Review of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams

I re-read this series every few years and always enjoy it! Although I never heard the radio series on which the books were based, I used to like watching the TV adaptation and am not sure whether I encountered the books or the TV one first. I later saw the film. Anyway, I’m finding it difficult to review this book, which is the first in the ‘trilogy of five’. It’s a massive cultural phenomenon but let’s pretend for the purposes of this review that you’ve never heard of it before.

Book cover shows sun and cup of tea in the sky with fish below.

Arthur Dent, an Englishman whose house is about to be demolished, discovers one Thursday that his friend Ford Prefect is actually an alien, a researcher for a book called ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ who has been stranded on Earth for fifteen years. As Vogon spaceships descend to demolish the planet, the two friends hitch a lift and so begins a crazy adventure through space and time. The book is obsessed with probability and there is even a spaceship which is powered by an improbability drive. It’s been stolen by the Galactic President, two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox who is on a mysterious mission, directed by some superior intelligence, assisted by maths whiz Trillian (a woman whom Arthur once met at a party). In this story, you will find the meaning of life, the universe and everything. You will find a recipe for a notorious alcoholic drink and receive wise advice about towels. Plus, there is Marvin the Paranoid Android.

It’s a comedy story but also has a lot of philosophy, so it may appeal to readers who aren’t typically sci-fi fans. What’s interesting is that the Guide (a rival to the formal Encyclopaedia Galactica) is a sort of Wikipedia forerunner, accessed electronically and comprising thousands of entries on all kinds of topics from many contributors. The entry on Earth, however, would be what we call a ‘stub’ – the only information is that the planet is ‘mostly harmless’.

First published in 1979. This edition published by Picador, 2002, the year after he passed away at the age of 49. In commemoration, May the 25th is known as Towel Day.

2 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams”

  1. When I first read this book it was still a trilogy of four. The first book is brilliant and is the best of the bunch, IMO. But Adams did pave the way for the genre of humourous science fiction.

    1. Yes I agree the first book is the best. Most ‘funny sci-fi’ books and sitcoms are influenced by it.

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