Life, the Universe and Everything (1982, ISBN 0-345-39182-9) is the third book in the five-volume Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy science fiction series by Douglas Adams. The title refers to the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
The story was originally outlined by Adams as Doctor Who and the Krikketmen to be a Tom Baker Doctor Who television six-part story, but was rejected by the BBC. It was later considered as a plotline for the second series of the Hitchhiker's TV series, which was never commissioned.
A radio adaptation of Life, the Universe and Everything was recorded in 2003 under the guidance of Dirk Maggs, starring the surviving members of the cast of the original Hitchhiker's radio series. Adams himself, at his own suggestion, makes a cameo appearance; due to his death before production began on the series, this was achieved by sampling his character's dialogue from an audio book of the novel read by Adams that was published in the 1990s. The radio adaptation debuted on BBC Radio 4 in September 2004.
Stranded on pre-historic Earth, the unfortunate Arthur Dent decides to spend his time to the fullest by going insane. Just as he makes this decision, his old friend, Ford Prefect reappears and pulls him through an eddy in the space-time continuum (cleverly disguised as an anachronistic sofa) onto Lord's Cricket Ground two days before the Vogons are to destroy the Earth. As they arrive, a ship lands on the cricket ground and a squad of robots steals The Ashes while wreaking havoc in what seems to be an obscene parody of cricket. Slartibartfast, former award-winning planet designer from Magrathea, arrives too late to stop the violence, but asks Ford and Arthur to help him.
On board his ship, Slartibartfast explains the history of Krikkit. Long ago, the inhabitants of Krikkit were a quaint, peaceful people. Their planet and sun had been encircled by an immense dust cloud as long as they could remember. They had never considered the possibility of life outside their home, as their planet was surrounded by a dust cloud which blocked all light. When a spaceship screamed through the dust cloud and crash-landed on Krikkit, the Krikkiters reverse-engineered it to build their own spaceship. Once they saw the rest of the universe, they were traumatized. They decided that their only possible course of action was to destroy this strange universe. They launched a fleet of warships and robots to slaughter every other species, but were defeated after a long and bloody war. The people of Krikkit were sentenced by galactic judge Judiciary Pag to be sealed within a Slo-Time envelope until the rest of the universe died out naturally. The British sport of cricket, as it turns out, came about as the result of a vague interspecies collective unconscious memory; species familiar with the Krikkit Wars are appalled and disgusted at how the humans turned it into a sport, although Slartibartfast confesses to being rather fond of it himself.
Somehow a lone Krikkit warship has escaped the envelope and is looking for the three stumps and two bails that will form the Wikkit Gate; this is the key that will unlock the Slo-Time envelope and release the Krikkiters to complete their genocidal mission.
While pursuing the Krikkit ship, Arthur is somehow diverted to a dark cave where an angry creature confronts him. This creature, who calls himself Agrajag, claims to have been killed by Arthur hundreds of times in various reincarnations, ranging from a fly which Arthur swatted to the bowl of petunias suddenly called into existence several miles above the surface of Magrathea. After a number of deaths, Agrajag began to notice a pattern: the same person caused his death each time. Arthur Dent. His current, and rather hideous, form is Agrajag's latest incarnation. As Agrajag describes his various deaths at Arthur's hand, he briefly mentions an assassination attempt on Arthur, in a place called Stavromula Beta. Arthur stammers that he's never been to Stavromula Beta, and Agrajag realises that he's brought Arthur to the Cathedral too soon (in his own timeline); Arthur cannot be killed until he has been to Stavromula Beta. He attempts to kill Arthur anyway, and suffers yet another accidental death at Arthur's hands. While fleeing from the collapsing cave, Arthur discovers the knack of flying: being able to throw yourself at the ground and miss due to being distracted at the last minute from thoughts. He soars jubilantly until he is hit in the small of his back by a flying party, where he rejoins Ford and Slartibartfast. The party is the location of the "Silver Bail" portion of the key, which is also stolen by the robots.
The group completely fails to stop the Krikkit war party from reconstructing the Key and opening the envelope. However, the Krikkiters seem to have lost their bloodthirstiness over the centuries. As it happens, the dust cloud was the pulverised remains of Hactar, a supercomputer built by the Silastic Armorfiends. Hactar was tasked by the warlike Armorfiends with creating a weapon of ultimate destruction that would cause every sun in the universe to go supernova simultaneously. Shocked, Hactar did as asked but designed a small flaw into the device, hoping that when the weapon failed to destroy all of existence, the Armorfiends would see the folly of their ways and turn to a life of peace. Instead, they blasted Hactar into molecules before finding entirely new ways of killing each other. Hactar's construction was such that every molecule retained a bit of its "consciousness", and could therefore still function, even in its disintegrated state. As the Armorfiends died out and gave way to the peaceful Krikkiters, Hactar resolved to complete its original task. Through centuries of subtle influence, it guided the psychological development of the inhabitants of Krikkit before fabricating a mockup of a ship to inspire their xenophobia. The Slo-Time envelope blocked Hactar's influence and allowed the Krikkiters to return to their peaceful ways.
With the universe seemingly saved, Ford, Arthur and Slartibartfast return The Ashes (which had been, as the Wooden Pillar of Nature and Spirituality, part of the Wikkit Gate). Arthur can't resist his only opportunity to bowl a ball at Lord's; he finds a red ball in his pouch and a batsman obligingly stands before a wicket. As he begins to bowl, time slows and he realises several things. First, Hactar has planted its doomsday device in Arthur's travel bag while they were conversing by fabricating a new cricket ball similar to one previously in Arthur's possession inside a (then) discarded Rabbit bag. Second, the batsman is in fact a Krikkit robot, and if it manages to strike the ball, it will detonate the bomb and destroy the universe. As he prepares to pitch the ball, Arthur is completely distracted by this realization, trips, forgets to hit the ground and goes sailing off, sending the weapon sailing harmlessly off into the distance.
In the end Arthur goes to live on the Krikkit planet where he becomes a more skillful flier and learns Bird language.
This book is the only one in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series to have been censored in its U.S. edition. An extensive but still incomplete list of the changes between the two versions can be found on an archived web page The word "asshole" is replaced with the word "kneebiter", and the word "shit" is replaced with "swut". Possibly the most famous example of censorship is in Chapter 21, which in the U.K. edition mentions that a Rory was an award for the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word Fuck in a Serious Screenplay. In the U.S. edition, this was changed to "Belgium" and the text from the original radio series describing "Belgium" as the most offensive word in the galaxy is reused.