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.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a masterpiece – or, at least, I think it is.
For this book, I’m going to do something a little different. For this book, I’m going to set aside the ‘serious’ tone that I adopt for my reviews. This book is widely read and there are many reviews of this book – most more eloquent than I could ever hope to be! – instead of a conventional review, I’m going to lay out three reasons why you should read this science-fiction classic.
1. It is one of the funniest books I have ever read
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: I consider myself a stoic reader. In other words, I hardly ever laugh out loud when reading.
With The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, however, I laughed and laughed and laughed. I think it reached a point where I started to annoy my sister because I would be reading in the quiet and I’d suddenly burst out laughing. It was just my kind of humour. It was so funny that I felt utterly compelled to share quotes from the book with her. In fact, I’m going to share some quotes with all of you now:
Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.
2. It’s a wild adventure and completely unpredictable
This book is all shenanigans and ridiculousness, but I promise that’s a good thing.
Reading this book, I quickly discovered that the wonderful thing about absurdity is that it is absolutely random and you will never know what to expect. Despite its seemingly humble beginning about an ordinary human by the name of Arthur Dent, the story quickly tumbles and snowballs into an intergalactic goosechase and adventure across the galaxy. There’s demolition to make way for a bypass, there’s demolition of planets to make way for an hyperspatial express bypass, misplaced notices, supercomputers, aliens, and tortuous poetry.
Oh yes, this book is unapologetically bizarre and full of whimsy, its events highly ironic, but that’s the whole fun.
3. It balances absurdist humour and thought-provoking themes
On the surface, the absurdity coaxes a lot of laughs, but underneath, the absurdity is satire of modern life, technology, and bureaucracy. Though Adams didn’t intend for this book to be a sci-fi, the book has nods to philosophical ideas (all veiled behind its humour) such as predeterminism/determinism, the existence of a deity, objectivity, and, more famously, the meaning of life.
With the last in particular, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy calls us to question the meaning of life – and then it calls us to ask again. The things we may consider to be of great import are, in the galactic scale of things, ultimately arbitrary and insignificant. The question and answer itself is arbitrary. And yet, the writing and story isn’t asking you to devalue those things simply because of their impermanence nor does it leave you alone with that thought. In fact, the book is strangely optimistic. But, I’ll leave that for you to read and discover for yourself.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may not boast a cohesive plot or developed characters with splendid character arcs, but it does not diminish the book’s brilliance. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is regarded as a classic with good reason. Though I’m more accustomed to the pensive tone of science-fiction, this book’s tongue-in-cheek writing surprised me first and then delighted me throughout.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into its themes or story, because this is a book best read without knowing the twists at each corner. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a fantastic piece of science-fiction comedy/satire, and no book has made me laugh more. So let go of the insignificant, small things in life and just sit back, kick up your feet, laugh at yourself, and enjoy the ride – whether it be life or this wonderful book.
Book Name: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Book Series: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #1
Author: Douglas Adam
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
I picked this book up awhile ago, and I haven’t quite got around to reading the sequels yet! I absolutely must, and the box set is so tempting… 😩
- Have you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Did you like it?
- Have you seen the movie? (Is it any good?!)
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has very dry humour, which is what I love. What sort of humour tickles you?