No matter how many times I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I've read it quite a few times already, it never fails to thrill me and induce bouts of almost uncontrollably hearty laughter. With this novel, Douglas Adams gave life to a phenomenon that will long outlive his tragically short life, delighting millions of readers for untold years to come. I'm not sure if science fiction had ever seen anything like this before 1979. This is science fiction made to laugh at itself while honoring its rich tradition, but it is much more than that. Adams' peculiarly dead-on humor also draws deeply from the well of sociology, philosophy, and of course science. Whenever Adams encountered a sacred cow of any sort, he milked it dry before moving on. Beneath the surface of utter hilarity, Adams actually used his sarcasm and wit to make some rather poignant statements about this silly thing called life and the manner in which we are going about living it. This is one reason the book is so well-suited for multiple readings-a high level of enjoyment is guaranteed each time around, and there are always new insights to be gained from Adams' underlying, oftentimes subtle, ideas and approach.
Arthur Dent is your normal human being, and so he naturally is more concerned about his house being knocked down than facing the fact that the world is about to end. His friend Ford Prefect, he comes to learn, is actually a researcher from a planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, but before he can even begin to comprehend this fact, he finds himself zipped up into the confines of the Vogon space cruiser that has just destroyed the planet Earth. Things become even trickier for him when he discovers the great usefulness of sticking a Babel fish into his ear and then meets the singular President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox and his shipmate Trillian, both of whom Arthur actually met months before at a party. Such impossible coincidences are explained by the fact that Beeblebrox's ship is powered by the new Infinite Improbability Drive. Dent grows more and more confused during his travels on board the Heart of Gold, and the story eventually culminates with an amazing visit to an astronomically improbable world.
Much of the humor here is impossible to describe; this novel must be read to be appreciated. It seems like every single line holds a joke of some kind within it. The characters are also terrific: the unfortunate Arthur Dent, who basically has no idea what is going on; Ford Prefect, Arthur's remarkable friend from Betelgeuse; Zaphod Beeblebrox, with his two heads, three arms, and cavalier attitude; Trillian the lovely Earth girl who basically flies the Heart of Gold; Slartibartfast the planet builder and fjord-make extraordinaire; and my favorite character of all, Marvin the eternally depressed robot. Life-"loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it" is the Paranoid Android's philosophy. One brilliant thing that Adams does is to step away from the action every so often to present interesting facts about the universe as recorded in the Hitchhiker's Guide; here we learn about Vogon poetry, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, Trans Galactic Gargle Blasters, and other fascinating tidbits about life in the crazy universe Adams created. He even gives the reader the ultimate answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything in these pages.
This novel is just an amazingly hilarious read that will leave you yearning for more; to our great fortune, Adams indeed left us more in the form of four subsequent books in the Hitchhiker's "trilogy." If you don't like science fiction, it doesn't matter; read this book just for the laughs. The most amazing thing about Adams' humor is the fact that everyone seems to "get" it. Adams broke all the rules in writing a novel quite unlike any that had come before it, and he succeeded in spades. This may well be the funniest novel ever written.
on March 9, 2004
Since there are many reviews of the book itself, I thought someone should review the audio versions independently. There are two versions of this title in audio format, the dramatized edition, which is abridged, and the version read by the author, which is unabridged; I have both! I you are a fan of the dramatized versions of books please be sure before you buy which version you are getting. I enjoyed both the dramatized version and the version read by Douglas Adams himself as each has its own pros and cons.
The Dramatized version, done by the BBC (or at least the version that I have is), is very well done, as are all of the BBC dramatizations. The cast does a fantastic job as does the special effects team on the sounds. Be aware that dramatized versions are typically abridged, which is not a big problem generaly but some people don't care for it. This version was originally released as a multiple part radio program so if you are familiar with that format you have a good idea of this version. The only drawbacks are the it is in an outmoded format (cassette) and that it is abridged.
The unabridged spoken version is read by the author, Douglas Adams, and is very good. This is a special treat since he has passed on. I enjoy the ability to hear the author's concept of how the story should read in his own voice. This version has a permanent home on my iPod so that anytime I need a little boost, I can queue it up. It is easy to listen to and quite enjoyable but if you are used to the dramatized versions of audio books you may find that it takes 5 or 10 minutes to get used to the single voice. It is worth it though!
I would recommend either audio version to anyone that commutes or has at least thirty minutes of free time at a stretch. Both versions are well done and are enjoyable to listen to. For anyone who has not experienced audio books before, I would recommend a good tile like this to start off with.
on May 15, 2001
With the passing of Douglas Adams on Friday 5/11/2001, I picked up this book after quite a number of years and gave it a good ol' read....and you know what... this novel will forever be poignant, witty and downright entertaining. I laughed all over again. I mean, I really laughed. I'm going to miss Douglas.
Douglas wasn't just at the forefront of comedy-sci-fi....he basically created the genre. My only regret, along with quite a number of fans, is that we shall never again relish in the adventures of Arthur Dent and the gang. No more Vogon poetry. No more Pan Galactic Gargleblasters. No more Babel fish. No more tongue-twisting names. Therein lies the real shame.
New readers to Douglas Adams, take heart! Each of the novels that make up this series are all fantastic tales! If you own a copy of Hitchhiker's, you hold in your hands a classic! Cherish it always and read it as it was intended.... as a truly light-hearted romp through the cosmos.
Take a look at some of the reviews listed here. Over four hundred people can't be wrong. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is without a doubt one of the greatest books of all time by a quirky and innovative author. (We'll just have to forgive him for wearing a digital watch.)
Thank-you Douglas for the fun and adventures. You were one of a kind. May we one day meet at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The first round's one me. I'll bring the towel.
A classic. A gem. You must own this novel.
on October 11, 1998
First, the good news: this contains the complete Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel, one of the greatest books ever written. Problem is, the photos and art that accompany this particular version only serve to distract the reader and snap him/her out of the fictional dream. Die-hard Adams fans are the only people who will really want this, and then purely as a conversation piece. If you are new to the world of the Guide, you would be better served by getting The Ultimate Hitch-Hiker's Guide, which has the text of this book plus the other four in the series and a short story, and no pictures.
on June 1, 2005
I'm probably treading on thin ice here, talking about a revered piece of pop culture. When I was in college, Douglas Adams had a cult following that knew all the jokes and could quote them to each other.
I find myself in a middle ground. I was first exposed to Hitchhiker's Guide when it ran as a BBC radio serial (I heard it on NPR, I think). It got a some laughs out of me, and I enjoyed it, but it didn't inspire in me the kind of devotion that it did in other geeks.
Having read the first book, I have to say the radio series is my favorite presentation of this material. Playing as a serial, the gags were front and center, the serial format left the listener with the impression that there was a lot more to come and ensured that Adams didn't overstay his welcome. Read as a novel, the book seems a little pointless. Adams wouldn't know a narrative arc if it hit him.
That said, a lot of the jokes are still funny. Adams was a vocal atheist, and at his best he has the satiric touch of a Voltaire. Evenhanded, he enjoys skewering atheists in his book: Oolon Coluphid, the atheist writer that Adams posits as "the author of philosophical blockbusters," seems quite pretentious and silly, at least in his choice of book titles.
Occasionally, there is a true insight that is nicely played for a joke. My favorite revolves around the babelfish, a fish that is used a universal translator. When a babelfish is placed in one's hear, one can hear and understand the words spoken by another, regardless of the original language spoken. The end of Adams digression on the babelfish ends with the acidly ironic observation that the babelfish is responsible for more wars than any other species in the universe.
(John Durham Peters, author of Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication, makes the point that we often hold an implicitly utopian view of communication, believing that differences between people will automatically be resolved with better communication, whereas sometimes the truth is the opposite: the better two groups of people understand each other, the less they like each other.)
I place Adams in the same category as Kurt Vonnegut. They're both writers that have a special appeal to the young, to high school and college age readers. They both write satirical, absurdist fiction which skewer traditional beliefs and middle class norms. Adams tends to be more detached, more bemused, less pointed, passionate, and angry than Vonnegut. In some ways, that makes him easier to take. On the other hand, I don't think he's as compelling, for the same reason.
on June 21, 2005
It is fitting that this audio adaptation of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was voiced by actor Stephen Fry. Fry was a close friend of the late Mr. Adams, and he also narrates the new H2G2 movie as the voice of the Book. Fry does a great job of making this classic novel come alive, drawing the listener into the story. This audiobook makes a great tribute to Douglas Adams and the world and characters he created in the H2G2 universe.
on May 30, 2000
I would have never picked this book for myself. Science fiction? Space travel? Um, no. Time warps, charming aliens with two heads, and improbability spaceships are not my usual reading. Yet I loved this book. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, is one of the most fantastic, funny, and inconceiveably creative books I've ever read. From the moment Zaphod, a unique character with two heads, steals the most famous spaceship in the galaxy, things happen quickly and with seemingly little connection to any event. That's the beauty of this book though: all events, no matter how random, are tied together in a humorous, deliciously complex way. Every character has its own distinct personality that draws you into the book even more. From Marvin The melancholy Marsian to beautiful and brilliant earthwoman Trillian, this book has everything. Which just goes to explain why it's one of the most sought-after collector's books. If you want to read a deep, romantic, drama this is not the book for you. However, if you're in the mood for a good laugh pick up this book. Even if you don't normally like science fiction, you'll get a kick out of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
on December 28, 2004
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is a thoroughly strange book, that at the same time is oddly charming. It starts in a really weird way, with the demolition of Earth (yes, our planet) in order to build a interestellar highway. Only one man survives the end of our world: an Englishman, Arthur Dent. Arthur is saved from sure death by one of his friends, Ford Prefect, that also happened to be an alien doing some research for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (an electronic book that "tells you everything you need to know about anything", and that specially highlights the need for a towel).
Ford got a lift for them with a Vogon spaceship, where they would soon be subjected to a danger worse than death: Vogon poetry. Anyway, as nothing bad last forever, there were soon ejected into space to suffer certain and painful death, only to be rescued again just in time to begin their adventures.
Both Ford and Arthur are interesting characters, but I found Arthur's whining particularly funny. For example, and in his own words to Ford: "you are talking about a positive mental attitude and you haven't even had your planet demolished today. I woke up this morning and thought I'd have a nice relaxed day, do a bit of reading, brush the dog... It is now just after four in the afternoon and I am already being thrown out of an alien spaceship six light-years from the smoking remains of the Earth!".
There are other characters and things you will find interesting, like an eternally depressed robot (life, "loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it"), Zaphod Beeblebrox, and the Babel fish (capable of translating any language in the galaxy if you put them in your ear). There are also some scenes that appear out of the blue, but that are quite enchanting. For instance "Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realized what it was. - Is there any tea on this spaceship?-he said".
On the whole, I highly recommend this book. Its premise is extremely original, and you will have lots of fun reading it. If you can, buy it know, and be ready to meet the mice * :)
Belen Alcat (* = you will understand that phrase only after reading this book!!!)
on August 23, 2010
As we all know, the story of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is fantastic, very entertaining to read, and all of that. Since almost everyone who will have arrived at this page will probably have read it alerady, I wil instead comment on the "Illustrated" part of this edition.
First of all, the story was not illustrated with drawings, as one might think. Instead, it was illustrated using pictures taken of elaborate scenes that were set up, with different actors (and puppets, for the Vogons; I don't think anyone would have wanted to be in a Vogon costume) playing the various characters. Douglas Adams even has a part as one of the two policemen that appear near the end of the book. Anyways, the pictures all are very well made, and I think that they illustrate the different scenes very well. The images and the different graphics can be a bit distracting, so it might be better not to have this be the first version of H2G2 that you read. However, once you have read it, and you know that you like it, this is a represntation of the story that is very fun to read. In short, I would not recommend this book as your first introduction to H2G2, but it is extremely fun to read once you already know what is going on, if such a thing is possible.
on October 9, 2000
In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams uses humor and sarcasm against a backdrop of science fiction to create a comic masterpiece. The main character in the book is Arthur Dent. He is miraculously rescued from Earth just moments before it is destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass. His rescuer is Ford Prefect, a researcher for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who has been stranded on Earth for the past fifteen years. Unfortunately, the only ship available to escape on belongs to the Vogons who throw out the two hitchhikers when they discover them on the ship only after reciting horrible poetry to them. This should have been the end of these two adventurers, but by an amazingly improbable event, they are rescued by the starship Heart of Gold. This event was caused by the revolutionary propulsion system on the ship called the Infinite Improbability Drive, which makes the improbable probable. The occupants of the ship are Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Imperial Galactic Government who had recently stolen the Heart of Gold, Trillian, a woman originally from Earth and Zaphod's companion, and Marvin, an extremely intelligent and depressed robot. The party travels to the long lost planet of Magrathea where planets were once manufactured for the extremely wealthy. Zaphod believes that inside they will find countless riches, but are surprised to discover that it is still inhabited. Inside, Arthur discoveries many amazing things, such as the answer to life, the universe, and everything is forty-two, and the planet earth was manufactured as a computer to discover what the actual question to the answer is. The characters in the book are well developed. Arthur is the clueless one who is struggling to understand the events which have happened to him. Ford is the accomplished hitchhiker who answers Arthur's questions with responses which are so insane that they more often than not cause more confusion. Zaphod is a two-headed creature in search of adventure and Trillian is an intelligent and capable woman from earth. Through these characters, we learn to take ourselves a little less seriously. Although this book is full of humor, it also contains other aspects. It satirizes such subjects as capitalism, government, large corporations, organized religion, and militarism. The writing is full of irony and biting sarcasm as well. Adams' atheistic worldview is also displayed through his writing. I believe that Douglas Adams managed to write an excellent book which contains many strengths with very few weaknesses. This book is extremely funny and can be enjoyed as long as the reader is not expecting a serious sci-fi epic. The only possible weakness in the book is that the plot can become confusing at times. This, however, helps the reader relate to what Arthur is experiencing and eventually everything becomes clear if the reader pays attention. Overall, this is a fantastic book which is highly entertaining while still making some intelligent comments on life, the universe, and everything.