Life, the Universe and Everything

From Academic Kids

Life, the Universe and Everything (1982, ISBN 0345391829) is the third book in the five-volume Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy science fiction trilogy by Douglas Adams. The title refers to the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

The story was originally written by Adams as a possible film outing for the Doctor Who television series (with Tom Baker as the Doctor), although it was never produced. It was later considered as a plotline for the second series of the Hitchhiker's TV series.

A radio adaptation of Life, the Universe and Everything was recorded in 2003 under the guidance of Dirk Maggs, starring the surviving members of the cast of the original Hitchhiker's radio series. Adams himself, at his own suggestion, makes a cameo appearance; due to his death before production began on the series, this was achieved by sampling his character's dialogue from an audio book of the novel read by Adams that was published in the 1990s. The radio adaptation debuted on BBC Radio 4 in September 2004.

This book is the only in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series to have been censored in its U.S. edition. An extensive but still incomplete list of the changes between the two versions can be found on an archived web page ( (warning: contains spoilers).

Having decided to enjoy being stranded on pre-historic Earth by going insane, the hapless Arthur Dent is sidetracked by the sudden reappearance of Ford Prefect. Ford pulls him through an eddy in the space-time continuum and into Lord's Cricket Ground days before the Vogons are to destroy the Earth. Unfortunately, the pitch is about to be the scene of a shocking act of intergalactic terrorism. A ship lands and a squad of robots steals The Ashes while wreaking havoc in what seems to be an obscene parody of cricket. Slartibartfast, former award-winning designer of fjords, arrives too late to stop the violence, but asks Ford and Arthur to help him.

On Slartibartfast's ship, powered by the awe-inspiring Bistromathic drive, Arthur learns the history of Krikkit. Centuries ago, the inhabitants of Krikkit were a quaint, peaceful people. Their planet and sun had been encircled by an immense dust cloud as long as they could remember; since they couldn't see the stars, they had never considered the possibility of life outside their home. When a spaceship screamed through the dust cloud and crash-landed on Krikkit, the Krikkiters were traumatized beyond words. The only course of action, they decided, was to build a fleet with which to destroy the universe beyond their homeworld. They launched a fleet of warships and robots to slaughter every other species; they were defeated after a long and bloody war and sentenced by galactic judge Judiciary Pag to be sealed within a Slo-Time envelope until the rest of the universe died out naturally. (The British sport of cricket, as it turns out, came about as the result of a vague interspecies collective unconscious memory; everyone with knowledge of the Krikkit Wars is quite disgusted by how the humans turned it into a sport.)

Somehow a lone Krikkit warship has escaped the envelope and is looking for the three stumps and two bails that will form the Wikkit Gate; this is the key that will unlock the Slo-Time envelope and release the Krikkiters to complete their genocidal mission.

While pursing the Krikkit ship, Arthur is somehow diverted to a dark cave where an angry creature confronts him. This creature, who calls himself Agrajag, has been killed by Arthur hundreds of times in various reincarnations. He was a rabbit killed by Arthur on prehistoric Earth; he was a fly swatted by Arthur; he died of a heart attack when Arthur materialized in the middle of a cricket match he was watching; he was the bowl of petunias suddenly called into existence several miles above the surface of Magrathea. After many of these deaths, he began to notice that the person who dispatched him looked familiar and eventually formed a consciousness that spanned his various lives. Agrajag finally managed a reincarnation in one final hideous form and constructed a Cathedral of Hate, where he has brought Arthur to kill him. While recounting his many murders at Arthur's hands, however, he says that he died after an assassination attempt on Stavromula Beta missed Arthur and hit him. Arthur stammers that he's never been there, and Agrajag realizes that he's brought Arthur to the Cathedral too soon. He attempt to kill Arthur anyway, and suffers yet another accidental death at Arthur's hands. While fleeing from the collapsing cave, Arthur discovers the knack of flying: keep your mind so occupied that you forget to hit the ground when you fall. He soars jubilantly until he is hit in the small of his back by a flying party, where he rejoins Ford and Slartibartfast.

The group completely fails to stop the Krikkit war party from reconstructing the Key and opening the envelope. However, the Krikkiters seem to have lost their bloodthirstiness over the centuries. As it happens, the dust cloud was actually the pulverized remains of Hactar, a supercomputer built by the Silastic Armorfiends. Hactar was originally tasked by the warlike Armorfiends with creating a weapon of ultimate destruction that would cause every sun in the universe to go supernova simultaneously. Shocked, Hactar did as asked but designed a small flaw into the device. It hoped that when the weapon failed to destroy all of existence, the Armorfiends would see the folly of their ways and turn to a life of peace. Instead, they blasted Hactar into molecules before finding entirely new ways of killing each other. Hactar's construction was such that every molecule retained a bit of its "consciousness", however, and even in its unconventional state was still functional. As the Armorfiends died out and gave way to the peaceful Krikkiters, Hactar resolved to complete its original task. Through centuries of subtle influence, it guided the psychological development of the inhabitants of Krikkit before fabricating a mockup of a ship to inspire their xenophobia. In the wake of the original Krikkit Wars, however, the Slo-Time envelope blocked Hactar's influence and allowed the Krikkiters to return to their peaceful ways.

With the universe seemingly saved, Ford, Arthur and Slartibartfast return The Ashes (which had been, as the Wooden Pillar of Nature and Spirituality, part of the Wikkit Gate). Arthur can't resist his only opportunity to bowl a ball at Lord's; he finds a red ball in his pouch and a batsman obligingly stands before a wicket. As he begins to bowl, time slows and he realizes several things. First, he never had a cricket ball in his pouch, and it must certainly be Hactar's doomsday weapon, surreptitiously placed there by the supercomputer. Second, the batsman is in fact a Krikkit robot, and if it manages to strike the ball, it will detonate the bomb and destroy the universe. Distracted by all of these thoughts, Arthur trips and begins flying again, sending the weapon sailing harmlessly off into the distance.

Life, the Universe and Everything is the last book in the series to feature the characters of Zaphod Beeblebrox and Slartibartfast.

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