The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

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The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

One of the wittiest and most suspenseful sci-fi novels ever written.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was Douglas Adams’ first novel, published in 1979. Originally a radio series, it was later adapted into a film, a tv series, and a computer game. It was an instant success, selling over two hundred thousand copies in its first three months.

Adams apparently came up with the idea while he was drunk in a field in Austria. Staring up at the stars with a Hitchhikers Guide to Europe in his bag, he decided that someone needed to write a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.


Summary

Just before the Earth gets blown up to make room for the new galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is rescued by Ford Prefect. His out-of-work actor friend reveals that he’s an alien, having visited Earth with the sole purpose of gathering research for a book. Their adventures begin immediately. They meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, the three-armed president of the galaxy as well as his girlfriend, Trillian. They visit legendary planets, accidentally create a giant whale in space, and enemy agents capture them. The book even answers the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything, despite not having a question for that answer. And if that wasn’t enough, it turns out that everything we knew about planet Earth is wrong. There’s mice, supercomputers and torturous poetry as Arthur Dent is led across the galaxy in an adventure that sticks with you forever.



Commentary

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is easily the best sci-fi novel that I’ve read to date!

Praise

  • It’s one of the wittiest novels ever written. From the paranoid android to Prefect’s sharp one-liners, the entire novel is a joke. The story is, too. In fact, this entire book is one giant joke. But it still makes you want to keep reading. The plot, the ideas, the puns; everything’s absolute lunacy, thrown together in a crazy way that somehow manages to work.
  • Adams is renowned for his descriptions. They’re fun, they’re wacky, and they make absolutely no sense and yet make full sense in the same sentence. “The ships hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don’t” only scratches the tip of this novel’s descriptive iceberg.
  • It’s new, it’s original, and it’s exciting. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the first of its kind. Comedic science fiction novels are few and far between, but this is the book that started it all. The characters are quirky, the story’s engaging, and the ending leaves you gripping the edge of your seat for more.

Critique

  • Because of the lack of plot, the novel jumps from place to place. There’s no logical order to any of it, and the rules of writing don’t apply. Adams was often accused of only writing books to make use of his one-liners and you can see this throughout. Nothing makes sense, not the characters or the story, so if you enjoy structured, logical novels, then this isn’t the book for you.
  • It shows the insignificance of human beings. I’m not saying that the novel is true, but chances are, there’s other intelligent life out there, and chances are, they’ve taken one look at us and gone “… Nah”. Humans are a primitive race, something to belittle and mock.
  • While not outwardly sexist, there is a notable lack of female characters. Even Trillian is a cliché’d two-dimensional character. She’s only included for the purpose of plot and doesn’t contribute anything to the story herself.


Recommendations

Overall, I’d give Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a four out of five. An absolutely absurd story, it’s simple but entertaining and should be on everyone’s to-read list!

I’d recommend it for everyone, but especially teenagers and young adults. Although it’s a comedy, it does have a way of shaping the way you see the world afterwards, which makes it ideal for a younger audience.


4/5 Star



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