This was a classic sci-fi novel. I read it about 20 years ago but it was older. Okay, so here is a description of the book’s plot:
It starts with the destruction of the Earth, but it’s not blown up like in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s a big flood. The main character escapes in a spaceship with a sex robot.
I don’t remember why, but he ends up going on some kind of quest in space. I don’t know if it’s his initial goal to find the creators of all life in the universe, or if it happens over time, but that’s his end goal.
On the way, he stops at three planets and spends a while at each one. I don’t remember the order he visits them in, and I don’t remember all three planets, but I remember two of them.
At the first one I remember, he goes to a planet and immediately gets arrested for indecent exposure. On this planet, everyone goes naked, but wears a mask. They consider the face the only truly “private” part of you, because all faces are unique but bodies are just bodies. So he spends a while there, gathers clues or whatever, and then leaves but I don’t remember why.
The second planet I remember was a planet where everyone has a tail, and they take pity on him because he is a poor, tailless creature, and they give him a tail, like a surgically attached, fully functional biological tail, prehensile like a monkey so they use it to rest on and pick things up and such. On this planet, I think it’s a monarchy, because he works his way up in the court and becomes a very important person, but for some reason or another, a huge revolution breaks out and because he is part of the “old regime”, he is a target too, and during the kerfuffle, someone chops off his tail with a cleaver.
So he and the sex robot escape and continue the journey. There is another planet but I don’t know where it falls in the order of things and what that planet’s gimmick is.
Also, during trips either between planets or on the way to find the creators of life, he encounters a black hole. This is where I get the timeline in, because in the book he calls it something weird, like a 'wabjub' or something weird like that that starts with 'W' but I don’t think it’s exactly that. Then, there is a footnote describing about how this book was written before the discovery of the black hole so he kind of discovered it first. Now, I can’t remember if he wrote about it before they were first called black holes or before they were first theorized to exist. I looked it up before and basically, there are two time periods that are important for black holes along those lines, so the book was either written in the 50s-70s somewhere, or in the very early 1900s.
So eventually, he ends up discovering the creators of all life and visiting them where they were, and he wants to ask them like, what is the meaning of life? Is there a purpose? Why did they seed life through the whole universe? You know, like life’s big questions.
It turns out, the creators are a species of gigantic beetles, absolutely massive. So he goes and asks them, why did you put life everywhere?
The beetles say that when their species was young, they used to be explorers, and explored everywhere. They would land on planets and investigate them. While there, they had to of course perform biological functions, like poop, and their poop like ours was filled with microorganisms, and those organisms then colonized those planets and evolved into all the life in the galaxy. So in the end, there was no big reason for life and everyone just evolved from beetle poop.
I know it would be helpful if I could remember character names or specific quotes, but that’s all that I can recall from it. I’m fairly sure it’s not a well known author. Someone obscure.
What I’ve tried so far is asking in book clubs, asking sci-fi people I know, all kinds of Google searches for the date of publication or using bits I remember from the book, as well as asking several different AI assistants and haven’t had any luck.
Anyone have any ideas?