The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time [NOOK Book]

Overview

On Friday, May 11, 2001, the world mourned the untimely passing of Douglas Adams, beloved creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, dead of a heart attack at age forty-nine. Thankfully, in addition to a magnificent literary legacy—which includes seven novels and three co-authored works of nonfiction—Douglas left us something more. The book you are about to enjoy was rescued from his four computers, culled from an archive of chapters from his long-awaited novel-in-progress, as well as his short stories, ...
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The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

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Overview

On Friday, May 11, 2001, the world mourned the untimely passing of Douglas Adams, beloved creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, dead of a heart attack at age forty-nine. Thankfully, in addition to a magnificent literary legacy—which includes seven novels and three co-authored works of nonfiction—Douglas left us something more. The book you are about to enjoy was rescued from his four computers, culled from an archive of chapters from his long-awaited novel-in-progress, as well as his short stories, speeches, articles, interviews, and letters.

In a way that none of his previous books could, The Salmon of Doubt provides the full, dazzling, laugh-out-loud experience of a journey through the galaxy as perceived by Douglas Adams. From a boy’s first love letter (to his favorite science fiction magazine) to the distinction of possessing a nose of heroic proportions; from climbing Kilimanjaro in a rhino costume to explaining why Americans can’t make a decent cup of tea; from lyrical tributes to the sublime pleasures found in music by Procol Harum, the Beatles, and Bach to the follies of his hopeless infatuation with technology; from fantastic, fictional forays into the private life of Genghis Khan to extended visits with Dirk Gently and Zaphod Beeblebrox: this is the vista from the elevated perch of one of the tallest, funniest, most brilliant, and most penetrating social critics and thinkers of our time.

Welcome to the wonderful mind of Douglas Adams.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When Douglas Adams, that intergalactic hitchhiker, departed this planet on May 11, 2001, he left behind a trove of percolating manuscripts, which he had slyly stashed in no fewer than four computers. Gathered into this posthumous collection, this haphazard batch of truly fugitive writings seems like the last great cosmic laugh of our sweet navigator.
Publishers Weekly
Edited by Peter Guzzardi and with an introduction by Christopher Cerf, this bittersweet collection comprises letters, fragments of ideas for books, films and TV, ruminations on a diverse array of subjects and a good bit of a final unfinished novel by the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, who died in May of last year. Included are a letter to the editor of a U.K. boy's magazine (written in 1965, when Adams was 12); a reminiscence about his lifelong love for the Beatles, written when he was in his 40s; a 1991 piece from Esquire entitled "My Nose"; and an undated article for the Independent espousing his preference for whiskey. Also on hand are a q&a in which he identifies the most interesting natural structure as being a "2,000-mile-long fish in orbit around Jupiter, according to a reliable report in the Weekly World News"; a spiritual encounter with a giant manta ray while testing a mechanical diving device at Australia's Great Barrier Reef; an affecting introduction to P.G. Wodehouse's unfinished novel, Sunset at Blandings; an account of a Save the Rhino pilgrimage across Africa; ruminations on computerization; and a philosophical address about the authorship of the universe entitled "Is There an Artificial God?" Two sketches "The Private Life of Genghis Khan" and "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe" from the Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book, 1986, are also here, as are 10 chapters from various versions of the title novel-in-progress. National advertising. (May 7) Forecast: The audience for this will be Adams completists, but there are enough of them to make for respectable sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Posthumous trunkful of items found on four beloved Mac computers belonging to the late high-techie best known for his first novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979). Chosen from over 2,579 entries, magazine pieces, Web site squibs, etc., the collection's longest piece is "The Salmon of Doubt," ten chapters selected and rearranged from those Adams wrote over a ten-year period for his novel-in-progress, the third book in the Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency series that also included The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1989). A long prologue, written in 2000 by British journalist Nicholas Wroe, includes much interview material and gives a sketch of Adams's life and ebullience, of his writing venues and love of Monty Python, his first $2 million-dollar contract with an American publisher while he was still in his mid-20s, his adored but angst-ridden fallow periods, which required much gadget-buying, and so on. The pieces here bounce with charm: Adams discourses on awaiting his favorite magazine at 12, his endless love affair with the Beatles, his curiously substantial nose that will not admit air, the refreshing shock of reading Richard Dawkins on evolution, dogs excitedly hurling themselves against walls, "The Little Computer That Could," his radical atheism, whiskey, the writing life, the rhinoceros, Bach, and "The Private Life of Genghis Khan" (written with Monty Python's Graham Chapman). Also included: his introduction to The Meaning of Liff and a superb appreciation of P.G. Wodehouse's unfinished last novel, Sunset at Blandings. Fans will dig the paranormal but incomplete "The Salmon of Doubt" itself. Dirk Gently first turns down then accepts a job to find the missing halfof a Siamese cat whose front half conducts itself as if the aft half were still there. Among Dirk's friends is Thor, the ancient Norse God of Thunder, who bellows into telephones from ten feet off, "which made actual conversation well-nigh impossible." A beautiful sendoff, Douglas, wherever you are.
From the Publisher
“Above all, of course, Douglas Adams was a transcendent, multi-faceted, comic genius. What made Douglas’s work unique, I think, were the wildly contradictory attributes he displayed in his writing. He seamlessly blended world-class intelligence—and a daunting knowledge about an impossible variety of subjects (literature, computers, evolution, pop culture, genetics, and music, to name but a few)—with transcendental silliness; technophobia with a lust for, and fascination with, every high-tech toy imaginable; deep cynicism about virtually everything with an effusively joyful spirit; and one of the quickest wits on the planet with a relentless perfectionism in pursuing his craft.” —From the Introduction by Christopher Cerf

“The bottom drawer of recently deceased writers is often best left firmly locked and bolted. In the case of Douglas, I am sure you will agree, the bottom drawer (or in his case, the nested subfolders of his hard drive) has been triumphantly well worth the prising open. There are those who write from time to time and do it well, and then there are Writers. Douglas Adams, and it is pointless to attempt here an explanation or anatomisation, was born, grew up, and remained a Writer to his too-early dying day.
“You are on the verge of entering the wise, provoking, benevolent, hilarious, and addictive world of Douglas Adams. Don’t bolt it all whole—as with Douglas’s beloved Japanese food, what seems light and easy to assimilate is subtler and more nutritious by far than it might at first appear.” —Stephen Fry, author of The Liar and Making History: A Novel

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345484499
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/26/2005
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 133,086
  • File size: 631 KB

Meet the Author

Douglas Adams was the author of the five novels in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (yes, you read that right!); two Dirk Gently novels; Last Chance to See (with Mark Carwardine); and The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff (both with John Lloyd).

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Young Zaphod Plays It Safe

A large flying craft moved swiftly across the surface of an astoundingly beautiful sea. From midmorning onward it plied back and forth in great, widening arcs, and at last attracted the attention of the local islanders, a peaceful, seafood-loving people who gathered on the beach and squinted up into the blinding sun, trying to see what was there.

Any sophisticated, knowledgable person who had knocked about, seen a few things, would probably have remarked on how much the craft looked like a filing cabinet–a large and recently burgled filing cabinet lying on its back with its drawers in the air and flying. The islanders, whose experience was of a different kind, were instead struck by how little it looked like a lobster.

They chattered excitedly about its total lack of claws, its stiff, unbendy back, and the fact that it seemed to experience the greatest difficulty staying on the ground. This last feature seemed particularly funny to them. They jumped up and down on the spot a lot to demonstrate to the stupid thing that they themselves found staying on the ground the easiest thing in the world. But soon this entertainment began to pall for them. After all, since it was perfectly clear to them that the thing was not a lobster, and since their world was blessed with an abundance of things that were lobsters (a good half a dozen of which were now marching succulently up the beach towards them), they saw no reason to waste any more time on the thing, but decided instead to adjourn immediately for a late lobster lunch.

At that exact moment the craft stopped suddenly in midair, then upended itself and plunged headlong into the ocean with a great crash of spray that sent the islanders shouting into the trees. When they reemerged, nervously, a few minutes later, all they were able to see was a smoothly scarred circle of water and a few gulping bubbles.
That’s odd, they said to each other between mouthfuls of the best lobster to be had anywhere in the Western Galaxy, that’s the second time that’s happened in a year.

The craft that wasn’t a lobster dived directly to a depth of two hundred feet, and hung there in the heavy blueness, while vast masses of water swayed about it. High above, where the water was magically clear, a brilliant formation of fish flashed away. Below, where the light had difficulty reaching, the colour of the water sank to a dark and savage blue.

Here, at two hundred feet, the sun streamed feebly. A large, silk-skinned sea mammal rolled idly by, inspecting the craft with a kind of half-interest, as if it had half expected to find something of this kind round about here, and then it slid on up and away towards the rippling light.

The craft waited here for a minute or two, taking readings, and then descended another hundred feet. At this depth it was becoming seriously dark. After a moment or two the internal lights of the craft shut down, and in the second or so that passed before the main external beams suddenly stabbed out, the only visible light came from a small, hazily illuminated pink sign that read, the beeblebrox salvage and really wild stuff corporation.

The huge beams switched downwards, catching a vast shoal of silver fish, which swivelled away in silent panic.
In the dim control room that extended in a broad bow from the craft’s blunt prow, four heads were gathered round a computer display that was analysing the very, very faint and intermittent signals that were emanating from deep on the seabed.

“That’s it,” said the owner of one of the heads finally.

“Can we be quite sure?” said the owner of another of the heads.

“One hundred per cent positive,” replied the owner of the first head.

“You’re one hundred per cent positive that the ship which is crashed on the bottom of this ocean is the ship which you said you were one hundred per cent positive could one hundred per cent positively never crash?” said the owner of the two remaining heads. “Hey”–he put up two of his hands–“I’m only asking.”

The two officials from the Safety and Civil Reassurance Administration responded to this with a very cold stare, but the man with the odd, or rather the even number of heads, missed it. He flung himself back on the pilot couch, opened a couple of beers–one for himself and the other also for himself–stuck his feet on the console, and said “Hey, baby,” through the ultra-glass at a passing fish.

“Mr. Beeblebrox . . .” began the shorter and less reassuring of the two officials in a low voice.

“Yup?” said Zaphod, rapping a suddenly empty can down on some of the more sensitive instruments. “You ready to dive? Let’s go.”

“Mr. Beeblebrox, let us make one thing perfectly clear . . .”

“Yeah, let’s,” said Zaphod. “How about this for a start. Why don’t you just tell me what’s really on this ship.”

“We have told you,” said the official. “By-products.”

Zaphod exchanged weary glances with himself.

“By-products,” he said. “By-products of what?”

“Processes,” said the official.

“What processes?”

“Processes that are perfectly safe.”

“Santa Zarquana Voostra!” exclaimed both of Zaphod’s heads in chorus. “So safe that you have to build a zarking fortress ship to take the by-products to the nearest black hole and tip them in! Only it doesn’t get there because the pilot does a detour–is this right?–to pick up some lobster? Okay, so the guy is cool, but . . . I mean own up, this is barking time, this is major lunch, this is stool approaching critical mass, this is . . . this is . . . total vocabulary failure!

“Shut up!” his right head yelled at his left. “We’re flanging!”

He got a good calming grip on the remaining beer can.

“Listen, guys,” he resumed after a moment’s peace and contemplation. The two officials had said nothing. Conversation at this level was not something to which they felt they could aspire. “I just want to know,” insisted Zaphod, “what you’re getting me into here.”

He stabbed a finger at the intermittent readings trickling over the computer screen. They meant nothing to him, but he didn’t like the look of them at all. They were all squiggly, with lots of long numbers and things.

“It’s breaking up, is that it?” he shouted. “It’s got a hold full of epsilonic radiating aorist rods or something that’ll fry this whole space sector for zillions of years back, and it’s breaking up. Is that the story? Is that what we’re going down to find? Am I going to come out of that wreck with even more heads?”

“It cannot possibly be a wreck, Mr. Beeblebrox,” insisted the official. “The ship is guaranteed to be perfectly safe. It cannot possibly break up.”

“Then why are you so keen to go and look at it?”

“We like to look at things that are perfectly safe.”

“Freeeooow!”

“Mr. Beeblebrox,” said the official patiently, “may I remind you that you have a job to do?”

“Yeah, well maybe I don’t feel so keen on doing it all of a sudden. What do you think I am, completely without any moral whatsits, what are they called, those moral things?”

“Scruples?”

“Scruples, thank you, whatsoever? Well?”

The two officials waited calmly. They coughed slightly to help pass the time.
Zaphod sighed a what-is-the-world-coming-to sort of sigh to absolve himself from all blame, and swung himself round in his seat.

“Ship?” he called.

“Yup?” said the ship.

“Do what I do.”

The ship thought about this for a few milliseconds and then, after double-checking all the seals on its heavy-duty bulkheads, it began slowly, inexorably, in the hazy blaze of its lights, to sink to the lowest depths.

Five hundred feet.

A thousand.

Two thousand.

Here, at a pressure of nearly seventy atmospheres, in the chilling depths where no light reaches, nature keeps its most heated imaginings. Two-foot-long nightmares loomed wildly into the bleaching light, yawned, and vanished back into the blackness.

Two and a half thousand feet.

At the dim edges of the ship’s lights, guilty secrets flitted by with their eyes on stalks.

Gradually the topography of the distantly approaching ocean bed resolved with greater and greater clarity on the computer displays until at last a shape could be made out that was separate and distinct from its surroundings. It was like a huge, lopsided, cylindrical fortress that widened sharply halfway along its length to accommodate the heavy ultra-plating with which the crucial storage holds were clad, and which were supposed by its builders to have made this the most secure and impregnable spaceship ever built. Before launch, the material structure of this section had been battered, rammed, blasted, and subjected to every assault its builders knew it could withstand, in order to demonstrate that it could withstand them.

The tense silence in the cockpit tightened perceptibly as it became clear that it was this section that had broken rather neatly in two.

“In fact it’s perfectly safe,” said one of the officials. “It’s built so that even if the ship does break up, the storage holds cannot possibly be breached.”

Three thousand eight hundred twenty-five feet.

Four Hi-Presh-A SmartSuits moved slowly out of the open hatchway of the salvage craft and waded through the barrage of its lights towards the monstrous shape that loomed darkly out of the sea night. They moved with a sort of clumsy grace, near weightless though weighed on by a world of water.

With his right-hand head, Zaphod peered up into the black immensities above him, and for a moment his mind sang with a silent roar of horror. He glanced to his left and was relieved to see that his other head was busy watching the Brockian Ultra-Cricket broadcasts on the helmet vid without concern. Slightly behind him to his left walked the two officials from the Safety and Civil Reassurance Administration, and slightly in front of him to his right walked the empty suit, carrying their implements and testing the way for them.

They passed the huge rift in the broken-backed starship Billion Year Bunker, and played their flashlights up into it. Mangled machinery loomed between torn and twisted bulkheads two feet thick. A family of large transparent eels lived in there now and seemed to like it. The empty suit preceded them along the length of the ship’s gigantic, murky hull, trying the airlocks. The third one it tested ground open uneasily. They crowded inside it and waited for several long minutes while the pump mechanisms dealt with the hideous pressure that the ocean exerted, and slowly replaced it with an equally hideous pressure of air and inert gases. At last the inner door slid open and they were admitted to a dark outer holding area of the starship Billion Year Bunker.

Several more high-security Titan-O-Hold doors had to be passed through, each of which the officials opened with a selection of quark keys. Soon they were so deep within the heavy security fields that the Ultra-Cricket broadcasts were beginning to fade, and Zaphod had to switch to one of the rock video stations, since there was nowhere that they were not able to reach.

A final doorway slid open, and they emerged into a large, sepulchral space. Zaphod played his flashlight against the opposite wall and it fell full on a wild-eyed, screaming face.

Zaphod screamed a diminished fifth himself, dropped his light, and sat heavily on the floor, or rather on a body that had been lying there undisturbed for around six months, and that reacted to being sat on by exploding with great violence. Zaphod wondered what to do about all this and, after a brief but hectic internal debate, decided that passing out would be the very thing.

He came to a few minutes later, and pretended not to know who he was, where he was, or how he had got there, but was not able to convince anybody. He then pretended that his memory suddenly returned with a rush and that the shock caused him to pass out again, but he was helped unwillingly to his feet by the empty suit–which he was beginning to take a serious dislike to–and forced to come to terms with his surroundings.

They were dimly and fitfully lit and unpleasant in a number of respects, the most obvious of which was the colourful arrangement of parts of the ship’s late lamented navigation officer over the floor, walls, and ceiling, and especially over the lower half of his, Zaphod’s, suit. The effect of this was so astoundingly nasty that we shall not be referring to it again at any point in this narrative–other than to record briefly the fact that it caused Zaphod to throw up inside his suit, which he therefore removed and swapped, after suitable headgear modifications, with the empty one. Unfortunately the stench of the fetid air in the ship, followed by the sight of his own suit walking around casually draped in rotting intestines, was enough to make him throw up in the other suit as well, which was a problem that he and the suit would simply have to live with.

There. All done. No more nastiness.

At least, no more of that particular nastiness.

The owner of the screaming face had calmed down very slightly now and was bubbling away incoherently in a large tank of yellow liquid–an emergency suspension tank.

“It was crazy,” he babbled, “crazy! I told him we could always try the lobster on the way back, but he was crazy. Obsessed! Do you ever get like that about lobster? Because I don’t. Seems to me it’s all rubbery and fiddly to eat, and not that much taste, well, I mean is there? I infinitely prefer scallops, and said so. Oh Zarquon, I said so!”
Zaphod stared at this extraordinary apparition, flailing in its tank. The man was attached to all kinds of life-support tubes, and his voice was bubbling out of speakers that echoed insanely round the ship, returning as haunting echoes from deep and distant corridors.

“That was where I went wrong,” the madman yelled. “I actually said that I preferred scallops and he said it was because I hadn’t had real lobster like they did where his ancestors came from, which was here, and he’d prove it. He said it was no problem, he said the lobster here was worth a whole journey, let alone the small diversion it would take to get here, and he swore he could handle the ship in the atmosphere, but it was madness, madness!” he screamed, and paused with his eyes rolling, as if the word had rung some kind of bell in his mind. “The ship went right out of control! I couldn’t believe what we were doing and just to prove a point about lobster which is really so overrated as a food, I’m sorry to go on about lobsters so much, I’ll try and stop in a minute, but they’ve been on my mind so much for the months I’ve been in this tank, can you imagine what it’s like to be stuck in a ship with the same guys for months eating junk food when all one guy will talk about is lobster and then spend six months floating by yourself in a tank thinking about it. I promise I will try and shut up about the lobsters, I really will. Lobsters, lobsters, lobsters–enough! I think I’m the only survivor. I’m the only one who managed to get to an emergency tank before we went down. I sent out the mayday and then we hit. It’s a disaster, isn’t it? A total disaster, and all because the guy liked lobsters. How much sense am I making? It’s really hard for me to tell.”

He gazed at them beseechingly, and his mind seemed to sway slowly back down to earth like a falling leaf. He blinked and looked at them oddly, like a monkey peering at a strange fish.

He scrabbled curiously with his wrinkled-up fingers at the glass side of the tank. Tiny, thick yellow bubbles loosed themselves from his mouth and nose, caught briefly in his swab of hair, and strayed on upwards.

“Oh Zarquon, oh heavens,” he mumbled pathetically to himself, “I’ve been found. I’ve been rescued . . .”

“Well,” said one of the officials, briskly, “you’ve been found at least.” He strode over to the main computer bank in the middle of the chamber and started checking quickly through the ship’s main monitor circuits for damage reports.

“The aorist rod chambers are intact,” he said.

“Holy dingo’s dos,” snarled Zaphod, “there are aorist rods on board!”

Aorist rods were devices used in a now happily abandoned form of energy production. When the hunt for new sources of energy had at one point got particularly frantic, one bright young chap suddenly spotted that one place which had never used up all its available energy was–the past. And with the sudden rush of blood to the head that such insights tend to induce, he invented a way of mining it that very same night, and within a year huge tracts of the past were being drained of all their energy and simply wasting away. Those who claimed that the past should be left unspoilt were accused of indulging in an extremely expensive form of sentimentality. The past provided a very cheap, plentiful, and clean source of energy, there could always be a few Natural Past Reserves set up if anyone wanted to pay for their upkeep, and as for the claim that draining the past impoverished the present, well, maybe it did, slightly, but the effects were immeasurable and you really had to keep a sense of proportion.
It was only when it was realised that the present really was being impoverished, and that the reason for it was that those selfish plundering wastrel bastards up in the future were doing exactly the same thing, that everyone realised that every single aorist rod, and the terrible secret of how they were made, would have to be utterly and forever destroyed. They claimed it was for the sake of their grandparents and grandchildren, but it was of course for the sake of their grandparents’ grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandparents.

The official from the Safety and Civil Reassurance Administration gave a dismissive shrug. “They’re perfectly safe,” he said. He glanced up at Zaphod and suddenly said with uncharacteristic frankness, “There’s worse than that on board. At least,” he added, tapping at one of the computer screens, “I hope it’s on board.”

The other official rounded on him sharply.

“What the hell do you think you’re saying?” he snapped.

The first shrugged again. He said, “It doesn’t matter. He can say what he likes. No one would believe him. It’s why we chose to use him rather than do anything official, isn’t it? The more wild the story he tells, the more it’ll sound like he’s some hippy adventurer making it up. He can even say that we said this and it’ll make him sound like a paranoid.” He smiled pleasantly at Zaphod, who was seething in a suit full of sick. “You may accompany us,” he told him, “if you wish.”

***

“You see?” said the official, examining the ultra-titanium outer seals of the aorist rod hold. “Perfectly secure, perfectly safe.”

He said the same thing as they passed holds containing chemical weapons so powerful that a teaspoonful could fatally infect an entire planet.

He said the same thing as they passed holds containing zeta-active compounds so powerful that a teaspoonful could blow up a whole planet.

He said the same thing as they passed holds containing theta-active compounds so powerful that a teaspoonful could irradiate a whole planet.

“I’m glad I’m not a planet,” muttered Zaphod.

“You’d have nothing to fear,” assured the official from the Safety and Civil Reassurance Administration. “Planets are very safe. Provided,” he added–and paused. They were approaching the hold nearest to the point where the back of the starship Billion Year Bunker was broken. The corridor here was twisted and deformed, and the floor was damp and sticky in patches.

“Ho-hum,” he said, “ho very much hum.”

“What’s in this hold?” demanded Zaphod.

“By-products,” said the official, clamming up again.

“By-products . . .” insisted Zaphod, quietly, “of what?”

Neither official answered. Instead they examined the hold door very carefully and saw that its seals were twisted apart by the forces that had deformed the whole corridor. One of them touched the door lightly. It swung open to his touch. There was darkness inside, with just a couple of dim yellow lights deep within it.

“Of what?” hissed Zaphod.

The leading official turned to the other.

“There’s an escape capsule,” he said, “that the crew were to use to abandon ship before jettisoning it into the black hole,” he said. “I think it would be good to know that it’s still there.” The other official nodded and left without a word.
The first official quietly beckoned Zaphod in. The large dim yellow lights glowed about twenty feet from them.

“The reason,” he said quietly, “why everything else in this ship is, I maintain, safe, is that no one is really crazy enough to use them. No one. At least no one that crazy would ever get near them. Anyone that mad or dangerous rings very deep alarm bells. People may be stupid, but they’re not that stupid.”

“By-products,” hissed Zaphod again–he had to hiss in order that his voice shouldn’t be heard to tremble–“of what?”

“Er, Designer People.”

“What?”

“The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation were awarded a huge research grant to design and produce synthetic personalities to order. The results were uniformly disastrous. All the ‘people’ and ‘personalities’ turned out to be amalgams of characteristics which simply could not coexist in naturally occurring life-forms. Most of them were just poor pathetic misfits, but some were deeply, deeply dangerous. Dangerous because they didn’t ring alarm bells in other people. They could walk through situations the way that ghosts walk through walls, because no one spotted the danger.

“The most dangerous of all were three identical ones–they were put in this hold, to be blasted, with this ship, right out of this universe. They are not evil, in fact they are rather simple and charming. But they are the most dangerous creatures that ever lived because there is nothing they will not do if allowed, and nothing they will not be allowed to do . . .”

Zaphod looked at the dim yellow lights, the two dim yellow lights. As his eyes became accustomed to the light, he saw that the two lights framed a third space where something was broken. Wet, sticky patches gleamed dully on the floor.

Zaphod and the official walked cautiously toward the lights. At that moment, four words came crashing into the helmet headsets from the other official.

“The capsule has gone,” he said tersely.

“Trace it,” snapped Zaphod’s companion. “Find exactly where it has gone. We must know where it has gone!”

Zaphod approached the two remaining tanks. A quick glance showed him that each contained an identical floating body. He examined one more carefully. The body, that of an elderly man, was floating in a thick yellow liquid. The man was kindly looking, with lots of pleasant laugh lines round his face. His hair seemed unnaturally thick and dark for someone of his age, and his right hand seemed continually to be weaving forward and back, up and down, as if shaking hands with an endless succession of unseen ghosts. He smiled genially, babbled and burbled like a half-sleeping baby, and occasionally seemed to rock very slightly with little tremors of laughter, as if he had just told himself a joke he hadn’t heard before, or didn’t remember properly. Waving, smiling, chortling, with little yellow bubbles beading on his lips, he seemed to inhabit a distant world of simple dreams.

Another terse message suddenly came through his helmet headset. The planet toward which the escape capsule had headed had already been identified. It was in Galactic Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha.

Zaphod found a small speaker by the tank, and turned it on. The man in the yellow liquid was babbling gently about a shining city on a hill.

He also heard the Official from the Safety and Civil Reassurance Administration issue instructions to the effect that the missing escape capsule contained a "Reagan" and that the planet in ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha must be made "Perfectly safe."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Prologue xv
Introduction xxxi
Life 1
The Universe 83
And Everything 153
Epilogue 289
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First Chapter

Chapter 1

Life

Dear Editor,
The sweat was dripping down my face and into my lap, making my clothes very wet and sticky. I sat there, walking, watching. I was trembling violently as I sat, looking at the small slot, waiting—ever waiting. My nails dug into my flesh as I clenched my hands. I passed my arm over my hot, wet face, down which sweat was pouring. The suspense was unbearable. I bit my lip in an attempt to stop trembling with the terrible burden of anxiety. Suddenly, the slot opened and in dropped the mail. I grabbed at my Eagle and ripped off the wrapping paper.

My ordeal was over for another week!

D. N. Adams (12), Brentwood, Essex,
January 23, 1965,
Eagle and Boys' World Magazine


[Editor's Note: In the sixties The Eagle was an enormously popular English science-fiction magazine. This letter is the first known published work of Douglas Adams, then age twelve.]

The Voices of All Our Yesterdays

I vaguely remember my schooldays. They were what was going on in the background while I was trying to listen to the Beatles.

When "Can't Buy Me Love" came out, I was twelve. I sneaked out of school during morning milk break, bought the record, and broke into matron's room because she had a record player. Then I played it, not loud enough to get caught, but just loud enough to hear with my ear pressed up against the speaker. Then I played it again for the other ear. Then I turned the record over and did the same for "You Can't Do That." That was when the housemaster found me and put me into detention, which is what I had expected. It seemed a small price to pay for what I now realize wasart.

I didn't know it was art then, of course. I only knew that the Beatles were the most exciting thing in the universe. It wasn't always an easy view to live with. First you had to fight the Stones fans, which was tricky because they fought dirty and had their knuckles nearer the ground. Then you had to fight the grownups, parents and teachers who said that you were wasting your time and pocket money on rubbish that you would have forgotten by next week.

I found it hard to understand why they were telling me this. I sang in the school choir and knew how to listen for harmony and counterpoint, and it was clear to me that the Beatles were something extraordinarily clever. It bewildered me that no one else could hear it: impossible harmonies and part playing you had never heard in pop songs before. The Beatles were obviously just putting all this stuff in for some secret fun of their own, and it seemed exciting to me that people could have fun in that way.

The next exciting thing was that they kept on losing me. They would bring out a new album and for a few listenings it would leave me cold and confused. Then gradually it would begin to unravel itself in my mind. I would realize that the reason I was confused was that I was listening to Something that was simply unlike anything that anybody had done before. "Another Girl," "Good Day Sunshine," and the extraordinary "Drive My Car." These tracks are so familiar now that it takes a special effort of will to remember how alien they seemed at first to me. The Beatles were now not just writing songs, they were inventing the very medium in which they were working.

I never got to see them. Difficult to believe, I know. I was alive at the time the Beatles were performing and never got to see them. I tend to go on about this rather a lot. Do not go to San Francisco with me, or I will insist on pointing out Candlestick Park to you and bleating on about the fact that in 1966 the Beatles played their last concert there, just shortly before I'd woken up to the fact that rock concerts were things you could actually go to, even if you lived in Brentwood.

A friend of mine at school once had some studio tickets to see David Frost's show being recorded, but we ended up not going. I watched the show that night, and the Beatles were on it playing "Hey Jude." I was ill for about a year. Another day that I happened not to go to London after all was the day they played their rooftop concert in Savile Row. I can't-ever-speak about that.

Well, the years passed. The Beatles passed. But Paul McCart-ney has gone on and on. A few months ago the guitarist Robbie McIntosh phoned me and said, "We're playing at the Mean Fiddler in a few days, do you want to come along?"

Now this is one of the daftest questions I've ever been asked, and I think it took me a few moments even to work out what he meant. The Mean Fiddler, for those who don't know, is a pub in an unlovely part of northwest London with a room at the back where bands play. You can probably get about two hundred people in.

It was the word we that temporarily confused me, because I knew that the band that Robbie was currently playing in was Paul McCartney's, and I didn't think that Paul McCartney played in pubs. If Paul McCartney did play in pubs, then it would be daft to think that I would not saw my own leg off in order to go. I went.

In front of two hundred people in a pub, Paul McCartney stood up and played songs he'd never, I think, played in public before. "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Blackbird," to name but two. I've played "Blackbird" in pubs, for heaven's sake. I spent weeks learning the guitar part when I was supposed to be revising for A-levels. I almost wondered if I was hallucinating.

There were two moments of complete astonishment. One was the last encore, which was an immaculate, thunderous performance of, believe it or not, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." (Remember, this was in a pub.) And the other was one of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll songs, "Can't Buy Me Love," which I had first heard crouching with my ear cupped to the Dansette record player in the school matron's room.

There is a game people like to play that goes, "When would you most like to have lived and why?" The Italian Renaissance? Mozart's Vienna? Shakespeare's England? Personally, I would like to have been around Bach. But I have a real difficulty with the game, which is that living at any other period of history would have meant missing the Beatles, and I honestly don't think I could do that. Mozart and Bach and Shakespeare are always with us, but I grew up with the Beatles and I'm not sure what else has affected me as much as that.

So Paul McCartney is fifty tomorrow. Happy birthday, Paul. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The [London] Sunday Times, June 17, 1992

Brentwood School

I was at Brentwood School for twelve whole years. And they were, by and large, in an up and downy kind of way, pretty good years: fairly happy, reasonably leafy, a bit sportier than I was in the mood for at the time, but full of good (and sometimes highly eccentric) teaching. In fact, it was only later that I gradually came to realise how well I had been taught at Brentwood—particularly in English, and particularly in Physics. (Odd, that.) However, the whole twelve-year experience is, for me, completely overshadowed by the memory of one terrible, mind-scarring experience. I am referring to the episode of The Trousers. Let me explain.

I have always been absurdly, ridiculously tall. To give you an idea—when we went on school expeditions to Interesting and Improving Places, the form-master wouldn't say "Meet under the clock tower," or "Meet under the War Memorial," but "Meet under Adams." I was at least as visible as anything else on the horizon, and could be repositioned at will. When, in Physics, we were asked to repeat Galileo's demonstration that two bodies of different weight fall to the ground at the same speed, I was the one who was given the task of dropping the cricket ball and the pea, because it was quicker than going to an upstairs window. I always towered over everybody. Right back at the very beginning of my school career, aged seven, I introduced myself to another new boy (Robert Neary) by coming up behind him and, in a spirit of experiment, dropping a cricket ball on his head and saying, "Hello, my name's Adams, what's yours?" This, for Robert Neary, I'm sure was his one terrible, mind-scarring memory.

In the Prep School, where I was for five years out of my twelve, we all wore short trousers: grey shorts with blazers in the summer, and in the winter those pepper-and-salt tweed suits with short trousers. There is of course an extremely good reason for wearing shorts when you're young, even in the depths of an English winter (and they were colder then, weren't they?). According to Wired magazine, we can't expect to see self-repairing fabrics until about the year 2020, but ever since we emerged from whatever trees or swamps we lived in five million years ago, we have had self-repairing knees.

So, shorts made sense. Even though we all had to wear them, it did begin to get a bit ridiculous in my case. It wasn't towering over the other boys I minded so much, it was towering over the masters. Wearing shorts. My mother pleaded with the principal on one occasion to please make an exception in my case and let me wear long trousers. But Jack Higgs, ever fair but firm, said no: I was only six months away from going up to the main school, whereupon I, along with everybody else, would be able to wear long trousers. I would have to wait.

At last I left the Prep School. And two weeks before the beginning of the Michaelmas term, my mother took me along to the school shop to buy—at last—a long-trousered school suit. And guess what? They didn't make them in a size long enough for me. Let me just repeat that, so that the full horror of the situation can settle on you reading this as it did on me that day in the summer of 1964, standing in the school shop. They didn't have any school trousers long enough for me. They would have to make them specially. That would take six weeks. Six weeks. Six minus two was, as we had been so carefully and painstakingly taught, four. Which meant that for four whole weeks of the next term I was going to be the only boy in school wearing shorts. For the next two weeks I took up playing in the traffic, being careless with kitchen knives, and neglecting to stand clear of the doors on station platforms, but, sadly, I led a charmed life, and I had to go through with it: four weeks of the greatest humiliation and embarrassment known to man or, rather, to that most easily humiliated and embarrassed of all creatures, the overgrown twelve-year-old boy. We've all experienced those painful dreams in which we suddenly discover we are stark naked in the middle of the high street. Believe me, this was worse, and it wasn't a dream.

The story rather fizzles out there because a month later, of course, I got my long trousers and was readmitted into polite society. But, believe me, I still carry the scars inside, and though I try my best to bestride the world like a Colossus, writing best-selling books and . . . (well, that's about it, really, I suppose), if I ever come across as a maladjusted, socially isolated, sad, hunched emotional cripple (I'm thinking mainly of Sunday mornings in February, here), then it's those four weeks of having to wear short trousers in September 1964 that are to blame.

Y

"Why" is the only question that bothers people enough to have an entire letter of the alphabet named after it.

The alphabet does not go "A B C D What? When? How?" but it does go "V W X Why? Z."

"Why?" is always the most difficult question to answer. You know where you are when someone asks you "What's the time?" or "When was the battle of 1066?" or "How do these seatbelts work that go tight when you slam the brakes on, Daddy?" The answers are easy and are, respectively, "Seven-thirty-five in the evening," "Ten-fifteen in the morning," and "Don't ask stupid questions."

But when you hear the word "Why?," you know you've got one of the biggest unanswerables on your hands, such as "Why are we born?" or "Why do we die?" and "Why do we spend so much of the intervening time receiving junk mail?"

Or this one:

"Will you go to bed with me?"

"Why?"

There's only ever been one good answer to that question "Why?" and perhaps we should have that in the alphabet as well. There's room for it. "Why?" doesn't have to be the last word, it isn't even the last letter. How would it be if the alphabet ended, "V W X Why? Z," but "V W X Why not?"

Don't ask stupid questions.
—From Hockney's Alphabet (Faber & Faber)
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2002

    one last work from adams

    I strongly disagree with the last two reviews, both of which appear to be from the same person, someone without a clue of what was in the book. So it was released after his death. So it contains 10 chapters of an unfinished book. If that offends you, then I see no reason why the rest of it would, as its full of witty and great essays and stories spanning Adams's whole tragically short life. Most authors have a similar collection, and frankly it excites rather than offends me. Douglas Adams, my favorite author and most mourned celebrity, showed great promise with the beginnings of another guide book, as well as demonstrated his enormous talent with the many essays and stories. The world is quite a bit less bright for me without him, but at least we have this last testiment to his life.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 18, 2011

    An amazing collection of stories.

    OK, first I have to admit that I was a Douglas Adams fan before I read this book. I actually have two copies my original paperback and now the ebook version. This book has numerous short stories which are ideal for when you don't have time to get suck into a novel. Most of the stories are funny, educational and thought provoking. There are so many gems in this book that I bought the ebook version just so I could bookmark all the sections of interest and carry a copy on my phone for future reference. Another reason I rate this book so high is that it directed me to read "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins which I would rate a the number one book I have ever read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    One of a kind

    Douglas Adams was truly one of a kind. From his unique humor to his odd reasoning, he always gave us something to remember in his books. This collection contains some of the funniest material ever written. As the other reviewers have said, it's a crying shame that Adams will never write again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2014

    so long and thanks...

    A great last book to have published under dna's name. So long Douglas....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    A wonderful visit with Douglas

    A hitch-hiking reader stuck on the roadside for awhile, I was pleased to catch a ride with this refreshing assemblage of Douglas Adams' wit and insight. It sheds light on how he developed and maintained the talents so evident in his previous work. Thanks to all who labored on this prize.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    Thank you

    So long ...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2004

    The World's Loss

    My God, perhaps the best book i've read in my life...i dont think ive ever felt more connected to an author through their works before...it is truely an incredible read to go through this book and feel deeply saddened that you will never read something like this again, because he was so truely unique...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2004

    An incredible read

    This is a special book for any Douglas Adams fan. After reading this book, I guess that the feeling I have is one of lonelieness more than anything else. As I began to finish the book, the humor was overshadowed by the knowledge that Mr. Adams will never again put pen to paper, and I felt the ache of having lost a friend. DNA has been one of my favorite authors since a child hood friend introduced me to a new book called The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. This book is a treasured read, and not just because it is new DNA material, but because it really does show what a genuinely nice guy he was. Somewhere out there I'm sure that Douglas has a clean towel in his satchel, and is sipping on a 'gin and tonic'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002

    So long....

    Posthumous this book maybe but if posthumous work brings to mind those disgraceful Jimi Hendrix lps released after his death during the 70's, then think again. In many ways I enjoyed this book more than others he has written where he is limited by a story line. Adams writes of music, diving, travelling, animals etc and never fails to leave one moved by his wisdom. His fans, of course, will love this. The Adams personality comes over stronger than ever. The Stephen Fry introduction sums up the reasons to read the book far better than I could.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2002

    Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

    Not great, not awful.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2014

    Thanks

    So long Douglas and thanks for all the books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

    To come ON

    Well then buy the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    Come ON!

    The sample didnt even go past the introduction.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    Blossomrain

    I love you too. Thank you.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2009

    I know it may sound like a cliche

    but this book changed my life. You've heard people say "oh gosh that-or-the-other book changed my life", but please, _please_ trust me when I say that such thrown-about exclamations are ridiculously exaggerated hyperboles, compared to the effect of this book. Not each and every story will inspire a profound minute or two of staring into space in awe, but enough will to deserve such acclaim. The particularly most un-missable piece would be "Is There An Artificial God", which is comparable in ingenuity to the works of Asimov and Feynman.

    Get this book; I don't care how, I don't care if it's not from Barnes & Noble, I don't care if you even pay. It's a textbook must-read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    I really miss him!

    I absolutely LOVED it! Yes, I am biased and it really went to my heart knowing this is his last book! I liked reading about his life, family, and the adventures he got to go on! I still can't get over that he his gone from this Earth.I held on to every sentence and story for as long it would last and still thought of them afterwards.You can see where some of the stories and characters may have come from or at least his train of thought. I hope that when you read it you have read all the other stories first because this is really a closing chapter :(

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2003

    last chance to see, indeed

    Unlike the first two reviewers I knew what I was reading. This book gives you great insight to one of the greatest minds this world has known. I was so happy to read the book that I couldnt put it down, but when I finished I felt such loss. I wish I could read all his books over again for the first time. Mr Adams was my favorite author before and this book did not disapoint me, besides that this is the last of his work I will be able to read :( ....NEVER FORGET YOUR TOWEL!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2003

    Well composed and edited

    I found it to be a great tribute to Adams. Gave insite to parts of his life and his ideas and values. Worth the read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2002

    Douglas, you simply cannot be dead!

    Douglas Adams was a man who really knew where his towel was - the hoopiest frood this side of the Horsehead Nebula! For all I know he may not be dead, he might have just caught a ride from a Teaser. I love this book, the critics reviews give details of The Salmon of Doubt so I won't repeat any of them. I never met Douglas, but Zarquon's Knees!, I miss him. Buy everything by Douglas Adams, it's all really good stuff... ...well, it's better than Vogon poetry!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2002

    The Salmon does not dissapoint!

    The Salmon of Doubt is an excellent title. It provides the exact thing that it promises, which is a profound (perhaps too profound) insight into the mind of our dearly departed DNA.

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