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Literature / Life, the Universe and Everything

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Describe Life, the Universe and Everything here.


Life, the Universe and Everything (published in 1982) is the third installment of the increasingly inaccurately named The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (although, of course, when it was first published the series was still a perfectly accurately named trilogy). Since franchise creator Douglas Adams had told his original story in its entirety by the end of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, this one was a re-imagining of a Doctor Who screenplay called Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, which Adams wrote but never produced. He simply recast his original idea with characters from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy instead of Doctor Who characters, and instant history was made. (An adaptation of the Who version by James Goss was published in 2018).

Being a Dolled-Up Installment, this book stands out from the rest of the series in two ways. The first is that it's largely self-contained, since it's got a distinct beginning, middle, and ending instead of being one big general mish-mash that hinted at larger things that may or may not come later, like most of the other books. The second is that it's more of a traditional action-adventure sci-fi space opera and less of a broad, brainy comedy (though it's still plenty brainy, and plenty funny). The plot has Slartibartfast, the elderly architect first spotted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, rescuing Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from prehistoric Earth so they can help him stop the Krikkitmen, a very dangerous and very polite race of alien invaders with a grandiose scheme to kill everything everywhere. The rest of the series' iconic Five-Man Band, Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, and Marvin the robot, eventually get involved as well.

This novel is the only one in the Hitchhiker's Guide series to be censored in the U.S. version. The word "fuck" has been removed, several passages have been added, and American English has often replaced British English. An extensive list of changes made can be found here.

Preceded by The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Succeeded by So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

Life, the Universe and Everything provides examples of the following Tropes:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: The Krikkiters were so isolated and convinced that they were alone in the universe that, the instant they discover that there is more of the universe beyond Krikkit, they decide "It'll have to go". Of course, the circumstances were arranged by Hactar so they'd reach that conclusion. By the time of the book most of them have long since gotten over it and quite look forward to meeting aliens, but their military is on autopilot; the ones Arthur speaks to seem completely oblivious to the fact that they've committed genocide on a galactic scale.
  • Affably Evil: The Krikkiters are intelligent, charming, whimsical people who have a strong sense of family, regularly sing phenomenally beautiful songs, and believe in the obliteration of all other life forms.
  • Apocalypse How: The entire galaxy at first is under risk, until the Krikkitmen raise the stakes by targeting the whole universe.
  • Automatic Door Malfunction: All the doors on The Heart of Gold are controlled by A.I.s who enjoy their work a little too much: every time someone walks through them, they either thank the user or just sigh with pleasure. When Zaphod Beeblebrox realizes a bunch of Krikkit robots has boarded the ship, he very emphatically tells the door that he needs it to open and close silently, so as to not give away his position to the hostile robots. The door does open and close silently for him then immediately afterward, loudly asks Zaphod if that was quiet enough for him.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Agrajag's last incarnation appears as a giant bat-like creature with More Teeth than the Osmond Family.
  • Batman Gambit: An astronomical one is revealed at the climax.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: Wowbagger's insults are... kind of lame. All he has to say to Arthur Dent is that he's "a jerk" and "a real kneebiter". (In the UK edition it's "asshole", which is stronger, but still not very imaginative for someone on a quest to insult everyone). Later on, he calls Arthur Deodat a "no-good dumbo nothing".
    • Possibly justified by Wowbagger not knowing anything _about_ the beings he insults, and so going for completely generic insults instead.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Ford Prefect mentions that he went insane once while stranded on ancient Earth and took up animal cruelty as a hobby. He claims to be responsible for the evolution of the giraffe, though just how is left to the reader's imagination.
  • Book Ends: The book starts and ends with Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged coming to insult Arthur Dent.
  • Bored with Insanity: While trapped on prehistoric Earth, Arthur calmly decides to go mad, and then Ford pops up and cheerfully claims that he went mad for a while and pretended that he was a lemon. It gets weirder from there.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "On the way back they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life, and the obliteration of all other life forms".
  • Brick Joke: In true Adams spirit, an incidental anecdote proves vital to saving the universe. Similarly, the bowl of petunias back in the first book.
    • Judiciary Pag, whose private name is Zipo Bibrok 5X10^8, is very likely to be an ancestor of Zaphod Beeblebrox, by way of the accident with the contraceptive and the time machine mentioned in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
    • Wowbagger insults Arthur on prehistoric Earth, first verifying that Arthur is Arthur by using his full name, "Arthur Philip Dent". His next victim is a small slug belonging to the genus "aRth Urphil Ipdenu". Pages later, Wowbagger shows up on modern-day Earth to insult someone called "Arthur Philip Deodat".
    • When deciding to go mad, Arthur sticks a rabbit bone in his beard. It's a long time before he thinks to remove it.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Judiciary Pag, LIVR (Learned, Impartial and Very Relaxed), is an obvious cad, but because he has the finest legal mind in history he more or less gets away with calling two grillion fatalities "a whole lot of stiffs".
  • But What About the Astronauts?: Hactar believes that making all the stars go nova is effectively destroying the universe. He doesn't account for ships in interstellar space. Matter Replicators exist and people could probably exist indefinitely if they used the stars for energy.
  • Call-Back: When the Infinite Improbability Drive was introduced, it was explained that it allowed people to go about the galaxy "without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace". Bistromathics is introduced saying it allows people to go about the galaxy without all the tedious mucking around with improbability factors.
  • Cerebus Retcon: That funny incident about the bowl of petunias in the first book is a lot less funny when the reason behind it is explained here.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: In the first few chapters alone, Arthur's rabbitskin bag, a Chesterfield sofa, a cricket ball, the Ashes, and a man with a weak heart condition appear. All of them will reappear later, with greater significance.
  • Cool Starship: The ship of the white robots and the Bistromath, Slartibartfast's ship, which runs on Bistromathics.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The odds of a stable single-planet solar system being entirely enfolded by a nebula of sufficient size and opacity to block out all sight of the rest of the universe are pretty long. Unless, of course, the nebula was put there for exactly that reason.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Agrajag, a being who is repeatedly reincarnated by whatever forces are behind such things, only to have every single lifetime - oyster, bowl of petunias, flea, innocent bystander - wiped out by Arthur Dent. Agrajag is driven mad by his own repeated murders.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: Arthur Dent finds himself in a completely dark cave. He turns around several times, convinced that something may be behind him, and the third or so time he sees the compound eyes of a giant fly staring back at him.
  • Doctor Whomage: The whole story began its life as a Doctor Who screenplay (Doctor Who and the Krikketmen), so some of the characters are reimagined as expies of Doctor Who characters. For example, Slartibartfast is an expy of the Doctor, Arthur Dent and Trillian are both expies of the Doctor's companion(s).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Cathedral of Chalesm being demolished to make way for industry, except that in this case the effect of using time travel to build the new buildings meant it never existed at all.
    Picture postcards of the Cathedral suddenly became incredibly valuable.
    ... and blank.
  • Dolled-Up Instalment: This book was rewritten from a rejected Doctor Who episode called "Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen".
  • The Dreaded: The Krikkitmen are known and feared throughout the rest of the galaxy for waging the bloodiest war in history. Their alarmingly efficient Krikkit robots are depicted as even more fearsome than they are.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe, the fact that humanity created a sport called "cricket", which is coincidentally based on the culture and method of warfare of the genocidal madmen who nearly killed everyone in the bloodiest war in galactic history before they were stopped, is considered appallingly tasteless by aliens who know about it.
  • Enmity with an Object: The Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax, in an attempt to channel their bloodthirstiness away from mass-murder, were ordered to spend forty-five minutes a day beating up a bag of potatoes. This worked for about a week, until they decided to just shoot the potatoes, and went right back to wholescale slaughter.
  • Family Theme Naming: Anyone who thinks that Judiciary Pag (LIVR) faintly resembles Zaphod Beeblebrox, might bear in mind the fact that Judiciary Pag's real name is Zipo Bibrok 5 * 108. Although Judiciary Pag lives in the past, the Beeblebroxes live backwards in time, so the numerical suffix to his name might mean that he's Zaphod's great-(499,999,997 'great's)-grandson.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Arthur finds it hard to cope with living on prehistoric Earth.
  • General Failure / Too Dumb to Live: The Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax (apparently all of them). When Hactar gives them an Ultimate Weapon that's supposed to make every star in the universe go supernova, they try to use it to blow up a munitions dump. They survive only because Hactar purposely sabotaged its own device. Suffering immediate Aesop Amnesia, the Armorfiends proceed to destroy themselves anyway.
  • Gone Horribly Right: How the Ultimate Weapon came about.
    [The Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax] ordered Hactar to design for them an Ultimate Weapon.
    "What do you mean," asked Hactar, "by Ultimate?"
    To which the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax said, "Read a bloody dictionary," and plunged back into the fray.
    So Hactar designed an Ultimate Weapon.
    It was a very, very small bomb which was simply a junction box in hyperspace that would, when activated, connect the heart of every major sun with the heart of every other major sun simultaneously and thus turn the entire Universe in to one gigantic hyperspatial supernova.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All / MacGuffin: The three pillars and two bails of the Wikkit Gate, which the Krikkit robots (and Slartibartfast) are searching for.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper / Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says that the best way to pick a fight with a Silastic Armorfiend of Striterax was just to be born. They didn't like it, they got resentful. And when an Armorfiend got resentful, someone got hurt.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The eventual fate of the Armorfiends is that they blew themselves up, much to the relief of their enemies. And the potatoes.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Marvin, having survived plunging into the heart of a sun, has been stuck in a swamp for around a million years, and has spent the time walking in a circle. He's thinking of spending another million doing it backwards when the Krikket robots show up.
  • Innocent Swearing: American edition only.note  On every planet except Earth, the word "Belgium" is the vilest profanity imaginable (and thus can only be used in serious screenplays). Naturally, Arthur is not aware of this, and so he repeats the word in conversation.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: The series' phlebotinum runs entirely on Rule of Funny. In this book, there's the Somebody Else's Problem field, a cloaking device that weaponizes Weirdness Censor by making people ignore it. It's installed on a spaceship with a drive that warps space using "Bistromathics", an obscure mathematical discipline discovered by a man who was trying to figure out why nobody could ever agree on how to split the bill for a restaurant meal.
  • Killed Offscreen: Most of the Golgafrinchans Arthur and Ford arrived on prehistoric Earth with are revealed to have died during a harsh winter (which is hardly surprising, considering none of them actually possessed anything in the way of the practical skills needed to build a colony on a new planet). The few survivors set out on a raft together; Arthur believes they must have survived (presumably to become the ancestors of humanity, as Ford predicted they would in the previous book), but it's never confirmed one way or the other.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: Effrafax of Wug got rid of the mountain he was supposed to render invisible with the aid of "his friends, and his friends' friends, and his friends' friends' friends, and his friend's friends' friends' friends, and some rather less good friends of theirs who happened to own a major stellar trucking company".
  • Lovable Coward: Ford argues with Slartibartfast more than once over whether they should try to stop the white robots or go to a party, drink a lot and dance with girls. Ford, naturally, favours the latter option.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Hactar
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Agragag, though it's noted the teeth are the wrong size and shape for his body, so he's constantly hurting himself, which just makes him even tetchier.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Agrajag's reaction to being killed over and over again is not that he's angry as such, just "extremely upset and annoyed"; the book then raises his annoyance to epic levels, until it becomes an annoyance that "spans the universe of time and space in its infinite umbrage".
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When Zaphod tries threatening the Krikket robots, he tells them to imagine he has a gun in his hand, only to be informed he does have a gun in his hand, much as Zaphod introduced himself in the second radio series.
    • At the end, Arthur learns to talk to birds, only to find they're idiots who only talk about velocity and power-to-weight ratios. Arthur had to deal with the idiot bird-people of Brontitall in the radio series, one of whom chided Arthur about such things after inadvertently saving him.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax. The Guide mentions this is just the name of their species, the name of their army, which we don't hear, is much worse.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The last third of the story largely resolves around the heroes trying to prevent the Krikkitmen from going through with their plans for universal destruction, and at times they come perilously close to failing.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: This is implied to be possible, but otherwise it is never elaborated upon. Arthur, upon arriving back on present day Earth, is tempted to phone himself up at home and warn himself about the Vogon constructor fleet coming tomorrow. Ford stops him doing so, because Ford knows from experience it won't do any good.
  • Newspaper Dating: How Arthur finds out what day it is when he appears in Lord's Cricket Ground.
  • Noodle Incident: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged...
    ...had his immortality thrust upon him by an unfortunate accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch and a pair of rubber bands.
  • Now What?: Zaphod's problem when he appears in the book. Having previously become Galactic President, then stolen the Heart of Gold and become an intergalactic fugitive to find the man who rules the universe, then finding said man is not all he was cracked up to be, he's suffering from a lack of purpose.
  • Obliviously Evil: Possibly the Krikkitmen, who, having lived on the planet Krikkit in isolation of the rest of the galaxy for several eons, naturally reacted badly to news that the rest of the universe exists. Later, this is subverted, but in an unexpected way.
  • Oh, Crap!: Arthur, when he belatedly realizes that he's been manipulated into setting off Hectar's universe-destroying bomb.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Hactar, thanks to twenty billion years of being a broken cloud of particles, but also because he was designed and commanded by the Armorfiends to kill everything everywhere, and feels he probably should do that.
  • The Omniscient: Prak, who was accidentally injected with too large a dose of Truth Serum before a trial. Consequently, when he was instructed to tell "the whole truth and nothing but the truth," he did exactly that, sending people fleeing from the room upon being confronted with the truth about every last thing in the universe. Apparently it didn't take as long as expected but "some of the good bits were about frogs."
  • Or My Name Isn't...:
    "If it was a coincidence," roared the voice, "then my name is not Agrajag!"
    "And presumably," said Arthur, "you would claim that was your name."
    "Yes!" hissed Agrajag, as if completing a rather deft syllogism.
    "Well, I'm afraid it was still a coincidence," said Arthur.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: As with most of Adams' writing, there are plenty of crazy made-up words, but chapter 9 takes the biscuit. It is a conversation between Marvin and a sentient mattress on Squornshellous Zeta, and throws in neologisms by the dozen, with asides pointing out that these words usually only apply to things live swamp-dwelling mattresses do, and thus are rarely used, and that the dictionary where all the obscure words in the galaxy are compiled now requires a whole fleet of trucks to carry even the micro-stored edition.
  • Perception Filter: The "Somebody Else's Problem" Field will hide anything sufficiently unexpected, inexplicable or disturbing.
  • Planet of Steves: All the sapient mattresses living on the planet Squornshellous Zeta are named Zem. This is apparently why they don't seem to mind their fellows being killed, dried out and slept on; none of them know which is which.
  • Puff of Logic: When flying, it is vitally important not to say things like "I can't possibly be flying", or else you will turn out to be correct.
  • Resurrection/Death Loop: Agrajag is repeatedly reincarnated all over time and space, but gets killed by Arthur Dent each time. He isn't happy about it.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged asks his ship computer if there's any movie he hasn't already seen "over thirty-thousand times".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Early in the story, Trillian gets fed up with Zaphod and beams herself randomly off the Heart of Gold.
  • Sequel Escalation: Given that this was meant to be a Doctor Who episode, the former Pinball Protagonists are now on a quest to save the universe.
  • Serious Business: Cricket (the sport) to Arthur.
  • Shout-Out: The wildest party in the universe - which owing to the intervention of some second-generation astro-engineers, now flies drunkenly over the surface of a planet which it periodically raids for more booze and munchies - mirrors Jonathan Swift's creation of the floating city Laputa, which also produces nothing of its own and acts as a parasite, periodically descending to Earth and taking what it needs by force.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: Ford says that if they go up against the Krikkitmen they wouldn't stand "a whelk's chance in a supernova". He tries to elaborate on why he thinks that, but Arthur keeps interrupting to ask what the whelks have to do with it.
  • Space Clouds: The Krikkit people have never seen stars and are entirely unaware of the night sky specifically because their planet is inside a cloud of Hactar's debris.
  • Spin-Off: There's mention of a ship that had a prototype Infinite Improbability Drive before the Heart Of Gold. Adams revisited its story in the Starship Titanic video game.
  • Stealth Insult: Inverted. Marvin gives a Stealth Compliment to Trillian by calling her "one of the least benightedly unintelligent organic life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting".
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: The people of the planet Krikkit live on a planet surrounded by a totally opaque dust cloud, so for centuries, they knew nothing of the universe beyond their planet and the star they orbited. When a spaceship crash-landed on the planet, they used it to take an exploratory trip, curious of where it came from, and saw the universe for the first time. Their immediate reaction? "It'll have to go". This becomes doubly important later, when Arthur, Ford, Slartibartfast and Trillian head down to the planet itself and learn about the supernova bomb.
  • Sunday Is Boring: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged started his project of insulting everyone in the universe, in alphabetical order, because Sunday afternoons were just too boring.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: Said by Trillian, in between keeping from laughing at the Irony of her saying it.
  • Take That!: The Running Gag about Paul McCartney, noting that the royalties from even a single Macca song would enable him to buy first a medium-sized town, then the whole of Hampshire (one of England's most affluent counties) and finally, should Macca hit on a theme half as lovely as the one hummed by the Krikkiters, escalating to ownership of massive swathes of the South of England. This derives from performing rights issues for the LP version of H2G2, where Trillian faces death and oblivion whilst humming "A Day In The Life". McCartney's copyright lawyers hammered Adams and his production company for serious money, for the use of just two bars of a Beatles' song. Sung by somebody else. Adams worked this experience of being fleeced into this novel.
  • Taking the Fight Outside: Played With when Thor takes offense at Arthur interrupting his conversation with Trillian at the flying party. As the situation escalates, Arthur asks Thor if he wants to step outside. Thor agrees and does so. Arthur does not follow, and resumes talking with Trillian. (Note again that it's a flying party).
  • Temporal Paradox: The Campaign for Real Time largely seems to consist of trying to stop these paradoxes from happening. At the climax, the future of the galaxy hinges on whether or not one of these is possible.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Arthur Dent grows one of these when he is trapped on prehistoric Earth.
  • Toilet Teleportation: The teleportation cubicles in the starship Bistromath are in the bathroom. Given that the rest of the ship is designed to look like a restaurant, this is one of the more normal things about it.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Arthur, being the Unfazed Everyman, takes the next step in his Character Development and stands up to a thunder god (and lives). Trillian goes from being a passive bystander to being an important character, and works out the mystery of what was really going on before the Krikkit Wars began. Adams later commented that when writing the story, she became the universe-saver sort of by default, as all the other main characters are one way or another totally unsuited for that role.
  • Unsound Effect: The materialisation and dematerialisation of a Krikkit warship literally sound like several thousand people simultaneously saying "wop" and "foop", respectively. Both of these are common sound effects reversed.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: This book has two antagonist factions that are rather dark for such a comedic series:
    • The Krikkiters are a culture of Absolute Xenophobes who decided to obliterate all other life in the universe, purely because finding out that there was a world outside their own planet caused them an existential shock. It turns out that they were manipulated onto this path by Hactar, who wanted them to ravage the galaxy purely out of spite at his own destruction.
    • Agrajag is the unknown nemesis of Arthur Dent, who, through a freak chain of coincidences, has had all his previous incarnations unintentionally killed by him. Having incarnated as a gruesome bat creature, which he refers to as his "revenge body," he abducts Arthur to his Cathedral of Hate and tries to kill him.
  • Who's on First?:
    Arthur: Why is there a sofa in that field?
    Ford: I told you! Eddies in the space-time continuum!
    Arthur: And this is his sofa, is it?
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged initially enjoys immortality, but eventually gets bored and resentful of mortals, so he finds an unusual way of coping with his predicament.
    He decided to insult everyone in the entire universe in alphabetical order
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: Zaphod is repeatedly shot and beaten around the heads by the Krikkit robots, but not killed, which is stated as being unusual behaviour for the robots. The reason is that Marvin prevents them from doing so via the motherboard computer.
  • Wild Teen Party: The Flying Party is one so epic that it has been going on non-stop for four generations, and none of the original party-goers or any of their descendants, who have been conceived, born, raised, and bred there, have ever considered leaving.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: The slow-time field the Krikket system is sealed in will allow them to outlive the rest of the universe (save probably the Restaurant, which no-one had known about when the field was made) when it dies a natural death. Five years have passed inside, while ten billion have passed outside.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Slartibartfast, Arthur and Ford fail to prevent the theft of the silver bail.