Book Review: The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Book I)
Author: Douglas Adams (D: 2001) Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hints of: Good Omens, Armada (Reviewed Jan. 15), A Wrinkle in Time, Chilling Effect
Warnings: This is Book 1 of 5. Be prepared to commit to all 5. They're not that long - this 1st book was 150-ish pages. But it's VERY space-odysessy, defies laws of physics and at times makes no literal sense. If you need logical answers, you ain't gettin' em from this book.
Triggers: Aliens, Manic-Depressive Robots, Mice & Fjords Publisher Introduction:
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
Rule #8: Read the Forewards & Introductions in your books. If you don't know what this book (series, really) is about, like I didn't when I started, it's very helpful. First & Foremost (play on Foreward, eh?! EH!?) Neil Gaiman - one of my favorite authors - writes the Foreward. The Guide's Author Douglas Adams and Gaiman were friends. He discusses how the idea came out of a drunken star gazing. Rather brilliant, if you think about it. He discusses Adams' life and why these far-fetched ideas were not only accepted but now immortalized.
Originally this book wasn't a book at all. It was a BBC Radio Show. And then Book I was published after the show gained popularity. Then more Radio Show episodes. Another Book. Then it was a Record Album. More Books. THEN it was a show. Then the dreaded undiscussed movie. Think of it like Doctor Who - whose storylines are scattered across TV, Radio and Comics. Which is also fitting, as Adams was a Doctor Who writer.
Apparently there's another book - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts - which Adams liked more & wrote a different introduction for which contradicts this one. But like I said - if you wanted this to all make sense - you chose the wrong genre.
I knew I was going to like this book for a number of reasons. First - "The Partner" wouldn't stop saying how I needed to read it. This may have been the most insistent push of a book he's ever had. Second - it's literally episodes out of Doctor Who - which is one of my favorite shows. Another illogical piece of writing that inspires the mind to stand out and think impossibly. Third - it's writing reminds me of my book reviews. Essentially, it reads like someone speaks. Lots of dashes, comma splices, run-ons and is brutally honest. I mean, on the first page it makes fun of humans at least 12 times.
It's a quick read focused around a seemingly uninteresting Englishman - Arthur Dent - who has unknowingly befriended an alien - Ford Prefect (he chose his name). Ford is a writer for - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - the most remarkable book to ever come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor. It tells someone anything about everything. According to Adams AKA Prefect. Even Earth. It's got a whole chapter on Earth - "harmless". The two end up traveling together in space, meet the President of the Galaxy by sheer improbability and discover lost planets.
I'm going to assume many folks have read this, or know the general concept of this novel. If you don't, stop here, accept what I've written for you and go forth unto your space journey.
So as usual, I don't like plain ol' here's the plot reviews. So I'm spinning things. The major trend of most science fiction is an impossible or unlikely adventure - whether it be because it's in space (and we clearly don't invest enough in space to have these adventures), because we haven't had an apocalypse yet (so as far as we know, no zombies) or because this universe as far as we know doesn't have magic (so no wands, no sorcerers, nothing fun).
This book does fall into the "impossible journey" category of science fiction. But it adds something that hadn't been seen before it's time of radio broadcast - humour (I felt I needed to use the "u" spelling - because it's British). Which I hope ya'll have picked up by now from my vivacious writing in the Post-Forward and Pre-Review.
As I'd mentioned in the Pre-Review - this book writes how someone speaks. It was a radio broadcast originally - someone was literally speaking these words. Perhaps that's why. But this book also kicked off a series of humorous science fiction novels - like Neil Gaiman's Good Omens - a satirical end-of-days book that was not a broadcast first. So truly this book defines a sub-genre of science fiction I call: not so damn dreary, actually interesting, highly improbable but slightly possible science fiction with a dash of drunken inspiration.
What starts as a muddy protest in the West Country farmland of England ends up being an accidental hitchhike onto the President Zaphod Beeblebrox's ship - well not his ship, he stole the Heart of Gold at the revealing ceremony - which ends up finding the *QUE WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE LIGHTS & DUN DUN DUNNNNN MUSIC* LoST PlAnEt oF MAgrEaTheA!! The planet which DESIGNS PLANETS. We'll get to that.
During this time Ford & Arthur had hitchhiked onto a Vogon ship because Earth was destroyed by the Vogons for an expressway, where the Vogon Captain read them poetry in attempts to liquify their brain - their poetry is dreadful, honestly. They are shot into the bowels of space only to be *ZAP* picked up by the Heart of Gold - a ship with in Infinite Improbability Drive.
Now, I know what you're thinking. What kind of iambic pentameter did the Captain use that made the poetry THAT awful? But try and stay focused. The crew now consists of Ford, Arthur, the President - whom only 6 people in the galaxy know ISN'T actually the smartest and most capable man in the galaxy. That's obviously fiction because the President is always the smartest and most capable man in the galaxy.
We also have Trillian and her mice, his sidekick/girlfriend/fellow Earthling who apparently Arthur tried to hit on once back in the day. Marvin the manic depressive robot who is so smart and beyond our thinking that it makes him question his will to function around us normal beings. And Eddie - the Infinite Improbability Drive.
Back to MAgrEaTheA!!!! The planet which designs planets. Don't worry everyone is long dead... JUST KIDDING! We meet Slartibartfast - who tells us the planet makers went into hiding 5 million years ago with a computer who was told to wake them up when they were affordable again.
Fast forward 5 million years, BOOM! THE LEADERS OF THE EARTH CAN AFFORD THEM! YAY HUMANS! Wait... there's only two... how can they be the leaders...
*IMPROBABLE BUT SLIGHTLY SCIENCE FICTION TWIST WITH A DASH OF DRUNKEN INSPIRATION*
Remember the Earth being destroyed? Slartibartfast let's Arthur in on the fact that mice - yes like Trillian's mice - were the leaders of Earth. Also - Slartibartfast is very bitter that Norway was destroyed because he got an award for his Fjords. They were running a 7 million year experiment to discover the QUESTION OF THE UNIVERSE. So you know all those experiments we do on mice in labs where their behavior let's us in on behavioral traits of our own...
Alright now that we're fully shooketh, back to the fact that the Earth was an experiment to find the Question for the Answer that was previously discovered by a super computer 7 million years ago. The Answer is 42 bee tee dubs.
So the mice - chilling in their whiskey glasses AKA spaceships - want to pick apart Arthur's brain to discover the question. Obviously Arthur isn't a fan of this. So mice set their thugs on the crew, the planet is not amused and gets rid of the thugs, the crew escapes galaxy police trying to arrest the President for stealing the Heart of Gold, and they decide they're hungry and depart for "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe."
Oh that's also the title for Book Two. So convenient, am I right? Looking forward to that. Also yes, Earth is still destroyed including the Norwegian Fjords.
Slightly Less Humorous But Very Important Plot Line:
I felt this needed to be involved. It's hinted at, and it's really only in two chapters. Because it's not as humorous but is clearly a main point in the story moving forward.
Remember how President Zaphod is not portrayed to be the smartest bulb in the box? There's a plot where every idea he has happens to work out for him, and the crew asks him why he does all these outrageous things - like running for president, like stealing ships in broad daylight, happen to finding a planet that had been lost for millennia.
In the words of Zaphod, "It's like having a Galacticredit card which keeps on working though you never send off the checks." But he doesn't know why, and whenever he thinks about it, his brain gets him to think about other things. Perhaps it's A.D.D.?
Or, perhaps the previous President told Zaphod his next steps. So what's so secret that Zaphod had to run for President in order to be invited to the Heart of Gold ceremony to be able to steal the ship with the Infinite Improbability Drive to find the lost planet of Magrathea? What's so secret that the Galactic Government can't know about it? Not even Zaphod can know? Stay Tuned.
Drink Pairing: Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (Click Here for Ingredients)