Author: Douglas Adams
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
Type: Series (Book #1)
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Del Ray
Publishing Date: 1995 (First Published in 1979)
Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox—the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.
Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don’t forget to bring a towel!
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2) falls into the cult classic arena in my mind and it’s one of those books where you either love it or you hate it. But honestly, I’m torn. Adams has a unique way of writing and in many ways, the novel is humorous. If you sense that there’s a BUT in there, yes, you are correct. It’s a little bit of a rough read because of the writing style. I took me a while to get through it, but there are few books that are witty enough to make me laugh out loud.
I’m not going to write a mini-summary of the book because: A) Honestly, it’s been a very long time since I’ve read it. Think a year and a half. This review has been sitting on the back burner and I’m just getting around to it; and B) This book has been around for a long time and you probably have either read it or seen the movie featuring Mos Def.
This book goes off the deep end fairly quickly and the adventures are screwball-y. I do love that there’s a lot of social commentary rolled into this novel. Honestly, the whole catalyst of the plot is the fact that Earth has been demolished for a space highway. This is very reminiscent of the 50’s when whole neighborhoods were essentially decimated by the construction of interstate highways all for people’s incessant need to get to where they’re going faster. Also, the idea that the president has no real semblance of power, as noted by this quote, “The President of the Universe holds no real power. His sole purpose is to take attention away from where the power truly exists…” seems to be very reflective of our current political climate.
The main characters are well-developed, sarcastic, and odd. Marvin, the depressed robot, both annoyed and delighted me. His dry sense of humor kept me going as the rest of the characters went off on whatever zany adventure came up next. The world as a whole was well-designed and well-described. I had no trouble imagining what was going on in this world even if the names of things were a little kooky. In essence, it was vivid and imaginable.
With a book like this, you have to keep in mind the time that it was written. Back in 1979, this was forward thinking in many ways. For example, we are beginning to have something like the Babel Fish and honestly Google serves as an on-hand translator. Forbes created a short list of tech from H2G2 that leapt from the pages into reality.
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
“The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.”
What are your thoughts on this book? Do you love it? Hate it?
Thanks for reading,