Sunday, December 9, 2012

Miss Eliza's Book Review - Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Published by: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 1979
Format: Paperback, 216 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

Arthur Dent's home is about to be destroyed to make way for a new road, ironically at the exact same time the Earth is about to be destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Therefore, in the scheme of things, Arthur's house doesn't matter. Luckily for Arthur, unbeknownst to him, his best friend, Ford Prefect, is an alien and rescues Arthur by hitchhiking onto one of the ships that destroys earth. Ford is a traveling researcher for the most amazing book of all time, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Ford just happened to get stuck on earth longer than he had planned... much longer.

But now with Arthur by his side he is ready to start traveling again with his trusty towel. Of course they first must escape the Vogons, whose ship they snuck onto... and the Vogons DO NOT like Hitchhikers. Period. But improbability is on their side and they are rescued by the president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who happens to be Ford's cousin, in a new ship he has stolen with a girl Arthur met at a party once and they all get wrapped up in the question to the answer of life, the universe and everything. The answer of course being 42.

This book is one of the seminal books in fantasy and science fiction. I still remember the first time I read it the summer I graduated from high school. That year Douglas Adams and Monty Python did more to form my love of all things British and bookish than anyone or anything else. They made me who I am today, along with Red Dwarf. That being said, it's been awhile since I've read the book, in fact, I think the last time I read them all was when the movie came out (not going to get into a fight about the movie in the comments, but needless to say, I am a fan of the movie, so haters suck it), so when it became apparent that many of the members in my book club hadn't read any Douglas Adams, I felt a re-read was in order... also the fact that it was chosen as the December selection for my group.

Reading it again more than fifteen years since that summer I realized something. This is a book that you need to read in your formative years. If it isn't some of the first science fiction and comedy that is given to you to work it's way into your DNA then I don't think you'll find it that funny. When reading a book for book club, especially one that I recommended, I always try to see it from the other person's point of view... and looking at this book in that light, it wasn't that flattering. There are funny gags, bits that work, but overall there is no plot, and the characters aren't the most likable.

After you've read that last sentence you're now probably thinking I'm crazy. Why would she slam a book she loves. It's because that's how others see it. This book isn't part of them. 42 doesn't mean something special to them like it does to me. Douglas Adams is a pioneer in this field. But the thing with pioneers is that by laying the ground work, others come later and build on it and make it better and funnier. Douglas had so many amazing ideas and stories, if not for him I highly doubt Doctor Who would have evolved to where it is today, and yes, I know he wrote for them. There wouldn't have been shows like Firefly and the Apple fanbase and the Jobs worshippers have Douglas to look to as their first acolyte. Douglas Adams did so much to create the world of science fiction and fantasy that we live in today, a world that has reached so far beyond what he did, that going back to Hitchhiker's is like going back to early Apocrypha, it's a start, but nowhere near perfect.