The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Del Rey Books, 2005,216 pages, 978-0345391803, Paperback, $7.99
Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has appeared in more forms of media than most readers would care to know. A shortened version of Hitchhiker’s various media formats includes a 1978 radio series, a television special, live plays, and multiple major motion pictures. However, nothing tops the original novel in terms of dry British humor, originality, and unrestrained creativity. (Those new to the world of dry British humor should proceed with the following warning: this style of comedy is notorious as being downright hilarious to a select few, but just odd enough to leave the majority of readers scratching their heads, looking slightly lost and off-put.)
I originally read Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy some time ago in middle school. Returning to the book for this review was truly a pleasure. Since my first encounter with Adams’ writing, I have been mesmerized by his ability to throw off the reader with a completely odd sentence, then tie it back into the story in a way that is not only plausible, but hilarious at the same time. The mind of Mr. Adams is a brilliant mix between calculative and zany. As well, his one liners never fail to crack me up. “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” Adams’ writing helped inspire my love of British humor, which has today manifested itself in the form of a bookshelf full of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Neil Gaiman.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is not your normal science fiction novel. The plot doesn’t move very fast, there aren’t any huge battle scenes, and avoiding the destruction of Earth isn’t the grand finale. (There is, however, a chapter dedicated to the discussion of the worst poets in the galaxy and a completely off-the-wall lifeform described as “a highly intelligent shade of the color blue.”) Adams envelops readers in a story that seems to be in no hurry to get anywhere, yet covers vast interstellar distances, and still finds time to make pit stops at all the interesting little nooks and crannies along the way. The cast of the book is relatively normal, if a two-headed, three-armed, maniac (and ex-galactic president), his girlfriend, a writer from the nearby star Betelgeuse, and a laid back gent from England can be considered at all normal. And don’t forget the super intelligent and clinically depressed robot, Marvin.
Readers looking for a journey that can only be described as completely out of this world (literally and metaphorically) will find Hitchhiker’s to be all that they are looking for and most likely, a good bit more. Starting on Earth, a planet whose inhabitants are “so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea,” the story follows an increasingly bizarre and unlikely chain of events that catapult the reader through both space and time right into the nutty adventures of its hapless hero, Arthur Dent. Adams’ writing style is rich with unexpected events and cinematic descriptions. His ideas are original, creative, and will catch you completely off guard.
In a galaxy where ships travel on improbability drives, nuclear warheads are transformed into excited (albeit doomed) sperm whales, and main characters sustain rather nasty bruises to their upper arms, Adams weaves a tale of dry humor, creativity, and all around insanity. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a must read. And always remember: know where you towel is!