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
Genre: sci-fi, humor
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!”
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.
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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