BOOK REVIEW / Is there life on Rupert?: Mostly harmless - Douglas Adams: Heinemann, pounds 12.99

FIRST there was Heisenberg, who was uncertain. But he was only uncertain about sub-atomic particles, so nobody worried much.

Then came Schrodinger, who pointed out that quantum uncertainty could apply to a whole cat. If the cat's life depended on the precise position of a bit of a decaying particle, which the physicists claimed was in two different places at the same time, then the cat had to be dead and alive at the same time.

Some physicists were unworried by this. As soon as someone actually looked at the cat, it stopped being both dead and alive and became one or the other. So what's all the fuss about?

Other physicists thought that the undead cat needed some sort of justification, so they came up with the Many Worlds (or Parallel Universes) Hypothesis. Every time a potentially fatal-to-felines quantum event occurs, the universe splits into two, with a dead cat in one and a purring pussy in the other. So we're all floating around in an infinity of possible universes surrounded by cats, alive and dead.

All these universes, of course, according to another trendy theory, are made out of superstrings which exist in goodness knows how many dimensions, though we get to peek at only three of them, or four if we're prepared to wait.

None of this is mentioned in Douglas Adams's latest work, which bills itself as 'The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy'.

However, the theme of multi-dimensional parallel universes is what drove him to resurrect Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent for another final adventure set in the Whole Sort of General Mish-Mash, as the space-time-superstring continuum has become known. The heroes do not, in fact, bump into each other again until page 160, and only later still return to an earth parallel to the one destroyed by the Vogons at the start of the trilogy.

Meanwhile, Tricia McMillan (or Trillion in her parallel state), has given birth (or not) to Arthur's daughter without his knowledge, thanks to an inter-galactic sperm bank, and is then abducted by the Grebulons and taken to Rupert, the newly discovered and furthest planet of the solar system, where the inhabitants thrive on reheated McDonald's hamburgers, watch American television shows and dabble very seriously in astrology. Elvis Presley sings 'Heartbreak Hotel' before Ford Prefect buys the spacecraft in which Elvis escaped from earth; Arthur lands himself a neat job making sandwiches on a dull planet; Prostetnik Vogon Jeltz prepares to demolish earth again; and Zaphod Beeblebrox doesn't even make an appearance.

Mostly Harmless has all the wit and inventiveness of vintage Douglas Adams, though its loose ends are not tied together as comprehensively as in previous Hitch-Hiker books. Not in this universe, anyway.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk