But since it is lightyears away from Earth, on a star surrounded by souvenir booths, finding out what it is will mean hitching a ride to the far reaches of space aboard a UFO with a giant robot. But what else is new?
Having not read the previous books (although I did see the movie), I knew I had missed a metric ton of backstory.  I didn't really miss it. I mean, yes, there was a moment here or there where I would have benefitted from reading of Arthur's previous adventures.  I'm sure the appearance of certain characters would have felt more important, but I still greatly enjoyed this book. 

Arthur is sweet and slightly clueless.  He is a man of much experience, yet oddly innocent.  After landing back on Earth, he hitches a ride into the town, apprehensive over what he might see.  Had he been gone long? Was this the same Earth he had seen explode? Would anyone remember him?  What follows is Arthur's return to "normal" life, his discovery that not all is quite the same, and how it all changes with Fenchurch in the picture. 

Who is Fenchurch?  She is the creative, sweet, quirky woman that Arthur falls hopelessly in love with.  Something about her is just a wee bit off.  She knows it.  Arthur loves her for it.  You see, she knows the truth.  Or she did, until Earth was blown up and then somehow reassembled.  Just before the explosion 8 years earlier (that Arthur remembers, but Fenchurch does not), she had an epiphany.  She realized "how the world could be made a good and happy place."  Unfortunately, she can't remember the details now.  Not only is this haunting her, but there is the fact that her feet never seem to touch the ground.  Quite literally. Together, she and Arthur fly among the clouds over England, discover what happened to the dolphins, fall in love, and gaze upon God's final message. She is the traveling companion that Arthur needs in life.

After reading this book I have added all previous installments in the series to my TBR list. Adam's writing is crisp and quirky, by turns sweet and funny.  I highly recommend So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish.   It entertained me and made me smile.  I mean how could I not smile?  "You remind me of Fenchurch. I don't think your feet touch the ground either."


Kati said...


Soooo sweet, Shannon! I would have read out of order too!

Nicola O. said...

Awwww. I think my favorite is HHG, but the second one, The Restaurant At The End of the Universe, has some of my favorite concepts.

Hotblack Desiato is a particular favorite of mine-- I'll leave you to discover him. ;)

Shannon said...

I know, right??!!!?!

Nicola- The person who gave me the book says that Restaurant at the End of the Universe is his favorite. He is also the person who convinced me to read Lamb. I can't fault his taste in books. :)

Katie Reus said...

I haven't read anything by him, but they sound great! Don't feel bad though, I read books out of order all the time (still haven't finished all the Dark Hunter books), lol.

Sarai said...

Awww that was sweet. OCD be damned I'm with Kati I would've read it out of order too!