The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980, ISBN 0-345-39181-0) is the second book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy series created by Douglas Adams. Originally a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, it was later adapted to other formats, and over several years it gradually became an international multi-media phenomenon...

Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 trilogy of five by Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
Douglas Noel Adams was an English writer and dramatist. He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which started life in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a "trilogy" of five books that sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime, a television...

. It was originally published by Pan Books
Macmillan Publishers
Macmillan Publishers Ltd, also known as The Macmillan Group, is a privately held international publishing company owned by Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. It has offices in 41 countries worldwide and operates in more than thirty others.-History:...

 as a paperback. The book was inspired by the song "Grand Hotel" by British rock band Procol Harum
Procol Harum
Procol Harum are a British rock band, formed in 1967, which contributed to the development of progressive rock, and by extension, symphonic rock. Their best-known recording is their 1967 single "A Whiter Shade of Pale"...

. It takes its name from Milliways, the Restaurant
A restaurant is an establishment which prepares and serves food and drink to customers in return for money. Meals are generally served and eaten on premises, but many restaurants also offer take-out and food delivery services...

 at the End of the Universe
Ultimate fate of the universe
The ultimate fate of the universe is a topic in physical cosmology. Many possible fates are predicted by rival scientific theories, including futures of both finite and infinite duration....

, one of the settings of the book.

Plot summary

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe begins just as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (book)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the title of the first of six books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction "trilogy" by Douglas Adams . The novel is an adaptation of the first four parts of Adams's radio series of the same name. The novel was first published in...

 ended. Arthur Dent
Arthur Dent
Arthur Philip Dent is a fictional character, the hapless protagonist and anti-hero in the comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams....

, Ford Prefect
Ford Prefect (character)
Ford Prefect is a fictional character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the British author Douglas Adams. He is the only character other than the protagonist, Arthur Dent, to appear throughout the entire Hitchhiker's saga.-Name:Although Ford had taken great care to blend into Earth...

, Trillian
Trillian (character)
Tricia McMillan, also known as Trillian Astra, is a fictional character from Douglas Adams' series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. She is most commonly referred to simply as "Trillian", a modification of her birth name, which she adopted because it sounded more "space-like". According to the...

, and Zaphod Beeblebrox
Zaphod Beeblebrox
Zaphod Beeblebrox is a fictional character in the various versions of the humorous science fiction story The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams who based him on his Cambridge contemporary, Johnny Simpson....

 have just left the planet Magrathea when they are attacked by a Vogon
The Vogons are a fictional alien race from the planet Vogsphere in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, who are responsible for the destruction of the Earth, in order to facilitate an intergalactic highway construction project. Vogons are slug-like but vaguely humanoid, are...

 ship. They find they are unable to use the Improbability Drive to escape, as Arthur has accidentally jammed the computer with a simple request for a cup of tea which proved a rather difficult problem. Luckily, an ancestor of Zaphod's, Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth saves them.

Zaphod and Marvin
Marvin the Paranoid Android
Marvin, the Paranoid Android, is a fictional character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. Marvin is the ship's robot aboard the starship Heart of Gold...

 vanish, and reappear at the offices of the Guide on Ursa Minor Beta. They are looking for Zarniwoop, who has gone on an intergalactic cruise in his office via his virtual universe
Virtual world
A virtual world is an online community that takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects. The term has become largely synonymous with interactive 3D virtual environments, where the users take the form of...

. Arthur, Trillian and Ford are unaware of any of this, knowing only that the computer has been shut down, and only having received a message from a stalling Nutrimatic that says "Wait."

When Zaphod and Marvin reach the fifteenth floor of the Guides office, half of the building is lifted off the ground by Frogstar Fighters. A mysterious man named Roosta brings Zaphod to Zarniwoop's office, where they wait until the building lands on Frogstar World B. Roosta gives Zaphod final instructions before he leaves: Go through the window on his way out, not the door. Zaphod then meets Gargravarr who informs Zaphod that he is to be sent through the Total Perspective Vortex, a torture device which annihilates you by showing you just how infinitesimally small you are compared to the Universe. However when Zaphod enters it, the Vortex shows him that he is the most important thing in the Universe. Zaphod escapes, and finds Zarniwoop in the first class cabin of a spaceliner in an abandoned spaceport.

Zarniwoop explains that the Total Perspective Vortex has not malfunctioned — this is a virtual universe created by Zarniwoop for the sole benefit of Zaphod, who is the most important creature in this universe. It turns out that Zaphod had the shrunk Heart of Gold in his jacket pocket the whole time. It is reconstituted, and Zaphod is reunited with Trillian, Arthur and Ford. They escape from Zarniwoop by asking to be transported to the nearest restaurant. Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, is the nearest restaurant in space but not time. They are transported there "five hundred and seventy-six thousand million years" into the future. Marvin is left stranded here for this incredibly vast amount of time parking diners' spaceships while waiting for the humans to return. After the meal, Zaphod and Ford steal a spaceship, which turns out to be a stuntship belonging to the rock band Disaster Area
Disaster area
A disaster area is a region or a locale heavily damaged by either natural hazards, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, technological hazards including nuclear and radiation accidents, or sociological hazards like riots, terrorism or war. The population living there often...

, programmed to dive into a star to provide backing effects for a rock concert
Rock concert
The term rock concert refers to a musical performance in the style of any one of many genres inspired by "rock and roll" music. While a variety of vocal and instrumental styles can constitute a rock concert, this phenomenon is typically characterized by bands playing at least one electric guitar,...

. There is a teleporter on the ship for which the guidance system was never built, as it was never intended to be used, and it also requires somebody to stay on the ship in order to operate it. Marvin is chosen to stay behind and teleport the others, who have no choice but to go wherever it takes them.

Zaphod and Trillian are returned to the Heart of Gold, which is commandeered by Zarniwoop to complete his mission, to discover who really rules the Universe. As it turns out, the Ruler of the Universe is entirely skeptical that he holds this position, as he is entirely skeptical of everything, including whether his cat, The Lord, really exists, or whether there is even a universe at all outside of his small isolated home. While Zarniwoop attempts to impress upon the Ruler of the Universe the reality and the weight of his position, Trillian and Zaphod sneak out and fly the Heart of Gold away.

The teleporter has meanwhile sent Arthur and Ford to the Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B, a ship of fools
Ship of Fools
The ship of fools is an allegory that has long been a fixture in Western literature and art. The allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious, passengers aboard a ship without a pilot, and seemingly ignorant of their own direction...

 which crash-lands on prehistoric Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. They realize that the bumbling travellers are the real ancestors of modern human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s, not the Neanderthals originally inhabiting the planet. Arthur attempts to determine the Question to the Ultimate Answer of Life, the Universe and Everything by reaching into a Scrabble
Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by forming words from individual lettered tiles on a game board marked with a 15-by-15 grid. The words are formed across and down in crossword fashion and must appear in a standard dictionary. Official reference works provide a list...

 bag made from Ford's towel and pulling out letters randomly, hoping Deep Thought's computational matrix in Earth would have rubbed off on his subconscious
The term subconscious is used in many different contexts and has no single or precise definition. This greatly limits its significance as a definition-bearing concept, and in consequence the word tends to be avoided in academic and scientific settings....

. The letters spell "What do you get when you multiply six by nine" before running out, although the Neanderthals manage to spell "forty-two" with the tiles, implying that it is they, rather than the Golgafrinchans, who were intended to be part of Earth's computer matrix. After some brief contemplation, Ford and Arthur realize that this is, in fact, a detrimental "cock-up," and that the Earth will never produce the proper Question, thus destroying all hope of ever finding out what it is.

As Ford convinces Arthur that there is nothing that can be done to improve the inevitable history of the Earth, Arthur decides that he should make the best of his situation and settles for a life on prehistoric Earth.

Audiobook adaptations

There have been three audiobook recordings of the novel. The first was an abridged edition, recorded in 1981 by Stephen Moore
Stephen Moore (actor)
Stephen Moore is an English actor, known for his work on British television since the 1980s. He is known for his appearances in Rock Follies and other TV series such as The Last Place on Earth, the children's series The Queen's Nose and the drama Mersey Beat and the British TV comedy series Solo,...

, best known for playing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android
Marvin the Paranoid Android
Marvin, the Paranoid Android, is a fictional character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. Marvin is the ship's robot aboard the starship Heart of Gold...

 in the radio series, LP adaptations and in the TV series. In 1990, Adams himself recorded an unabridged edition, later re-released by New Millennium Audio in the United States and available from BBC Audiobooks in the United Kingdom. In 2006, actor Martin Freeman
Martin Freeman
Martin John C. Freeman is an English actor. He is known for his roles as John in Love Actually, Tim Canterbury in the BBC's Golden Globe-winning comedy The Office, Arthur Dent in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock and Mr. Madden...

, who had played Arthur Dent
Arthur Dent
Arthur Philip Dent is a fictional character, the hapless protagonist and anti-hero in the comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams....

in the 2005 movie, recorded a new unabridged edition of the audiobook