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Life, the Universe and Everything

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Life, the Universe and Everything Summary

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Life, the Universe and Everything is a science fiction book published in 1982 by the English author Douglas Adams. It is the third book in Adams’ much-beloved Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, taking place shortly after the events of the second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The book was followed by So Long, and Thanks for the Fish in 1984.

To understand the events of Life, the Universe and Everything, a brief summary of the first two books is pretty much all but required. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series follows the adventures of everyday human and Earthling, Arthur Dent. At the beginning of the first installment, Dent is rescued by Ford Prefect, an alien being and interplanetary travel writer of sorts, moments before Earth is destroyed by the slug-like Vogons to make room for an intergalactic highway. The duo team up with President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the Paranoid Android, and a human woman named Trillian. They learn from a supercomputer called Deep Thought that the ultimate answer to “life, the universe and everything” is “the number 42.” When Arthur and others protest that this makes no sense, Deep Thought explains that it is because the question of “what is life, the universe and everything” is unknown. In fact, the planet Earth was built in order to determine this question, and now that it’s destroyed, certain antagonists believe the only way to deduce the question is by taking apart Arthur’s brain. Zaphod saves Arthur from suffering this fate, and the two join their friends in exile at “the restaurant at the end of the universe,” setting up the second book.

In the second book, the crew gets separated before they arrive at the titular restaurant at the end of the universe. After various adventures, they finally arrive to find that Marvin has been waiting for them there for billions of years. The crew steals a spacecraft but discover it’s on autopilot and is en route to collide with a nearby sun. Marvin operates a teleportation device which allows all of them but himself to escape. While Zaphod and Trillian are teleported back to their original ship, The Heart of Gold, Arthur and Ford end up on an Ark full of alien beings who have been tricked into leaving their planet based on a false rumor about the end of the world. The Ark crashes on what Arthur and Ford realize is Earth but in prehistoric times. Eager to see if they can determine the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, Arthur pulls out random tiles from a makeshift scrabble set that spells the question to which 42 is the answer: “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”

This brings readers to the third installment, The Life, the Universe and Everything. Stranded on prehistoric Earth, Arthur and Ford discover a modern-day couch which Ford terms a “space-time eddy.” After sitting on the couch, the pair find themselves at a major cricket match in London two days before the Earth’s destruction. They watch as a group of robots land and steal the cricket trophy, followed by a group of aliens led by Slartibartifast who demands the help of Arthur and Ford, seeing as how they are seasoned interdimensional travelers at this point. Slartibartifast explains that the stolen cricket trophy is a key element to building the Wikkit Gate, a device the residents of the planet Krikkit plan to use to destroy the universe. Krikkit is in a star system surrounded by a cloud of gas so thick that no one there knew the rest of the universe existed. After a rogue vessel crash landed on Krikkit and its population learned of a greater universe beyond, the fiercely xenophobic aliens of Krikkit declared war on the rest of the universe. Krikkit was defeated and placed inside a “Slo Mo” envelope that would prevent them from trying to start another war. The Wikkit Gate, if properly assembled, can be used to disable the Slo Mo envelope. If this happens, the Krikkit people will use a device that would detonate every star in the universe, killing literally everybody in every galaxy.

As luck would have it, Slartibartifast’s next destination is The Heart of Gold ship, where Zaphod and Trillian ended up after being teleported by Marvin in the previous book. That ship’s Infinite Improbability Drive is the last piece the Krikkit robots need to assemble the Wikkit Gate. Unfortunately, they are too late to stop the robots from stealing the drive, though the five-team crew is finally reunited at least. After traveling to Krikkit, Trillian infers that the people of that planet are being manipulated by a supercomputer named Hactar. Hactar built the universe-destroying device being sought by the Krikkit robots and, as punishment, was vaporized by his creators into the very cloud of dust that surrounds Krikkit.
In the end, the crew successfully retrieves the Improbability Drive and the cricket trophy, defeating the Krikkit robots and ending their plans to assemble the Wikkit Gate. Just when everything seems settled, Arthur nearly destroys the entire universe when he offhandedly tosses a cricket ball that just so happens to be the universe-destroying device. Luckily, the device doesn’t activate.

Shortly thereafter, a journalist appears and says he needs the crew’s help because a man has been given too much truth serum and now is speaking all the truth in the universe and needs to stop. When the crew arrives, they ask the man about the question and answer to “life, the universe and everything.” He responds that the question and answer are mutually exclusive, meaning one person can’t know both. Disappointed, Arthur goes to live on Krikkit.