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Mostly Harmless (1992) is the fifth installment in the increasingly inaccurately-named The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, and the last written by franchise creator Douglas Adams himself. Set several years after the fourth one, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, its plot divides into three distinct branches. The first concerns the series protagonist, hapless Englishman Arthur Dent, as he tries to find a new, Earth-like home to settle down on after the unexpected erasure of his soul-mate, Fenchurch; he eventually builds a sort of life for himself as resident sandwich-maker for the primitive villagers on the planet Lamuella (but not for long).
The second concerns Ford Prefect and his ill-conceived attempts to save the Guide Corporation from corporate sleaze Vann Harl and Infini-Dim Enterprises, a bureaucratic nightmare run by the Vogons that wants to pervert the spirit of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for profit. The third concerns Trillian, who reinvents herself as an interplanetary anchorwoman and bears Arthur's child, Random Dent, who is absolutely nothing like her mild-mannered father.
Preceded by So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, succeeded by And Another Thing. Has next to nothing to do with the Connecticut sketch comedy Mostly Harmless, but is definitely related to the Mostly Harmless Roleplay LJ group.
- Alternate Universe
- Anti-Advice: Arthur Dent asks a soothsayer how he should live his life, and her counsel boils down to "Here's my autobiography. Read it, and do the opposite of what I did."
- Ax Crazy: Random Dent.
- Bus Crash: Fenchurch.
- Cerebus Syndrome
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Vann Harl.
- Creator Breakdown: Regarding the Downer Ending of Mostly Harmless and the mixed reaction from fans, Adams conceded, "I just had a thoroughly miserable year, and I was trying to write a book against that background." He intended a sixth book to give the series a better conclusion, but succumbed to Author Existence Failure first.
- Darker and Edgier
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Poor Fenchurch.
- Downer Ending: All Alternate Universe Earths are destroyed, and 80% of the main cast dies. See Creator Breakdown.
- ...or so it seems, until the sixth book reveals that, at Random's request, they're placed into a Lotus Eater Machine by the Guide Mk. II and given one last shot at survival.
- Elvis Has Left the Planet
- Eldritch Abomination: The Guide Mk. II is a pandimensional thing of limitless power (it can make anything happen simply by arranging events in the past to bring about a given future event) that has the appearance of a black bird. Sometimes.
- Satiating Sandwich: Arthur Dent, having undergone an existential crisis over his only skill being sandwich making, ends up the chief sandwich maker for the tribe on Lamuella, with several whole pages about this exalted position, and his divine sandwich-making skills earn him more respect than the village chief.
- Evilly Affable: Vann Harl (actually Zarniwoop, as described in the second book), corporate bastard extraordinaire. By this point in the series, the Guide had come to represent freedom from the norm, and thus, both his transformation of the Guide HQ from a dadaesque palace of fun to a drab corporate office complex and his attempt to misuse time-traveling technology to profit infinitely from a single sale are seen as gruesome sins in this series' world. However, he is ever so utterly suave and in-control... though we know he is loathsome, it's hard not to like him. Just a little.
- Genre Shift: This book isn't really very funny. Mostly it's just creepy and strange.
- Little Miss Badass: Random (at the very least, she tries to be).
- Married to the Job: Trillian is much more interested in her career than raising her (clearly emotionally damaged) daughter. Granted some of it isn't her fault, temporal induced aging and all, but it comes across as enormously selfish that she doesn't even consider a job that would let her stay in Random's life.
- Mega Corp: The Hitchhiker's Guide Corporation and Infini-Dim Enterprises.
- Mind Screw: Ford's voyage into the four-dimensional Guide online network.
- The scene in which Arthur visited the man in the village filled with poles. Said man can walk to the horizon and back in a single step, and can step off one of the poles (each one is 40 feet tall, mind you) and live.
- The Operators Must Be Crazy:
...the third event, which was a rampaging mob of long-distance telephone operators who had got so twisted with having to say, all day and every day, "Thank you for using BS&S" to every single idiot who picked up a phone that they had finally taken to the streets with trash cans, megaphones and rifles.
- Plot Armor: Arthur Dent has it, and it's explicitly justified. Remember Agrajag from Life the Universe And Everything? The guy who kept getting reincarnated, and whom Arthur keeps accidentally killing? There's an incarnation of him that Arthur hadn't met at that point, and the narration explicitly states that until Arthur accidentally kills that incarnation of Agrajag, he literally cannot die. Which he does, at the end of this book, with his own death (and everyone else's) following by mere seconds.
- Earth Gets Obliterated, Everyone Dies
- Sick Sad World: Now What, the most miserable planet in the Galaxy.
- Sir Not Appearing In This Book: Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin.
- Well, at least Marvin has a good excuse.
- Spared by the Adaptation: All of the main characters (including Marvin) in the radio play.
- Stranded with Edison: Discussed but averted; when Arthur Dent is stranded on a planet with an Iron Age culture, he intitally thinks he can bring them civilisation, before realising that he doesn't actually know how to make anything. Except sandwiches...
- Took a Level In Jerkass: Trillian (see Married to the Job, above).
- Unfortunate Names: Be honest. If you heard someone refer to Random Dent, you would probably think they were talking about, well, some random dent on the wall.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Arthur's epic sandwich-making skills.
- Xanatos Roulette: "Temporal reverse-engineering", the special feature of the Guide Mark II; give it a goal, and it will turn out to have already been acting to bring it about. While also working on somebody else's future agenda.
- The Guide Mark II's Xanatos skills are greater than that; give it a goal, and not only will it have already been acting to bring it about, it will also have been acting to ensure you give it the goal it wants.