- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey Books (June 23, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345418913
- ISBN-13: 978-0345418913
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 181 g
- Customer reviews: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2.505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Paperback – 23 June 1997
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"Extremely funny . . . inspired lunacy . . . [and] over much too soon."--The Washington Post Book World"The feckless protagonist, Arthur Dent, is reminiscent of Vonnegut heroes, and his travels afford a wild satire of present institutions."--Chicago Tribune
"Very simply, the book is one of the funniest SF spoofs ever written, with hyperbolic ideas folding in on themselves."--School Library Journal
"[A] whimsical odyssey . . . Characters frolic through the galaxy with infectious joy."--Publishers Weekly
From the Inside Flap
Don't panic! You're not timetripping! It's the tenth anniversary of the publication of Douglas Adams's zany, best-selling novel, and to celebrate Harmony is reissuing a special edition of this cult classic!
By now the story is legendary. Arthur Dent, mild-mannered, out-to-lunch earth-ling, is plucked from his planet by his friend Ford Prefect just seconds before it was demolished to make way for a hyper-space bypass. Ford, posing as an out-of-work actor, is a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Together the gruesome twosome begin their now-famous inter-galactic journey through time, space and best-sellerdom.
For Hitchhiker fanatics (you know who you are!) who've read the books, seen the television program, and listened to the radio show, as well as newcomers to Douglas Adams's unique universe -- remember -- don't panic, don't forget to bring a towel, and don't forget to celebrate The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's tenth anniversary by wearing your bathrobe.
"From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge in March 1952 and was educated at Brentwood School, Essex, before attending St. John's College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. and later an M.A. in English literature. A writer for radio, television, and theater, he was the creator of all the various manifestations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy, which started as a radio show and then became a series of novels, a TV show, an album, a computer game, and several stage adaptations. Adams died on May 11, 2001.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I finally got my opportunity this month when a book club that I belong to chose it as its current selection. I read the original book (there are many sequels) and was deeply disappointed. The humor that I was expecting was simply not there--at least not in a way that I could appreciate it. Believe me, I know about and adore surreal and absurd humor. I love Monty Python skits and movies, and I have loved such television shows as The Addams Family and Get Smart. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what is missing in this story. Somehow Adams' attempts seem too self-conscious and self-aware. If he were reciting the story aloud rather than writing it, I would expect him to pause regularly so that he could listen for reassuring guffaws before continuing. In addition, the story was pointless--just a rambling with no unfolding and cohesive plot. (Yes, I know about "stream of consciousness" styles. The paucity of sophistication in "Hitchhiker's" renders it unworthy of that description.)
For those who do like this book, I wish you well, but it did nothing for me. I will be moving on.
-- Jack Dostal
Entries peppered throughout the book from the “real” The Hitchhiker’s Guide inform the reader of non-essential historical, cultural, and always humorous tidbits about the universe and its inhabitants. For example, the popular drink the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster makes the drinker feel like their brain is being “smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick” (Ch 2). Ford hopes to update the electronic guide with how one can see the wonders of the universe for 30 Altarian dollars a day, but due to being stuck on Earth for 15 years his signature contribution remains his description of Earth as “mostly harmless”. Arthur Dent is more the butt of every joke than the hero of the story and simply plays the role of baffled human encountering the unknown. The president, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who happens to be Ford’s cousin, has two heads, three arms, and the ego of a true politician. He steals almost everyone’s thunder, but that’s probably because, while only six people know it, he’s succeeding phenomenally at his presidential mandate of distracting everyone’s attention away from power instead of wielding it. Zaphod is accompanied by his human girlfriend, Trillian, who acts as the token female character in the typically male-dominated sci-fi tale. Smart and sexy, she is mostly disregarded by her boyfriend while dutifully following him into every folly. Marvin is a pet robot of sorts with a serious depression problem which proves to have tremendous utility.
On account of the Heart of Gold’s Infinite Improbability Drive, the serendipitous crew encounters and escapes from a series of unthinkable situations, the most notable being the discovery of the fabled planet of Magrathea. Believed to now be dead, it supposedly designed and constructed luxury planets at the behest of ultra-wealthy clients until closing up shop with the collapse of the intergalactic economy some ten million years ago. At this point in the book a loosely coherent plot begins to emerge. After narrowly evading the planet’s automatic defense missiles, the crew land the Heart of Gold on the surface and Zaphod leads the bunch on a hunt for the unfathomable riches he is certain must be hidden there... somewhere. Instead, he comes to a shocking realization about the key to his wildly successful career of misconduct, Arthur learns of the mysterious nature and fate of his late beloved Earth, Trillian loses her two pet mice, and Marvin unwittingly saves everyone’s lives just by being himself.
Adams playfully goads the reader closer and closer into agreeing that “The Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs” (Ch 31) by poking fun at bureaucracy and politics with amusing analogies. Much like the local bureaucrat trying to tear down Arthur’s house, the Vogons respond to Earthlings’ protests before imminent destruction by stating, “All the planning charts and demolition orders have been displayed in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years” (Ch 3). Zaphod Beeblebrox is the posterchild for theatrical two-faced politics. His wild antics make him the most successful president in history and he possesses two heads, and therefore two faces, one of which is more popular than the other (Ch 4).
Adams then picks apart religion and philosophy without being overtly insulting due to his use of their very own arguments. A small but exceedingly sophisticated fish proves God’s existence and is therefore the final and clinching proof of his nonexistence. God “promptly vanishes in a puff of logic” because “without faith I am nothing” (Ch 6). Philosophers protest the creation of a supercomputer they fear will put them out of a job if it is able to answer the questions of the Universe, thus they demand the “total absence of solid facts” (Ch 25). Adams’ deft criticism of these topics threatens to elicit not much more than a self-deprecating chuckle from the very people he is poking fun at.
Absurd similes and outrageous statements infuse the writing style with charming humor while occasionally reminding the reader that reality can in fact be quite ridiculous. “For a few seconds Ford seemed to ignore him, and stared fixedly into the sky like a rabbit trying to get run over by a car” (Ch 1), and, “The ships hung in the sky much the same way that bricks don’t” (Ch 3), are clearly very foolish things to say, yet confer upon the reader a precise picture of the given situation that Adams wants them to have. In a similar vein, a police ship commits suicide after hearing Marvin’s depressing view of the universe (Ch 34), letters of the alphabet can be “friendly” (Ch 1) or “unfriendly” (Ch 34), and the answer to life, the universe and everything is simply the number “42” (Ch 27). Adams makes clear to the reader exactly how seriously he takes his subject matter.
Poking fun at politics and religion and making ludicrous statements are the more obvious of Adams’ tactics to discourage the reader from taking life, or really anything, very seriously. Less obvious, but equally effective, is his manipulation of grammar and rhetoric. By rendering the familiar structure of language malleable in his expert hands, he reminds the reader at every turn that all is not as it seems. He breaks commonly accepted rules of writing by blatantly using redundant vocabulary and pairing oxymoronic words. Arthur wakes up blearily then gets up and wanders blearily around his room (Ch 1), Ford Prefect is not conspicuously tall and his features are striking but not conspicuously handsome (Ch 1), and Zaphod rides a thoroughly ridiculous form of transport, but a thoroughly beautiful one (Ch 4). The windows on Arthur’s soon to be destroyed home are “of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye” (Ch 1), and there is something “very slightly odd” about Ford Prefect (Ch 1). With these deviances from the norm and by slipping in a clever grammar joke here and there, “...to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before” (Ch 15), Adams taunts the grammar police and then scoffs when their powerlessness and lack of creativity are exposed. By deftly rendering malleable the familiar institution of language, Adams bring home his deeper message that societal constructs are the mere product of a human desire to invent order out of chaos.
While Adams can boast a nimble sense of humor and a clever mind, obvious plot holes emerge as the story progresses. For example, the Vogons dump Arthur and Ford millions of lightyears away from Earth but then Trillian and Zaphod pick them up in the same vector as Earth. This could be due to the fact that Adams was a legendary procrastinator who would often leave manuscripts unfinished until the last minute. His biographer, M.J. Simpson, author of Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams says that Adams also had problems following the traditional structure of a story. He shares that, “Adams was good at writing beginnings, middles, and endings, but when he got to the middle he’d thought of another good beginning and wanted to write that instead of the ending”. Adams’ habit of making things up as he went along is uncomfortably apparent to the reader who craves consistency and resolution, especially from a book some say holds a place in the sci-fi genre. Therefore, his book might more accurately fall under the category of comic science fiction.
While he falls short of producing the next great science fiction series of our time, Adams succeeds remarkably in demonstrating how a truly inquisitive mind works. He breaks the rules of fiction writing, but rather than being his downfall, these bold deviations add to his appeal. By weaving together intelligence, humor, and slapstick, he reaches a broad audience without sacrificing his unique voice and underlying message. So much so that the reader is left almost certain that “the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang sense of it and just keep yourself occupied” (Ch 30).