Literature / The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Milliways.jpg

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the second book in the increasingly inaccurately-named The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. It constitutes the second half of author Douglas Adams' original radio story; due taking a legendarily long time to finish his manuscripts, he couldn't fit the whole thing into one book and his publishers told him to just give them what he had and that they'd publish the rest separately later. Those familiar with the radio series knew what to expect here before Life, the Universe and Everything took them to wholly new pastures.

Following directly after the events of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe finds our motley crew (hapless Englishman Arthur Dent, his alien friend Ford Prefect, human female Trillian, Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Marvin the paranoid android) under attack from the Vogons, this franchise's brand of bureaucratic-minded green-skinned space invaders, after the destruction of the Earth. They manage to escape with some supernatural help, and Zaphod gets caught up in the conspiracy that compelled him to become President and steal the starship Heart of Gold in the first place (which he erased his own memory about for security reasons, and has no desire to get back). After finally finding out from fellow conspirator Zarniwoop that their objective is to meet the person who actually rules the universe, he decides not to go along with it and escapes.

Instead, our heroes go out to lunch at "the nearest place to eat" — which turns out to be the luxurious Milliways, the title restaurant, where diners can enjoy witnessing the destruction of all creation while being treated by food that literally begs to be eaten and entertained by the stylings of stand-up comedian Max Quordlepleen. Following an incident involving a dead rock star's high-class stunt spaceship and a rather large sun, Arthur and Ford end up teleported onto a massive space ark full of telephone sanitation engineers (among other middlebrow professions) two million years into the past... while Zaphod and Trillian end up right back where they started.

In the end, Zarniwoop drags Zaphod and Trillian along with him to meet the man who rules the universe... and gets an unpleasant shock. Arthur and Ford find themselves stranded on a prehistoric Earth, where the true and shocking origins of the human species — and the final outcome of the program to find the Ultimate Question — are gradually revealed to them.

Preceded by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Succeeded by Life, the Universe and Everything.


The Restaurant at the End of the Universe provides examples of the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream: Zaphod finds a cruise ship filled with passengers all being kept alive and prisoner by stasis fields. Immediately on waking up, they all scream and claw and try escaping, to no luck.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: On asking what Marvin was doing in a car park, Trillian is informed he was parking cars. What else does one do in a car park?
  • Awesome McCool Name: Hotblack Desiato, which amazingly enough is taken from real life.
  • Bad Boss: Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz is reintroduced having killed off half of his crew in a training exercise.
  • Baths Are Fun: The captain of the B Ark spends most if not all of the voyage in a bathtub in the center of the ship's bridge and endorses the idea that "You're never alone with a rubber duck."
  • "Begone" Bribe: There's a violinist in Milliways who Zaphod and Ford get rid of like this. He leaves and goes over to bother Arthur and Trillian.
  • Bio Data: Earth is the computer that Deep Thought created to discover the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Because he was a part of Earth's organic matrix, the Question (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) is stored in Arthur Dent's brain wave patterns. Near the end of the book he and Ford Prefect try to discover the Question by introducing a random element that can be shaped by that pattern - drawing Scrabble tiles from a bag without looking.
  • Boggles the Mind: Invoked by Arthur, when he pulls out Scrabble tiles while blindfolded in an attempt to reveal the Ultimate Question from his subconscious, and reveals "WHATDOYOUGETIFYOUMULTIPLYSIXBYNINE".
    • This entire incident was inspired by a chimp spelling out "FOURTY TWO".
  • Brick Joke: On first meeting Zarniwoop, Zaphod wants to hit him for his annoying smile. Later on, Zarniwoop does it again, and this time Zaphod does punch him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: On arriving at the Guide's headquarters, mention is made that the guide staff have virtual universes installed in their office so they don't have to do any actual hitchhiking. Zaphod winds up in one of these office-based virtual universes.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The sentient food at the title restaurant was specifically bred to want to be eaten.
  • Cool Starship: The Milliways' parking lot is packed with them. Naturally, our heroes pick the one that's got a date with a solar flare...
  • Contrived Coincidence: The planet Disaster Area plays on experiences a truly bizarre mixture involving a solar flare and an earthquake that turns the mighty dessert upside down, causing the planet to turn into a virtual eden, while at the same time destroying the telepathic field the locals had been punished with. Because the Heart of Gold had shown up in an equally improbable move to save Zaphod and Trillian from the sun dive.
  • Crapsack World: Frogstar World B is a bleak, miserable place that long ago passed the Shoe Event Horizon. Now the only things left are the birdlike natives, and the crashed buildings used to carry the victims of the Total Perspective Vortex.
  • Epic Fail: Arthur's attempt to get the drink replicator to make a decent cup of tea causes the ship to shut itself down just to figure it out, nearly getting the crew killed.
  • Evil Is Petty: It turns out the Vogons were ordered to destroy Earth by a consortium of psychiatrists, because they didn't want their business to be threatened by the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The man who built the Total Perspective Vortex was a Henpecked Husband whose wife constantly told him to "get a sense of proportion". He built the machine to show her that the one thing a healthy mind cannot have is a sense of proportion.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth. Part of the reason he reluctantly saves Zaphod and everyone else is because he doesn't want them "slouching around" the afterlife. He also takes the time to criticise Zaphod thoroughly while doing so.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Before a person enters the Total Perspective Vortex, they hear the hideous sound of the last person who went in reacting.
  • Hoist By Their Own Petard: All the useful citizens of Golgafrincham relieve their planet of excess population by tricking all their planet's middle-managers, telephone sanitizers, advertising executives and so forth into believing that a nasty (if ill-defined) apocalypse is threatening their world, packing them all onto an enormous ark, and shooting them off to crash-land on some Insignificant Little Blue Planet. After which they get on with rich, fulfilling lives until they are all killed by a nasty disease contracted from a dirty telephone.
  • Humanity Came From Space: It turns out the useless Golgafrinchams are humanity's ancestors. Somehow they managed to outcompete the illiterate hominids native to Earth.
  • Hurl It into the Sun: The fate our motley crew is threatened with after space-jacking Desiato's ship.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: A variant; "Joo Janta Peril sensitive sunglasses" instantly turn completely opaque if anything dangerous or threatening appears to spare you the sight of it.
  • Inept Mage: Zarquon, although he's a prophet rather than a mage. He finally makes his second coming minutes before the end of the universe itself, and spends so much time apologising for his lateness and generally bumbling that he only gets as far as "Have I just got a...?" before the universe ends and cuts him off.
  • In My Language That Sounds Like: It turns out that every society in the galaxy has developed some kind of beverage whose name sounds like "gin & tonics". The Golgafrinchans have their beloved jynnan tonnyx, then elsewhere there's jinond-o-nicks, which is "ordinary water at slightly above room temperature" and tzjin-anthony-ks, which "kills cows at a hundred paces."
  • Insane Troll Logic: In the virtual universe, Zaphod finds a airship. The ship's automated flight attendants have been refusing to allow their passengers to leave / die because they're waiting for replace lemon-soaked paper napkins. When Zaphod points out civilisation has in fact been and gone, the ship's automated captain curtly responds that civilisation might one day arise, and until that happens, it's going to damn well wait for those napkins.
  • It's All About Me: The Total Perspective Vortex confirms Zaphod's narcissism... because he's inside a virtual universe that does, in fact, center around him.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Trope Namer. A genetically-engineered bovine alien at the title restaurant offers itself as food for Milliways's patrons.
  • Literal-Minded: Eddie, the ship's computer for the Heart of Gold. Zaphod asks for it to send them to the nearest place to eat — so it sends them to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which is on the same planet (Frogstar World B) but 576,000,000,000 years into the future.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future: In the last part of the novel, the scenes with Arthur & Ford are intercut with those with Zaphod & Trillian, despite being two million years apart.
  • Mind Rape: The Total Perspective Vortex shows the person plugged into it the universe, in all its vast incomprehensible size, and themselves in comparison. Since no mind can withstand this, they go mad and die.
  • Mistaken for Afterlife: The crew of Heart of Gold right after their sudden transportation to the restaurant.
  • "Noah's Story" Arc: Parodied. The main characters are teleported to Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B. Which seems like a Ark, but is actually a trick to get its inhabitants off the planet.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Hotblack Desiato. He's spending a year dead for tax reasons, but evidently can respond to outside stimuli at times, and appears to be using telepathy.
  • The Philosopher King: The Ruler of the Universe, who has utterly embraced Solipsism.
    Zarniwoop: But don't you realize that what you decide here affects the fate of trillions of people?
    Man in Shack: I don't know them. I've never met them, and neither I suspect have you. They only exist in words I think I hear.
  • Planning with Props: Played with. Ford's drunken explanation in Milliways.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Subverted. While something as horrific as the Total Perspective Vortex probably should be, it is in fact powered by nothing more than a humble fairy cake.
  • Put Off Their Food: During the dinner at Milliways, Arthur initially orders a steak, changes to a salad when he finds out what the steak comes from, and eventually settles for a glass of water.
  • Second Coming: The Great Prophet Zarquon makes his long-awaited return. Just as he begins to apologize for his tardiness, the Universe ends.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    "What," said Trillian in a small quiet voice, "does 'sundive' mean?"
    "It means," said Marvin, "that the ship is going to dive into the sun. Sun. Dive. It's very simple to understand."
  • Shout-Out: To the Pink Floyd song "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun". It's mentioned that "the loudest group of all times", called Disaster Area, destroyed a spaceship by directing it into a star. Adams was a friend of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.
  • Sleeper Starship: The B Ark, with a small awake crew.
  • The Slow Path: Marvin, who parks cars on Frogstar B for 567,000,000,000 years.
  • Spot of Tea: Most of the trouble in the story starts when Arthur's attempts to get the drink machine on the Heart of Gold to make him a cup of real tea end up confusing the shipboard computer to the point of non-fuctioning.
  • Suddenly Sober: There's a cubicle-like machine outside the restaurant where you can sober someone up by sticking a coin into a slot. It's implied that such machines are pretty common, since Zaphod immediately recognizes it and knows how to use it.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: Arthur Dent, sick of getting bad tea from the Nutri-Matic machine, gives it a lengthy lecture on the nature and history of good tea. The machine hijacks the starship's entire computing power to work on the problem, leaving the ship defenceless against a Vogon attack. Arthur gets his tea in the end, though.
  • Watch the World Die: Also mentioned is its counterpart, the Big Bang Burger Bar, where you can go to watch the universe being born.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: Marvin stops a gigantic robot tank from crossing a bridge by doing nothing by standing there and telling the tank that he wasn't given any weapons to protect himself with. This sad tale throws the tank into a fit of destructive rage, with which it takes out the floor underneath itself.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheRestaurantAtTheEndOfTheUniverse