by The Wanderer
Author: Douglas Adams
Publisher: Pan Books
Genre: Humor, Space Opera
Series: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Book One
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Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has had a remarkable impact on pop culture since its release in 1979. Reading this book for the first time gave me plenty of those … “so that’s where that came from” types of moments.
While Douglas Adams’ book is enjoyable, and it certainly has its funny moments, I didn’t completely fall in love with it. This is one of those books that makes a safe bet for a grab bag at an office Christmas party. No one could really hate it. By that same token though, it’s not a particularly edgy nor did it make a big impact on me.
After the destruction of Earth, Arthur Dent, one of the planets few surviving humans, goes on space traveling adventure with his best friend Ford Prefect, who is an alien masquerading as a human. With the giant digital book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to guide them, they are eventually joined by Zaphod, the President of the Universe, Marvin the depressed robot, the super computer Deep Thought, and others.
Don’t panic, towel day, Paranoid Android, the number 42 may sound like a random assortment of words, but they are phrases, holidays, songs, and a number that garnered significance in pop culture through Adams’ book. I’m not the biggest fan of pop culture, but I do appreciate a number of the things listed above – especially Paranoid Android – and discovering the origins of these pop culture phenomenons made the reading experience pretty cool at times.
This is a pretty straightforward story, and its humor is incredibly lighthearted. It’s hard to imagine anyone being offended by any of the jokes in here. For me that was a double edged sword. While I enjoyed some of the book’s humor, it did not feel edgy or provocative at all. In short the humor is safe enough for your grandmother.
Nevertheless Adams can be very clever with his humor. My two favorite moments in the book are the destruction of Earth and the main characters’ attempts to answer what is the meaning of life? The former a laugh out loud moment, and the latter the most thoughtful part of the book.
Arthur Dent is the major character that people can relate to, and it’s through his voice that readers get the sensory experiences needed to enjoy everything and understand everything about this supernatural story. Ford Prefect, and yes the character is named after the car, is the guide that explains what’s going on. My favorite character though is Marvin the depressed robot. Of course the idea of a robot being depressed is ridiculous, it adds a much needed sense of cynicism to the story.
Comparing this to other other humorous SFF books, Adams reminds me of Terry Pratchett, except he’s less neurotic, and his focus is on science fiction, not fantasy. He’s certainly a lot less cynical than Kurt Vonnegut. For people looking for humorous books, then Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might work for you.