The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is like that old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups advertising campaign. You know, the one where the peanut butter and chocolate lovers clumsily bump into each other.
“You’ve got peanut butter on my chocolate! You’ve got chocolate in my peanut butter!” they exclaim before finding out just how delicious the combination turns out to be.
Replace peanut butter and chocolate with science fiction and humor and you get Douglas Adams’ brilliant The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Follow the rollicking exploits of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect as they pinball around the universe, getting into tight scrapes and meeting up with a zany assortment of outlandish characters. You won’t find hard science here or a complex tale mirroring a modern day social issue. In fact, Adams lampoons these staples of science fiction and instead creates a wild parody without equal.
Here’s a secret. You’ll even learn the puzzling answer to the meaning of life, provided by Deep Thought, the second greatest computer in the universe.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy begins when a nasty bunch of officious aliens called the Vogons destroy Earth to make way for a ‘hyperspatial express route.’ Arthur and Ford survive by thumbing a ride on the Vogon spaceship. They’re able to do this only because Ford happens to be an alien and, more importantly, is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a type of electronic tome which is a cross between a Lonely Planet guide, a George Carlin cassette (remember this was published in the late 70s) and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Adams uses entries in the Guide with great effect, providing quick tongue-in-cheek explanations or background information without it feeling forced. The cast of characters are entertaining and undeniably memorable: the wisecracking Ford Prefect; straight man to the farce, Arthur Dent; the swashbuckling Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy, who happens to have two heads and three arms; Marvin, the Paranoid Android, a severely depressed robot; and a beautiful woman by the name of Trillian.
This motley band of characters jet about the universe on The Heart of Gold, a stolen ship powered by an Improbability Drive and equipped with an annoyingly cheery computer named Eddie.
Forget about highly defined plot lines and let yourself bounce from one screwball situation to another. Give in to the lunacy and snappy dialog that drive the novel. Douglas Adams is without a doubt the funniest science fiction author in the universe. Sadly, we lost Adams well before his time.
Don’t panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is just the first in a classic and oddly titled five book trilogy. So there’s plenty more to read if you enjoy this introduction to the series.
Think twice about reading this in public, since a bark of laughter in your local cafe may earn you some odd looks. Though this could work to your advantage if you want some space during your commute to or from work.