Ok so I’ll admit I’m supposed to be reviewing Tolstoy’s War and Peace this week, but unfortunately work has been extremely demanding and I had to switch gears and pick up a shorter book. I’ll return to my regular schedule asap; I’m actually 15% into War and Peace of tonight according to my e-Reader.
So I’m reviewing for you another book I hadn’t read this week: Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a book from 1979, which was an instant success and best-seller. At a time when Star Wars was killing it at the box office, it seems to me sci-fi was a big go-to, and it remains so.
The story follows Arthur Dent, a human, who escapes the destruction of the earth to make way for a bypass for an intergalactic highway. He’s saved by his friend – who happens to be an alien stuck on earth – Ford Prefect. They hitch a ride on the ship that demolishes Earth to escape. Elsewhere Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy, and his girlfriend Trillian – who we learn later is also from earth – steal the Heart of a Gold, a new ship built on Improbability technology. Somehow – improbability thing – they pick up Arthur and Ford as they’re about to die in space. Together they find the legendary planet Magrathea, a previously super rich planet, which economy crumbled when people stopped having enough money to purchase their own planet.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t particularly like the book. I didn’t find the plot overly exciting nor did I find it super funny or witty. Maybe science fiction isn’t my thing.
I’m still trying to figure out why it’s called the Hitchhiker’s Guide but then again only the first book of the “Trilogy” is included on the list of 100 books to read before you die. Maybe the whole thing might have provided more content and more context. Yet seeing how I didn’t really like the first volume I might not have gone on anyway.
That said the writing is fairly easy and the book reads quite quickly. I can actually envision how it would have made for some fun radio show but in a book format, it didn’t work for me.
I guess the one thing that did make me smile was the parallel between Arthur’s house being up for demolition in order to build a bypass and that of earth being destroyed for the same purpose. Mostly really the similarity between the bureaucratic crew explaining to Arthur that the notification was up at some office somewhere Arthur was completely unlikely to go and that it’s his fault he didn’t go and the Volgons explaining to humans that the notification for demolition had been up in the Andromeda system for x amount of years and they could have made an appeal and it wasn’t the galaxy’s fault if they were too lazy to build space ships… Made me think of personal experience with the administration and I’m sure many people can relate.
I understand that an author doesn’t want to explain everything in the book: heck I write short stories (and I’m not even a writer let alone an author) and I don’t want to explain everything. But when you introduce such interesting out-of-this-world concepts – because they are that – sometimes you have to make it make sense in some way. Because otherwise it feels like some deus ex machina tool, which allows you not to deal with a plot hole you didn’t see coming. I’m a huge fan of Tolkien but the Eagles in The Hobbit are one of the reasons I didn’t like the book as much as LOTR (and why I resented Peter Jackson for the Dead in Minas Tirith in the movie).
Anyway back to Adams’ Guide. I’m sure a lot of people loved the book(s) but I’m not certain why it’s on the list of 100 books to read before you die.
Did I miss something?
Have you read the book?
Did you like it?