Review of THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams
Arthur Dent is rudely awakened from his hangover by the sound of bulldozers ready to tear down his house to make way for a freeway. Dent lies in the mud in front of the dozer to stop the destruction, but only for a bit because his friend (and secret space alien) Ford Prefect, stops by and suggests they stop in at the pub. Dent is on his way off-planet after an over-long stay but he takes Dent along when he realizes that all of Earth is going to be destroyed for a space-highway.
Dent and Prefect hitch a ride on the spaceship involved in planetary destruction where Dent is introduced to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a sort of galactic-level Wikipedia (except that it has professional staff gathering information). When the two are thrown off the spaceship, they're (improbably) picked up by the galactic President in his stolen ship. They then learn the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything and discover who really owned the earth and why they had it built.
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE is a classic in Science Fiction and spawned a host of imitators, a movie version, various computer games, and sequels. The combination of casual destruction (oops, there goes the earth), intriguing futurology (the guide itself--which just might have inspired the Wikipedia), social commentary, and bon-mots (e.g., the answer to life, the universe and everything, the last words of the departing dolphins, etc.), and the whole concept of comedic science fiction definitely appealed to a broad audience.
I had read this book a number of years ago and wondered how it stood up to the test of time. On re-reading, I found there is still a lot to enjoy in this short novel. Perhaps because of its imitators, the GUIDE is no longer as unique as I found it when I first read it. Some of the humor is funny-once (and some I simply don't get) but there are still laugh-out-loud moments. I suspect that part of the point of this book is that there really isn't a plot but that's something I miss.
The HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE is one of the classics of modern Science Fiction. It no longer shines with the freshness it had with its release, but it's still essential reading for anyone who considers himself (or herself) a science fiction buff.
Play the classic text-based Infocon game based on this book for FREE here.
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