Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide Series #5)

Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide Series #5)

by Douglas Adams

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“It is Mr Adams’s genius to hurl readers into a plot that seems to go everywhere and nowhere, then suddenly drop the pieces into place, click, click, click, like tumblers in a lock. . . . Delightful.”—Baltimore Sun

It’s easy to get disheartened when your planet has been blown up and the woman you love has vanished due to a misunderstanding about space/time. However, instead of being disheartened, Arthur Dent makes the terrible mistake of starting to enjoy life a bit—and immediately all hell breaks loose.

Hell takes a number of forms: there’s the standard Ford Prefect version, in the shape of an all-new edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and a totally unexpected manifestation in the form of a teenage girl who startles Arthur Dent by being his daughter when he didn’t even know he had one. 

Can Arthur save the Earth from total multidimensional obliteration? Can he save the Guide from a hostile alien takeover? Can he save his daughter, Random, from herself? Of course not. He never works out exactly what is going on. Will you?

“Douglas Adams is a terrific satirist. . . . He is anything but harmless.”—The Washington Post Book World

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590072585
Publisher: New Millennium Entertainment
Publication date: 06/28/2004
Series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series , #5
Edition description: 4 Cassettes, Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.92(w) x 5.84(h) x 1.19(d)

About the Author

Douglas Adams was born in 1952 and educated at Cambridge. He was the author of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; and Mostly Harmless. His other works include Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency; The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul; The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff (with John Lloyd); and Last Chance to See (with Mark Carwardine). His last book was the bestselling collection, The Salmon of Doubt, published posthumously in May 2002.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The history of the Galaxy has got a little muddled, for a number of reasons: partly because those who are trying to keep track of it have got a little muddled, but also because some very muddling things have been happening anyway.
One of the problems has to do with the speed of light and the difficulties involved in trying to exceed it. You can’t. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws. The Hingefreel people of Arkintoofle Minor did try to build spaceships that were powered by bad news but they didn’t work particularly well and were so extremely unwelcome whenever they arrived anywhere that there wasn’t really any point in being there.
So, by and large, the peoples of the Galaxy tended to languish in their own local muddles and the history of the Galaxy itself was, for a long time, largely cosmological.
Which is not to say that people weren’t trying. They tried sending off fleets of spaceships to do battle or business in distant parts, but these usually took thousands of years to get anywhere. By the time they eventually arrived, other forms of travel had been discovered which made use of hyperspace to circumvent the speed of light, so that whatever battles it was that the slower-than-light fleets had been sent to fight had already been taken care of centuries earlier by the time they actually got there.
This didn’t, of course, deter their crews from wanting to fight the battles anyway. They were trained, they were ready, they’d had a couple of thousand years’ sleep, they’d come a long way to do a tough job and, by Zarquon, they were going to do it.
This was when the first major Muddles of Galactic history set in, with battles continually reerupting centuries after the issues they had been fought over had supposedly been settled. However, these muddles were as nothing to the ones which historians had to try and unravel once time-travel was discovered and battles started preempting hundreds of years before the issues even arose. When the Infinite Improbability Drive arrived and whole planets started unexpectedly turning into banana fruitcake, the great history faculty of the University of MaxiMegalon finally gave up, closed itself down and surrendered its buildings to the rapidly growing joint faculty of Divinity and Water Polo, which had been after them for years.
Which is all very well, of course, but it almost certainly means that no one will ever know for sure where, for instance, the Grebulons came from, or exactly what it was they wanted. And this is a pity because, if anybody had known anything about them, it is just possible that a most terrible catastrophe would have been averted — or, at least, would have had to find a different way to happen.
“Click, hum.
The huge gray Grebulon reconnaissance ship moved silently through the black void. It was traveling at fabulous, breathtaking speed, yet appeared, against the glimmering background of a billion distant stars to be moving not at all. It was just one dark speck frozen against an infinite granularity of brilliant night.
On board the ship, everything was as it had been for millennia, deeply dark and silent.
Click, hum.
At least, almost everything.
Click, click, hum.
Click, hum, click, hum, click, hum.
Click, click, click, click, click, hum.
A low-level supervising program woke up a slightly higher-level supervising program deep in the ship’s semisomnolent cyberbrain and reported to it that whenever it went click all it got was a hum.
The higher-level supervising program asked it what it was supposed to get, and the low-level supervising program said that it couldn’t remember what it was meant to get, exactly, but thought it was probably more of a sort of distant satisfied sigh, wasn’t it? It didn’t know what this hum was. Click, hum, click, hum. That was all it was getting.
The higher-level supervising program considered this and didn’t like it. It asked the low-level supervising program what exactly it was supervising and the low-level supervising program said it couldn’t remember that either, just that it was something that was meant to go click, sigh every ten years or so, which usually happened without fail. It had tried to consult its error look-up table but couldn’t find it, which was why it had alerted the higher-level supervising program of the problem.
The higher-level supervising program went to consult one of its own look-up tables to find out what the low-level supervising program was meant to be supervising.
It couldn’t find the look-up table.
It looked again. All it got was an error message. It tried to look up the error message in its error message look-up table and couldn’t find that either. It allowed a couple of nanoseconds to go by while it went through all this again. Then it woke up its sector function supervisor.
The sector function supervisor hit immediate problems. It called its supervising agent, which hit problems too. Within a few millionths of a second virtual circuits that had lain dormant, some for years, some for centuries, were flaring into life throughout the ship. Something, somewhere, had gone terribly wrong, but none of the supervising programs could tell what it was. At every level, vital instructions were missing, and the instructions about what to do in the event of discovering that vital instructions were missing, were also missing.
Small modules of software — agents — surged through the logical pathways, grouping, consulting, regrouping. They quickly established that the ship’s memory, all the way back to its central mission module, was in tatters. No amount of interrogation could determine what it was that had happened. Even the central mission module itself seemed to be damaged.
This made the whole problem very simple to deal with, in fact. Replace the central mission module. There was another one, a backup, an exact duplicate of the original. It had to be physically replaced because, for safety reasons, there was no link whatsoever between the original and its backup. Once the central mission module was replaced it could itself supervise the reconstruction of the rest of the system in every detail, and all would be well.
Robots were instructed to bring the backup central mission module from the shielded strong room, where they guarded it, to the ship’s logic chamber for installation.
This involved the lengthy exchange of emergency codes and protocols as the robots interrogated the agents as to the authenticity of the instructions. At last the robots were satisfied that all procedures were correct. They unpacked the backup central mission module from its storage housing, carried it out of the storage chamber, fell out of the ship and went spinning off into the void.
This provided the first major clue as to what it was that was wrong.
Further investigation quickly established what it was that had happened. A meteorite had knocked a large hole in the ship. The ship had not previously detected this because the meteorite had neatly knocked out that part of the ship’s processing equipment which was supposed to detect if the ship had been hit by a meteorite.
The first thing to do was to try to seal up the hole. This turned out to be impossible, because the ship’s sensors couldn’t see that there was a hole, and the supervisors, which should have said that the sensors weren’t working properly, weren’t working properly and kept saying that the sensors were fine. The ship could only deduce the existence of the hole from the fact that the robots had clearly fallen out of it, taking its spare brain — which would have enabled it to see the hole — with them.
The ship tried to think intelligently about this, failed and then blanked out completely for a bit. It didn’t realize it had blanked out, of course, because it had blanked out. It was merely surprised to see the stars jump. After the third time the stars jumped, the ship finally realized that it must be blanking out, and that it was time to take some serious decisions.
It relaxed.
Then it realized it hadn’t actually taken the serious decisions yet and panicked. It blanked out again for a bit. When it awoke again it sealed all the bulkheads around where it knew the unseen hole must be.
It clearly hadn’t got to its destination yet, it thought, fitfully, but since it no longer had the faintest idea where its destination was or how to reach it, there seemed to be little point in continuing. It consulted what tiny scraps of instructions it could reconstruct from the tatters of its central mission module.
“Your !!!!! !!!!! !!!!! year mission is to !!!!! !!!!! !!!!!, !!!!!, !!!!! !!!!! !!!!! !!!!!, land !!!!! !!!!! !!!!! a safe distance !!!!! !!!!! monitor it. !!!!! !!!!! !!!!! …”
All the rest was complete garbage.
Before it blanked out for good, the ship would have to pass on those instructions, such as they were, to its more primitive subsidiary systems.
It must also revive all of its crew.
There was another problem. While the crew was in hibernation, the minds of all its members, their memories, their identities and their understanding of what they had come to, had all been transferred into the ship’s central mission module for safe keeping. The crew would not have the faintest idea of who they were or what they were doing there. Oh well.
Just before it blanked out for the final time, the ship realized that its engines were beginning to give out too.
The ship and its revived and confused crew coasted on under the control of its subsidiary automatic systems, which simply looked to land wherever they could find to land and monitor whatever they could find to monitor.
As far as finding something to land on was concerned, they didn’t do very well. The planet they found was desolately cold and lonely, so achingly far from the sun that should warm it, that it took all of the Envir-O-Form machinery and Life-Support-O-Systems they carried with them to render it — or at least parts of it — habitable. There were better planets nearer in, but the ship’s Strateej-O-Mat was obviously locked into Lurk mode and chose the most distant and unobtrusive planet and, furthermore, would not be gainsaid by anybody other than the ship’s Chief Strategic Officer. Since everybody on the ship had lost their minds, no one knew who the Chief Strategic Officer was or, even if he could have been identified, how he was supposed to go about gainsaying the ship’s Strateej-O-Mat.
As far as finding something to monitor was concerned, though, they hit solid gold.


Excerpted from "Mostly Harmless"
by .
Copyright © 1993 Douglas Adams.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide Series #5) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 116 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an awesome climax to the series. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves science fiction or comedy. Douglass Adams should know how much I love this book.
1000_Character_Reviews More than 1 year ago
"Mostly Harmless" are the words that now replace all of the writing and research that Ford Prefect has created for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...and he wants to know why. The Vogons are back...still trying to destroy earth, but in a different way than usual. We also find Arthur Dent jumping through alternate universes trying to find his version of his beloved Earth...and learning that he has a moody teenage daughter spawned from his need to get traveling money. The fifth and final (at least from Douglas Adams) entry into the Hitchhiker "Trilogy" is probably the most hilarious and crazy entry in the series. I found myself laughing more at this book than the other ones. The sarcastic and just plain weird subplots (was Elvis kidnapped by aliens? how many “Earths” are there in the mish-mash?) and side-stories are simply hilarious. A great diversion, though I found the ending to be less than satisfying – very Sopranos-like.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book ¿Mostly Harmless¿ by Douglas Adams is the last book in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series. This book sums up all of ¿the crew¿s¿ experiences together and finally gives it an ending that I would say suits the book. It all starts out when Trillian gets lost in a time warp and Arthur Dent crashes his ship on a Bob fearing planet. Yes I know it sounds strange that a whole planet fears Bob¿s but that¿s just the humor in the book. The whole book makes as much sense as that first part that I told you about so its not even worth it trying to make sense of everything. Believe me, I¿ve tried this and after using up a whole summer on it I gave up. This overall is a very funny and interesting book and really gets you thinking about the world around you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think Mostly Harmless is the best book in the Hitchhiker's series (except maybe the first). Of course it is hilarious, like all the others, but this book is a little deeper and a little darker. It conveys raw emotion and philosophical ideas, more so than the previous books, yet still maintains the same zaniness we love. Random is one of my favorite characters in the series. There is a new robot character in this book that is hilarious - he is the antithesis of Marvin (he is chronically happy rather than depressed - hilarious). I thought the ending was fitting. It does leave you with unanswered questions, but isn't that what it's all about?
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The fifth and final book in the Hitchhikers ¿trilogy¿ begins rather slow but picks up pace quickly after the first five or so chapters. Three of the usual suspects are back, but Arthur, Ford, and Trillian are all facing adventures on their own up until the end of the book. The reader still feels the lost of the marvelously interesting Zaphod and Marvin, but two new characters are brought in to help fill that void a bit. Random, the teenaged daughter of Arthur and Trillian, sulks about and inadvertently causes trouble while Colin, Marvin¿s antithesis, is Ford¿s new robot companion who is always happy. This book seems more in line with the tone and trajectory of the original trilogy, rather than the fourth book that just seemed like a side note. While it seems that many others found this book depressing, I still found it delightfully funny and the perfect ending to the series.
Shmuel510 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Arguably Adams's best book.It's hard to decide whether the first or last book of the Hitchhiker's trilogy is the best, because they're so different. Simply put, when Douglas wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he didn't know how to write a book. He ended up producing a work that didn't fit any of the usual rules, and famously ended in the middle of nowhere when he hit his deadline. 99.999% of the time, this would have been a disaster. Instead, Hitchhiker's was the wildly (but not infinitely) improbable exception to the rule: everything worked in its favor. It was brilliant. It was a hit. It was irreproducible. (He came as close as one could with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which was essentially the second half of the book, but never managed it again.)So over the years, Adams learned how to write a book properly. And after a couple of flawed attempts at mastering the form, Mostly Harmless is the one in which he finally got it just right. It has a solid plot in which several threads satisfyingly come together at the end, providing closure for the series as a whole. It's the perfect ending for the trilogy. It may lack the manic inventiveness of the first book, but you can't have it both ways...
stonester1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The last novel in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and Mr. Adams' last novel, this one brings us back to most of our time/space tripsters Arthur Dent (who just wants to enjoy a quiet, normal life), Trillian (who just wants to find her purpose) and Ford Prefect (who just wants to avoid boredom at all costs). And we find out that Arthur now has a daughter, and his fatherly instincts aren't at all bad ones.The ending, though it was an "end", as far as "ends" go in the Hitchhikers' way of reckoning, was...jarring. Not so much ending, as coming to a crashing, banging halt.I enjoyed the book...but was less than satisfied with the wrapup. Still a worthy read if you are a fan of this series.
LTJinja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The worst of the five.
mysticrune on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i didnt dislike the book, i just didnt have as much fun reading this than i did with the other 4, it didnt have the hitchhickers charm. the ending was complete jiberish or was it just me? i hope eion colfar does a better job of finshing off the seiries than adams.
Darla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every morning--every school day morning, that is--I make breakfast for my kids, then while they're eating it, I read to them. We've been doing this for years, since before the youngest started school. Mostly Harmless was our latest morning read.We all loved it, even if the ending had everyone a bit stunned. Mostly about Arthur, but Ford and Trillian were in there, too. We did miss Zaphod. All in all, a satisfying ending to the "increasingly inaccurately named Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy"... since it had to end, that is.
rincewind1986 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not particually good, really killed the series, it lacks all the fun and silliness of the other four, and just seems to plod along in a slow rather dull manner. Obviously fans of the series will read it no matter how many people say it is a bad book, but it is the worst of the 5
susiesharp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this one and am glad Eoin Colfer took up the reins to write a next book because this one just kind of ended without resolution.This one as my 2nd favorite after the 1st book.
samlives2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this book ended somewhat abruptly, and I stopped mid-stride while reading it walking home from the bus stop. I had expected something at least a little dramatic, maybe with a little more emotion, but then I realized that that's what makes this series so special. It is special because it is unique and any abrupt and at first glance meaningless ending has simply to do with the whole point of the book: things happen, sometimes at random, and seemingly never for any higher reason or destiny. I have to admit this book was a little perplexing at times, and one definitely has to keep an open and focused mind when reading it, but it is definitely worth it. I love this series dearly. It's such a relief to read compared to most of the endless drama and obvious plots I seem to come across.
FolkeB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mostly Harmless is the fifth and final volume in The Hitchhiker¿s Guide to the Galaxy Series written by Douglas Adams. In this final adventure of the universe, Arthur Dent finds himself living on a planet where he is the sandwich maker for the village. He quite enjoys his simple and new life, but once again things are going to change for Arthur. Trillian shows up on his planet and drops off Arthur¿s daughter. Arthur had no idea that this daughter, named Random, even existed. Arthur tries to get to know this angst filled and lost girl, but she is just trying to figure out where she belongs. Meanwhile, Arthur¿s old companion Ford Prefect is discovering what has happed to The Hitchhiker¿s Guide and the fate of the book. This exciting story continues once again to unite some of Arthur¿s companions and to wrap up the journey for Arthur Dent in the crazy galaxy he has been apart of. Douglas Adams does a wonderful job bringing certain unresolved items from the series to a final close in this final volume of the series. The story is compelling and makes the reader feel like there is something important to this ending that keeps you reading on and on. Adams does a good job ending the series and making it as fun and crazy as the previous volumes in the series. I would recommend this to anyone who has read part of the series. I would give this book four out of five stars. Molly S.
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Whole Sort of General Mish Mash.
ariebonn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to read the last book in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and find out how it all ended for the characters, but most of all I was hoping that it will be on the same level as the first two books in the series, creative, hilarious and fun to read. Unfortunately it wasn't much of that at all.Fenchurch disappeared in hyperspace and Arthur has been traveling through all possible dimension for a place similar to Earth until he settles on an Earthlike, albeit a little primitive, planet where he makes a huge success as a sandwich maker. Arthur's fate is not to live serene though, and thanks to Ford and his newly found teenage daughter Random, his world is turned upside down once again. Random is his daughter by Trillian and it turns out that she's just as confused as Arthur, especially because of the fact that her mother dropped her here because she simply doesn't have time to take care of her. In the meantime Ford discovers that a huge corporation has bought out The Hitchhiker's Guide and developed a new version with the power to destroy the universe. Naturally he feels that he must stop this insanity.Where do I begin with this book? This series seems to dwindle with every book. The first two books were excellent, but from the third onwards all I have been hoping for is that the next book will be better, but the last book didn't cut it either. I struggled to get though the first part but hung in there, simply because I always want to finish a book once I start it, no matter how bad it is. The second half got better, there was some sort of plot to follow and that raised my hopes a little, until I reached the end and all I could say was, "That's all?" What a dreary ending for these poor characters! Not very impressive. My other complaint about this book and the series in general is how Zaphod was chucked out of the story never to be heard of again. He was my favorite character in the first books and accounted for most of the wittiness, if there was one question I could ask Adams it would be why did he have to get rid of Zaphod!I am glad I managed to finish this series, and I must sadly say that I won't be missing it either. If you've read the other books in this series, then you definitely have to read this one simply to close off the series, however don't set your expectations too high, and if you do end up liking it then that's a plus for you.
pauliharman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tolerable tat from an author desperate to kill off a franchise
the.ken.petersen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Finally, I have read the fifth part of this trilogy! I consumed the first four, almost as they were released but, somehow conspired to miss the last part. So, what do I think of it? It is certainly the best book in the series. I get the feeling that Douglas Adams was probably becoming increasingly keen upon the idea of wrapping up the series and this, the first original storyline to make it to the publishers, does this in a wholly fitting manner. The book has passages that made me laugh out aloud but, perhaps more significantly, areas that left an aching sadness. One wonders how much of his own feelings about his childhood were contained in Random's cry for a state of belonging. The book ends up in an almost nihilistic destruction of everything: the characters, the Hitch Hiker's Guide and, once more, the Earth.Adams finally proved himself capable of producing a worthy novel with this work and I am pleased to have, at last, read it.
Scaryguy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Adams's writing is mostly hillarious!
leelerbaby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Douglas Adams writing makes seemingly senseless events seem almost, if not normal at least probable.
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Probably the worst of the series. It was quirky but never evoked more than a chuckle. It was also more confusing than the other books. So the combination of not that funny and confusing didn't work out so well. I am glad to have finally finished a series I started more than 20 years ago just not sure I needed to read this one.
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The definitive end to the trilogy by book 5. The probablilty waveform of Earth is reduced to a flat line in all dimensions. There will be no more hitchHiker books! Despite this its actually a fun read and much better than book 4 which was odd. I can see many of today's corporate business people agreeing with the ideas in here, this is not a good thing!
magnuscanis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still pretty funny, but not up to the standard of the earlier books in the series. Perhaps the trilogy should have been left in four parts.
ayork on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one was not nearly as funny or engaging as the first four. I only gave it 3 stars out of loyalty to the series. Obviously, one should read it if he/she has read the first four in the Hitchhiker's "trilogy," but don't expect great satisfaction.
schteve on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mostly crap. A sad, bitter finale to the Hitch-Hikers trilogy in 5 parts from a sad, bitter writer.