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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the second book in the increasingly inaccurately-named The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. It constitutes the second half of author Douglas Adams's original radio story; due taking a legendarily long time to finish his manuscripts, he couldn't fit the whole thing into one book and his publishers told him to just give them what he had and that they'd publish the rest separately later. Those familiar with the radio series knew what to expect here before Life The Universe And Everything took them to wholly new pastures.
Following directly after the events of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe finds our motley crew (hapless Englishman Arthur Dent, his alien friend Ford Prefect, human female Trillian, Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Marvin the paranoid android) under attack from the Vogons, this franchise's brand of bureaucratic-minded green-skinned space invaders, after the destruction of the Earth. They manage to escape with some supernatural help, and Zaphod gets caught up in the conspiracy that compelled him to become President and steal the starship Heart of Gold in the first place (which he erased his own memory about for security reasons, and has no desire to get back). After finally finding out from fellow conspirator Zarniwoop that their objective is to meet the person who actually rules the universe, he decides not to go along with it and escapes.
Instead, our heroes go out to lunch at "the nearest place to eat" -- which turns out to be the luxurious Milliways, the titular restaurant, where diners can enjoy witnessing the destruction of all creation while being treated by food that literally begs to be eaten and entertained by the stylings of stand-up comedian Max Quordlepleen. Following an incident involving a dead rock star's high-class stunt spaceship and a rather large sun, Arthur and Ford end up teleported onto a massive space ark full of telephone sanitation engineers (among other middlebrow professions) two million years into the past... while Zaphod and Trillian end up right back where they started.
In the end, Zarniwoop drags Zaphod and Trillian along with him to meet the man who rules the universe... and gets an unpleasant shock when he finds out what they're like. And Arthur and Ford find themselves stranded on a prehistoric Earth, where the true and shocking origins of the human species -- and the final outcome of the program to find the Ultimate Question -- are gradually revealed to them.
This book contains examples of:
- Begone Bribe: There's a violinist in Milliways who Zaphod and Ford get rid of like this. He leaves and goes over to bother Arthur and Trillian.
- Boggles the Mind: Invoked Trope by Arthur, when he pulls out Scrabble tiles at random in an attempt to reveal the Ultimate Question from his subconscious, and reveals "WHATDOYOUGETIFYOUMULTIPLYSIXBYNINE".
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: The sentient food at the titular restaurant.
- Cool Starship: The Milliways' parking lot is packed with them. Naturally, our heroes pick the one that's got a date with a solar flare...
- Epic Fail: Arthurs attemept to get the drink replicator to make a decent cup of tea causes the ship to shut itself down just to figure it out, nearly getting the crew killed.
- Hurl It Into the Sun - The fate our motley crew is threatened with after space-jacking Desiato's ship.
- It's All About Me - The Total Perspective Vortex confirms Zaphod's narcissism... because he's inside a virtual universe that does, in fact, center around him.
- Let's Meet the Meat - Trope Namer. A genetically-engineered bovine alien at the titular restaurant offers itself as food for Milliways's patrons.
- Literal Minded - Eddie, the ship's computer for the Heart of Gold. Zaphod asks for it to send them to the nearest place to eat -- so it sends them to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which is on the same planet (Frogstar World B) but 576,000,000,000 years into the future.
- Meanwhile in the Future - In the last part of the novel, the scenes with Arthur & Ford are intercut with those with Zaphod & Trillian, despite being two million years apart.
- Norse Mythology - A group of small Asgardian deities dines at Milliways, marking the start of the Adams-verse's flirtation with ancient Scandinavia.
- Only Mostly Dead - Hotblack Desiato.
- Planning with Props - Ford's drunken explanation in Milliways.
- Put Off Their Food: During the dinner at Milliways, Arthur initially orders a steak, changes to a salad when he finds out what the steak comes from, and eventually settles for a glass of water.
- The Slow Path: Marvin, who parks cars on Frogstar B for 567,000,000,000 years.