I first heard this BBC Radio Drama series in college, as broadcast in America via National Public Radio.
The wonderfully dry, bizarre, and _hilarious_ story features the bewildered human, Arthur Dent, and his adventures in space with his unexpectedly alien friend, Ford Prefect, after the Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. The comedic timing, voice casting, and sound effects have never been equalled. Both the public television production of the series and the movie released in theaters a couple of years ago pale in comparison to this original 12-episode radio production.
The fact that the books were written AFTER the radio series tells just how vividly the radio drama came to life. The production inspired Douglas Adams to write the beloved book trilogy, carrying the spirit of the characters and Adams' highly sardonic and ill-behaved version of the universe forward, to the delight of multiple generations of readers.
I still don't understand why such an incredible audio product is SO HARD to find-- there are "rehashes" of the series available, but they still aren't the original series, and once you've heard the original nothing else will do.
This edition is the real deal, and if you loved the series then get yours immediately. It hasn't been reissued (what an enormous missed opportunity!), so copies are limited.
These started the series, they came before the books. The recordings are great, done in stereo. Unlike my old cassettes from a SF convention eons ago, which seemed to be recorded off the radio, and weren't very good quality.
6 CD's with the original radio show, 2 CD's with background information on the show, including interviews with Adams. The interviews make clear why the stories aren't all the same (radio vs book vs ...), Adams was in a fearful rush to make deadlines.
You only need one book - and it's a radio play. After listening to the quirkily-numbered disks, you'll find yourself quoting Mr. Adams as needed, in everything from meetings to social media. The guy KNEW. Hitchhiker's was originally a radio play, and this is it. It's the ONE. No others need apply.
I don't have time to read much in life, but I have read this series 8 times, and bought these so I could do it again Hard to put down while reading, and harder still not to literally laugh out loud while reading. This book has changed my life for the better (no, not a self help book or anything like that), and I am happy to be passing it down to my kids. If you haven't read it, you should; if you have, you should do it again!
These books, the trilogy comprised of 5 books, were written by Douglas Adams who was born and raised in the UK. so the humor is different than in say the U.S. They were also written in the 70's early 80's making some of the social commentary out of reach to a large demographic. But the books are so full of social commentary that it makes them funny and thought provoking. The Salmon of Doubt is not as much a part of the trilogy but more personal reflections of the author. His writing style is part of what makes the books funny by the descriptive way he writes about some of the most mundane situations like a simple breeze blowing on a stretch of beach. This stuff is either in you or not. And it has been in me since they were first published. The Dirk Gently books are ever much as satisfying to a person who enjoys this quirky yet profound type of writing.
I came into the Hitchhiker world fairly late in the game, having read the books only shortly before Douglas died. Still, though they'd been written twenty years ago, they remained fresh and original, opening my eyes to a style of writing I'd never seen before. Since then, Douglas Adams has been a major obsession of mine. In addition to his Dirk Gently books, Last Chance to See, and the posthumous Salmon of Doubt, I've overjoyed at the DVD release of the Hitchhiker TV series and the long-delayed film version. But, sadly, I never got to hear the original radio series. At least until I finally bought an import of this CD set through Amazon Marketplace. In addition to both seasons of the radio series, this set also includes a documentary and Douglas Adams interview.
Truth be told, both the film and television versions - though they still contain Douglas's brilliant writing - suffer from a number of shortcomings, falling well short of the novel versions. Happily, the radio series works wonderfully.
It also makes me appreciate the fact that Douglas kept no version of Hitchhiker strictly faithful to any other version, making each unique in its own way. Great as bits like the babel fish and the search for the question to the ultimate answer of life, the universe, and everything are, I've seen/heard/read them a lot in repeated readings/viewings of the other versions. So, it's very refreshing, now, to hear the radio series go off into different directions than later versions. The second series, in particular, contains episodes that bear almost no resemblance to anything whatsoever contained in the novels, effectively reminding me of just why his writing appealed so much to me all those years ago.
If you're a Hitchhiker fan, you owe it to yourself to listen to the radio series. If you're not a Hitchhiker fan, but wondering if maybe you could be one, I would suggest starting with the books, if only on the basis that the CD set price tag is a bit high for a simple introduction. If, like me, you find that Douglas Adams's brand of insightful satire and absurd humor speaks to you, then, yeah, you'll want to hear this.