- File Size: 1836 KB
- Print Length: 208 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1535185554
- Publisher: Del Rey; Reissue edition (December 18, 2007)
- Publication Date: December 18, 2007
- Sold by: Random House LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000XUBC2C
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,268 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Kindle Edition
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"The feckless protagonist, Arthur Dent, is reminiscent of Vonnegut heroes, and his travels afford a wild satire of present institutions."—Chicago Tribune
"Very simply, the book is one of the funniest SF spoofs ever written, with hyperbolic ideas folding in on themselves."—School Library Journal
“[A] whimsical odyssey . . . Characters frolic through the galaxy with infectious joy.”—Publishers Weekly
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I finally got my opportunity this month when a book club that I belong to chose it as its current selection. I read the original book (there are many sequels) and was deeply disappointed. The humor that I was expecting was simply not there--at least not in a way that I could appreciate it. Believe me, I know about and adore surreal and absurd humor. I love Monty Python skits and movies, and I have loved such television shows as The Addams Family and Get Smart. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what is missing in this story. Somehow Adams' attempts seem too self-conscious and self-aware. If he were reciting the story aloud rather than writing it, I would expect him to pause regularly so that he could listen for reassuring guffaws before continuing. In addition, the story was pointless--just a rambling with no unfolding and cohesive plot. (Yes, I know about "stream of consciousness" styles. The paucity of sophistication in "Hitchhiker's" renders it unworthy of that description.)
For those who do like this book, I wish you well, but it did nothing for me. I will be moving on.
-- Jack Dostal
Entries peppered throughout the book from the “real” The Hitchhiker’s Guide inform the reader of non-essential historical, cultural, and always humorous tidbits about the universe and its inhabitants. For example, the popular drink the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster makes the drinker feel like their brain is being “smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick” (Ch 2). Ford hopes to update the electronic guide with how one can see the wonders of the universe for 30 Altarian dollars a day, but due to being stuck on Earth for 15 years his signature contribution remains his description of Earth as “mostly harmless”. Arthur Dent is more the butt of every joke than the hero of the story and simply plays the role of baffled human encountering the unknown. The president, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who happens to be Ford’s cousin, has two heads, three arms, and the ego of a true politician. He steals almost everyone’s thunder, but that’s probably because, while only six people know it, he’s succeeding phenomenally at his presidential mandate of distracting everyone’s attention away from power instead of wielding it. Zaphod is accompanied by his human girlfriend, Trillian, who acts as the token female character in the typically male-dominated sci-fi tale. Smart and sexy, she is mostly disregarded by her boyfriend while dutifully following him into every folly. Marvin is a pet robot of sorts with a serious depression problem which proves to have tremendous utility.
On account of the Heart of Gold’s Infinite Improbability Drive, the serendipitous crew encounters and escapes from a series of unthinkable situations, the most notable being the discovery of the fabled planet of Magrathea. Believed to now be dead, it supposedly designed and constructed luxury planets at the behest of ultra-wealthy clients until closing up shop with the collapse of the intergalactic economy some ten million years ago. At this point in the book a loosely coherent plot begins to emerge. After narrowly evading the planet’s automatic defense missiles, the crew land the Heart of Gold on the surface and Zaphod leads the bunch on a hunt for the unfathomable riches he is certain must be hidden there... somewhere. Instead, he comes to a shocking realization about the key to his wildly successful career of misconduct, Arthur learns of the mysterious nature and fate of his late beloved Earth, Trillian loses her two pet mice, and Marvin unwittingly saves everyone’s lives just by being himself.
Adams playfully goads the reader closer and closer into agreeing that “The Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs” (Ch 31) by poking fun at bureaucracy and politics with amusing analogies. Much like the local bureaucrat trying to tear down Arthur’s house, the Vogons respond to Earthlings’ protests before imminent destruction by stating, “All the planning charts and demolition orders have been displayed in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years” (Ch 3). Zaphod Beeblebrox is the posterchild for theatrical two-faced politics. His wild antics make him the most successful president in history and he possesses two heads, and therefore two faces, one of which is more popular than the other (Ch 4).
Adams then picks apart religion and philosophy without being overtly insulting due to his use of their very own arguments. A small but exceedingly sophisticated fish proves God’s existence and is therefore the final and clinching proof of his nonexistence. God “promptly vanishes in a puff of logic” because “without faith I am nothing” (Ch 6). Philosophers protest the creation of a supercomputer they fear will put them out of a job if it is able to answer the questions of the Universe, thus they demand the “total absence of solid facts” (Ch 25). Adams’ deft criticism of these topics threatens to elicit not much more than a self-deprecating chuckle from the very people he is poking fun at.
Absurd similes and outrageous statements infuse the writing style with charming humor while occasionally reminding the reader that reality can in fact be quite ridiculous. “For a few seconds Ford seemed to ignore him, and stared fixedly into the sky like a rabbit trying to get run over by a car” (Ch 1), and, “The ships hung in the sky much the same way that bricks don’t” (Ch 3), are clearly very foolish things to say, yet confer upon the reader a precise picture of the given situation that Adams wants them to have. In a similar vein, a police ship commits suicide after hearing Marvin’s depressing view of the universe (Ch 34), letters of the alphabet can be “friendly” (Ch 1) or “unfriendly” (Ch 34), and the answer to life, the universe and everything is simply the number “42” (Ch 27). Adams makes clear to the reader exactly how seriously he takes his subject matter.
Poking fun at politics and religion and making ludicrous statements are the more obvious of Adams’ tactics to discourage the reader from taking life, or really anything, very seriously. Less obvious, but equally effective, is his manipulation of grammar and rhetoric. By rendering the familiar structure of language malleable in his expert hands, he reminds the reader at every turn that all is not as it seems. He breaks commonly accepted rules of writing by blatantly using redundant vocabulary and pairing oxymoronic words. Arthur wakes up blearily then gets up and wanders blearily around his room (Ch 1), Ford Prefect is not conspicuously tall and his features are striking but not conspicuously handsome (Ch 1), and Zaphod rides a thoroughly ridiculous form of transport, but a thoroughly beautiful one (Ch 4). The windows on Arthur’s soon to be destroyed home are “of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye” (Ch 1), and there is something “very slightly odd” about Ford Prefect (Ch 1). With these deviances from the norm and by slipping in a clever grammar joke here and there, “...to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before” (Ch 15), Adams taunts the grammar police and then scoffs when their powerlessness and lack of creativity are exposed. By deftly rendering malleable the familiar institution of language, Adams bring home his deeper message that societal constructs are the mere product of a human desire to invent order out of chaos.
While Adams can boast a nimble sense of humor and a clever mind, obvious plot holes emerge as the story progresses. For example, the Vogons dump Arthur and Ford millions of lightyears away from Earth but then Trillian and Zaphod pick them up in the same vector as Earth. This could be due to the fact that Adams was a legendary procrastinator who would often leave manuscripts unfinished until the last minute. His biographer, M.J. Simpson, author of Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams says that Adams also had problems following the traditional structure of a story. He shares that, “Adams was good at writing beginnings, middles, and endings, but when he got to the middle he’d thought of another good beginning and wanted to write that instead of the ending”. Adams’ habit of making things up as he went along is uncomfortably apparent to the reader who craves consistency and resolution, especially from a book some say holds a place in the sci-fi genre. Therefore, his book might more accurately fall under the category of comic science fiction.
While he falls short of producing the next great science fiction series of our time, Adams succeeds remarkably in demonstrating how a truly inquisitive mind works. He breaks the rules of fiction writing, but rather than being his downfall, these bold deviations add to his appeal. By weaving together intelligence, humor, and slapstick, he reaches a broad audience without sacrificing his unique voice and underlying message. So much so that the reader is left almost certain that “the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang sense of it and just keep yourself occupied” (Ch 30).
But, alas, the book is more complicated than that. It is more like, what if you know for certain that identifiable flying objects piloted by alien beings are in close proximity, and you have the coded electronic transporter boarding pass device, granting you unlimited access to go anywhere in the universe, right there in your hot little hand.
You find that this quite interesting group of individuals demonstrates great camaraderie and superlative rapport in their timely interactions. They provide keen insight, regarding their interpretations of recent events and take on a variety of pertinent subjects. Such as: "what should we do next in order to survive imminent disaster?"
Basically, they learn to get along exceedingly well together as they travel through the galaxy in a space ship they've somehow managed to commandeer and fly out to distant points as yet unknown. The space ship, incidentally, as it turns out, incorporates the latest and greatest technology ever seen anywhere.
Again, the book is cleverly written, of a deeply philosophical nature, and incredibly fun to read. I'd recommend it to anyone. "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" is the next title in the book series.
R. Royce saw the note attached to the refrigerator with a small magnetic ornament in the shape of a wild-flower. It read, "We decided to let you sleep in. Be back in a jiffy with your truck of chinchillas."
"Good morning, Royce," said Cornelius Korn. "Are you ready to travel?"
"Where is everyone?" asked Royce.
"They went to gas up the vehicles for the trip to Minnesota. As you know we need to deliver four truck-loads of the cute, cuddly critters to the new chinchilla ranch up near the Canadian border," explained Korn.
"I thought we were still in the early planning stages for that assignment," said Royce. "How'd you get the ball rolling so fast?"
"In case you weren't aware, the democratic process can work miracles in times of great need. The majority voted we go now," said Korn. "Plus, we have just received a sizable cash advance on our proceeds, the amount we get upon final delivery."
"Apparently, you didn't need my vote," said Royce. "Doesn't matter. I'm all for the plan."
"The Montana rancher sold us all of his chinchillas, but he's holding on to the minks and sables," said Korn.
"Makes perfect sense to me," said Royce. You can make very expensive, complete fur coats out of mink or sable. They manufacture the chinchilla fur hides into fashionable leather coat collars, hats, gloves, and accessories. It involves different manufacturing processes entirely."
"Some people keep them as pets, as well," added Korn. "They're docile, playful, and curious. Intelligent creatures."
"You say that we're delivering paired couples of chinchillas to the rancher in Minnesota?" asked Royce. "And we get a share of the profits for the first litters?"
"That's right," said Korn. "$20 bonus, for each baby chinchilla born upon or after arrival at the destination. $80 each, for the red-haired, striped, or spotted blondes. That's because they're rarer breeds and much in demand."
"I can see how this venture might prove profitable," said Royce. "What do the girls have to say about our travel prospects?
"Mostly, they want to experience fine dining along the way, stay in scenic hotels, and go to the International Mall in Minneapolis," said Korn. "Who can argue with their logic?"
"Not me," said Royce. "Here they are now. Let's get this show on the road. Shall we?"
"We're all fueled up and ready to roll," said Raquel Remington. "I've been thinking about those chinchillas. Maybe we should do some additional research."
"I agree," said Alexis Sue Shell. "There may be a big demand for chinchilla oil in the field of medicine."
"Or, for the wild, musky chinchilla scent, in the perfumery industry," continued Raquel.
"We'll definitely have to look into the matter and make discrete inquiries accordingly," said Korn, nonchalantly. Which probably meant that he had other sticks in the fire, as well. For all they knew, he might already have sold some of the cute, furry creatures to NASA for their Mission to Mars program. His next detour: The Biology Unit, Life Support Section, Advanced Obscure Scientific Research Corporation, a subsidiary of NASA. It was inevitable, and so conveniently nearby the chinchilla ranch.
Top international reviews
A splendidly funny and silly book, quite a successful novelisation of the Radio Series.
Note that the extracts from the archives come right at the end of Chapter 35, and are interesting, especially the fax from Douglas to the American script editor, explaining why some things shouldn't be changed. For some reason, they're not listed in the table of contents.
The original si fi comedy
Astonishing in it’s content and execution
Fabulous sound effects from the radio phonic work shop of radio 4
Totally undated and stands on it’s own as a masterpiece
Douglas Addams was way ahead of his time. So poignant, so full of astro physics quantum theory, space time continuum and general geeky stuff, so funny, so entertaining.
I had some of the radio plays on casket tape, and played them until they fell apart.
This was my Christmas present this year. And what a joy it was. There are episodes here I have not heard, something like 80+ episodes .also an interview with Douglas Addams on how the series came about. I would love to see inside that man’s mind. What a genius.
Even if you have never heard of Douglas Addams, but like si fi comedy, Red Dwarf, Big Bang theory Etc,. Give this a go, it is way ahead of them all. This series is pure escape and enjoyment.
Geeky laugh out loud funny
Tragically Douglas Addams Died age just 49 in 2001. so notable is his contribution to science and literature, there is an annual memorial lecture given in his name to raise money for charity. These lectures are given buy such notable figures as Brian Cox ( Douglas Addams me moral lecture for save the rhino in 2009)
The characters are very simple, and yet in H2G2 this seems incredibly natural, where in any other book it would probably be boring and childlike. Some places don't rub well, Zaphod and Ford are possibly a little too similar, and Trillian is distressigly under-used as the only female character.
Adams' style doesn't tend to include a great deal of description of locations, which is almost a relief after all the Wheel of Time epics I've been reading recently, and I like to think this is a side-effect of the story's origins in radio. The radio experience has also rubbed off really well on the dialogue, which I can hear the characters speaking in my head. This lends a great deal to the comedy, especially the interplay between Eddie the computer, the talking doors, and of course Marvin.
My two criticisms are related. Firstly that there seems to be something missing from the plot - thinking back over the plot I keep feeling there's something I must have missed to pad out the middle. The second is that the ending is incredibly abrupt and resolves absolutely nothing - although I suppose that could be part of the beauty.
Overall I've enjoyed reading it again and am looking forward to going back over the whole series in preparation for the release of book 6 next month.
It's iconic? It's the cleverest and wittiest sci-fi book written? The best radio sci-fi ever? TV? (We'll forget the terrible movie version)
I've been a fan since I first heard it millions of years ago on the radio - since then I've listened to the CD version over and over whilst driving around but, after all these years, decided it was them to get back to the printed version.
The idea at the core of this book is timeless ("time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so") and is applicable today as it was when DA first put pen to paper. OK, so we don't marvel at digital watches any more but where humankind sits in the pecking order of the multiverse is unchanged.
Any trilogy that spills over into 5 volumes has to have something going for it - and this series punches well above its weight.
So, start here and read on . If it's a re-read, then it'll be like meeting up with a good old friend in the pub, if you're a mouse then you'll already know all about this and if it's a first time read for you, well - there's a whole universe stretching out there for you. "Oh, God, not another one?!" (Read on, and you'll learn who said that.)
But don't forget your towel.
I bought this as a paperback from a local newsagent when it first came out, based purely on the cover image. Those big words "Don't Panic!" and the colourful back drop just drew me in. I wasn't disappointed.
It appealed to my sense of humour, my love of sci-fi and the Englishness of Arthur Dent as a stereotype Brit. It hasn't lost its magic the way other books have over the years and I can re-read it without getting bored and putting it down because I've already read it a million times (slight exaggeration)
A must for anyone nostalgic for the 70s, sci-fi and a British sense of humour.
Started reading properly when I was 24, a little late, but I found Stephen King.
I was always going to read this....eventually!
It didn't disappoint!