By: Douglas Adams
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. For the last 15 years, Ford has been posing as an out-of-work actor but was really an alien stranded on Earth in disguise.
Together this dynamic pair find themselves on the most improbable journey in the universe. A journey where phone numbers dictate who your life is linked to and the answer to the biggest question of the universe is 42. But what is the question? Some mice are trying to find out.
I always knew that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a popular book since almost everyone had heard of it but with over 1.6 million Goodreads ratings, it was even more popular than I expected. I now understand why! This wacky romp through space is a short but incredibly enjoyable read that finally pulled me out of my reading slump! It’s 180-pages of condensed absurdity that ends with a promise of more adventure!
The characters all have their own unique quirks and the narrative is constantly pulling you in directions you didn’t expect. I found it fun to sit and think about the journey from point A to point B to see if I could remember all the small details that led me through the book. What’s crazy is that despite the story’s seemingly incoherent nature, it all makes a kind of sense when you put the chapters together. Like a jigsaw puzzle where the big picture makes your head spin but all the pieces fit where they’re supposed to.
I have a new appreciation for Space Opera now that I’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because of Catherynne M. Valente’s natural ability to mimic Douglas Adams’ tone. There is a fine line between comedically improbable situations and lazy storytelling. A comedic story with absurd elements has wit and bite underlying the narrative. It’s a satire that poses a criticism of society in one way or another. A lazy story is one where the author doesn’t try to create interesting ways to resolve conflicts and isn’t trying to say anything. Conflicts just kind of work out in the end without much difficulty on the part of the main characters either because they are overpowered, or the antagonists of the story are inept. Lazy stories also tend to take themselves more seriously whereas comedic stories can’t because that would defeat the purpose.
The irony is that stories like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while fun also make me think deeply about questions like, “What sacrifices would we make if it meant we could learn the answers to the universe’s biggest questions?” and “Is the price we would pay to learn those answers worth the cost?”
Overall, I give this story high praise and admire that the only way you can tell it was written in 1979 was that the main characters could order 6 pints of beer for less than £5. In this economy?! Never.
Overall rating: 5