Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Short review: Arthur Dent is boring and normal, but he's going to travel the galaxy with Ford Prefect. And he forgot his towel.

Earth destroyed by an
Intergalactic freeway
Don't forget your towel

Full review: The first installment in a five book trilogy, this work is one of the must-reads of science fiction. In the book, the perfectly ordinary and somewhat pathetic Arthur Dent, with the help of the human-appearing alien Ford Prefect, escapes from the Earth just as it is about to be destroyed by Vogons to make room for a interstellar byway.

Arthur learns that Ford is a researcher for a publication called the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy assigned to study Earth, and that the sum total of his contribution after years of study is to change the entry for Earth from "Harmless" to "Mostly harmless". Forced to take up galactic hitchhiking with Ford, Arthur winds up on the ship Heart of Gold with Zaphod Bebblebrox, the two-headed president of the galaxy, Marvin the depressed robot, and another human named Trillian.

Through a series of improbabilities (using the Heart of Gold's improbability drive), the characters find Slartibartfast, a planetary coastline engineer, and are told the story of the supercomputer Deep Thought, which was designed to tell what the meaning of life, the universe, and everything was - coming up with the answer "42". Arthur then learns that the Earth was merely a giant computer designed to find out what the question is that the answer "42" applies to, and that it was destroyed just moments before it had produced an answer. Earth's designers, disguised as mice, want to dissect Arthur's brain to find out the answer, but he, and the other characters escape.

The book's plot (and the plot of the various sequels) is mostly beside the point. The book is brutally funny throughout: just about every paragraph contains some absurdity or piece of parody. The political and social satire woven through the book pokes fun at the odd things that we accept as a routine part of everyday life, attacking them from unexpected angles and in many cases exposing the silliness of the assumptions people make about their surroundings.

Subsequent book in the series: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Douglas Adams     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

No comments:

Post a Comment