Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My friend told me to read this seven years ago. I should have listened.

15 comments

My friend told me to read this seven years ago. I should have listened.

About the Book

Title: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Book 1

Author: Douglas Adams

Published: 1979

Genresci-fi, humor

Rating: 5/5

The Premise

You’ve probably heard of this book before, but here’s the rundown of the premise.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don’t forget to bring a towel!

My Thoughts

So, first off: going into this book, you should not expect some sort of epic space opera. It is full of very absurdist, deadpan and rather dark humor, which I found absolutely hilarious. This is definitely one of the funniest books I have read for while. I was just sitting in my room alone, laughing. As I am wont to do on a daily basis.

“Ford carried on counting quietly. This is about the most aggressive thing you can do to a computer, the equivalent of going up to a human being and saying “Blood…blood…blood…blood…”

The story is a bit aimless and seemed to be advanced by the humor more than any sort of plot point. It worked well, though.

There was a huge element of unpredictability: the book is so random that you just never have any idea what is going to happen next. The story is driven by its unexpectedness.

But of course, being myself, I had to start analyzing it while I was reading even though the book is utterly un-serious. Maybe it’s the effect of too much Kurzgesagt, but what I started thinking about when I was reading was that the book was kind of a poster child for “optimistic nihilism” which is basically the idea that the universe is utterly meaningless but instead of being depressed you should instead YOLO (totally an optimistic idea that would definitely not destroy society…)

So, yeah, I don’t really like this worldview, but it fit with the book. Everything that happens is totally random and for nothing… yet, it still happens. I mean, there’s not really even much of a point to the book itself. The story also starts with the Earth being demolished by super-intelligent aliens due to its unfortunate position in the way of a new construction project. I’d say there’s definitely a theme of humanity’s insignificance.

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

If you like to watch existential crisis inducing videos at 2 am which will cause you to question everything you think about the meaning of life, well, I’m sorry, the aliens don’t care. Neither do the mice. Or the dolphins.

But I mean, do I think that the universe is meaningless? Of course not– the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe is everything is 42.

In all seriousness, I really enjoyed reading this book with all of its sardonic jokes and engineered deus-ex-machinas which were gimmicked away by the Improbability Generator plot device sci-fi concept. But really. Even the deus-ex-machinas worked because they were unexpected and they were funny.

This is a bit of a difficult book to review without spoiling and/or spoiling jokes, so I’m sorry for this incoherent mess of a review. I listed all of my favorite quotes from the book on Goodreads, here.

The Verdict

PLEASE go read this book if you a) want to read a book that will make you laugh or b) like sci fi in any capacity except contingent upon strict realism. Don’t expect realism, please.

Have you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

If not, go read it, then come back. In the meantime: so long, and thanks for all the fish.

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15 comments on “Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams”

  1. It took two of my closest IRL bookworm friends a couple of years to encourage me to read this book and thankfully once I did, I loved it too. It’s pure escapist nonsense and just fun to read, even if I do find some of the concepts a little confusing. I hope to re-read it soon, mainly so I can finally finish the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I’ve never thought about reading it, until now! I put it on my TBR as you’ve made it sound like so much fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! I’ve also been told to read this by quite a few people, and I have to say that your review has really made me curious about it. I’ll probably pick it up when I’m in the mood for a more lighthearted and funny read!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you ended up loving this one, Emily! My whole family are huge fans – except for me, that is 😅 I did enjoy the humor at first (and absolutely love Marvin, so that was definitely a bonus 🥰), but after a while, I just felt we kept getting the same types of jokes all over again and I really missed a stringent plot and character development. So I’m afraid I ended up giving up on the series after book 3 🙈 But I seem to be very much in the minority and I’m happy you liked it much more than I did!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right about the later books in the series. There are some quality bits that I remember fondly (i.e. the earth’s native human population being replaced by the least useful third of another planet, the planet where they don’t expect to see anything in the sky and when they do they decide the only thing to do is get rid of everything) but the general quality of the jokes and narrative declined steadily after the first book. I would recommend the short story “Young Zaphod Plays it Safe” if you haven’t read it; it’s much tighter and wittier than the other late entries in the series and set before the events of the first book.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m relieved to hear that someone agrees with me and that I’m not alone in being the odd skeptic out 😂 Also, I’ve never heard of “Young Zaphod Plays It Safe” before, but you’ve got me intrigued… I’ll try to check it out!

        Liked by 1 person

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