‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ is a novel that really surprises me the more I look at it. For those who’ve never heard of it, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ is the first book in a ‘trilogy’ (actually comprised of five books) by famed British science fiction author Douglas Adams. The book started off as a comedic radio series and then adapted into novel format. The book became an immediate hit, and has garnered a massive following over the decades, almost as much as the Star Trek fandom and even comparing to Harry Potter.
So what’s the story? Arthur Dent is an average human that lives on planet Earth. After his house is set to be demolished for construction of a bypass, Arthur’s best friend named Ford Prefect reveals that he is in fact an alien sent to study Earth for a universal encyclopedia coincidentally named ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. Before Arthur can make sense of this, an alien race named the Vogons come to destroy Earth in order to make a space-bypass (get the irony?). Luckily, our two heroes are rescued and go through a series of events that lead to them meeting Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the galaxy and Ford’s distant cousin. Along with some other memorable sidekicks, like a hilariously depressed robot named Marvin, and a human female that named herself Trillian, the book follows our characters as they try to survive the dangers of the galaxy.
The first thing I should probably talk about is the universe in this. Back in 1979, the date this novel was published, this was an extremely unique take on science fiction and extraterrestrial fiction. Most stories involving space travel presented the aliens as villains who want to conquer earth and destroy all life. Sure ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ involved a bit of that, but it mostly showed the universe as a higher civilization than even Earth. To make more sense, the universe here almost reminds me of Futurama (in fact, Futurama even references several things from ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ in a few episodes).
But unlike Futurama, the humor in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ doesn’t rely on sexual innuendo or swearing for its humor, which makes the book pretty unique even to this day. It is still timeless, and yet some of the jokes hit very well. There’s even a whole chapter of this dedicated to how dolphins are in fact smarter than humans, knew about Earth’s impending doom from the start, and tried to warn humans via performances you saw at SeaWorld. Probably one of my most favorite jokes of the book involves what Ford wrote for Earth in his version of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide’ after all the years he spent on the planet. I won’t give it away for those who haven’t read it yet, but honestly, it is very funny.
There may be one problem with ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ though. Going in, I wasn’t expecting what to make of it. Whenever someone thinks of a science fiction novel, they never think of Futurama or Star Trek; they think more of a serious read with deep messages and presented morality like an Arthur Clarke book. If you take it too seriously, then ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ will seem too zany and a real annoyance. I thought so at first, then decided to turn my analytical mind off and enjoy it for what it is: a funny read.
Overall, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ is fun. Some might not see the ingenious humor written in its pages, and some will, but everyone cannot deny that this had a huge impact on science fiction. Everyone on the Internet knows the humorous characters, the timeless jokes, the endless worlds, and even how clever Douglas Adams was. My best guess is that if you have the time for a funny read, give it a try. It may not even be my most favorite book to read, but I appreciate the clever writing and jokes enough to read.
If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!