Ossus Library Index
Science Fiction Index


A novel by Douglas Adams
(1988, Pocket Books)
[original copyright: 1979]

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, book 1

Rescued from the demolition of Earth, a man stows away on various alien ships until he lands on a planet that manufactures planets, with the president of the galaxy, who stole one of the ships.


-- 2nd reading (paperback)
February 8th to 13th, 2022


I don’t find these books funny. This is my second time reading this book. The first, I absolutely hated the book, but this time, I figured I’d go in with my eyes wide open. It didn’t help. I can see how some people would find this style funny, but it wasn’t for me. It reminded me somewhat of Terry Pratchett, whom I do often find funny, but this didn’t appeal to me at all. The adventure is mundane, and although it shows off the different alien species (and one depressed robot) and their failings and ambitions, it wasn’t enough to hold my interest. There is very little more for me to say, because the whole appeal rests on the random way the author changes subjects to make silly observations, sometimes about our own world as it’s transposed into the galaxy at large. Apparently bureaucracy are the same for all alien cultures. It’s apparently funny to a lot of people, but not to me. I tried –I really did. But I don’t see myself finishing the series for a second time.

Spoiler review:

This is a beloved classic series, by seemingly every science fiction fan in the world. Or maybe just the noisiest ones. Regardless, I gave it a shot when I was much younger, and I hated it. Still, I trundled my way through five books, and hated every single one. Older now, I’ve been wanting to give the books another chance, feeling that I was probably in my highly critical critic stage, where a lot of books on my website have review ratings lower than they should. So I took this chance to rectify that, and give it a proper chance.

I was wrong –my initial reactions have not changed. I wouldn’t say that I hated the book, but I didn’t enjoy it. There were a few –very few- funny moments, but since I didn’t like the humor, and the whole book is based on the reader finding this funny, a lot of the book was torture. I read it to turn the page, even as the narrator told us about the alien races, and how they elected a President whose time was best spent in jail and out of the way, or making snide comments on all aspects of society. I could definitely see where he was coming from, but only when certain facts are neglected and the action being described was simplified beyond reality. Still, that was the point, and I can see how many people could find this funny. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.

The attempted humor reminded me of Terry Pratchett books, like Wyrd Sisters, or others, which I quite enjoyed. It’s all tongue in cheek, with comments that would be considered to be under the breath. That humor didn’t always resonate with me, but it was always funnier than what I read here.

Arthur Dent was clueless, even as he followed Ford Prefect around to the bar (where an alcoholic buzz can help them traverse a hyperspace jump and crackers can stave off the after-effects), to an alien spaceship, then to the stolen improbability ship and to the planet that is its destination. He takes the aliens in stride, and manipulates the depressed robot until he strikes up a conversation with an alien salesman. When he’s brought into the showroom, he finds that Earth was actually a sentient computer, designed to find the question to the ultimate answer of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything: 42. And it was ordered by beings from another dimension whose tiny manifestiation in our universe shows up as mice, the most intelligent species on our planet.

It turns out that the interstellar bypass that destroyed Earth was a mistake, and that the computer would have been finished with finding the question five minutes later. Ha-ha. The mice have ordered another planet, almost exactly like Earth, but when they discover Arthur, they decide they can use his body to finish the calculation instead. Why didn’t they ever think that when in a cage with Trillian, the woman from Earth? In another twist, she’s the same woman whom the galactic president picked up at a bar when Arthur was trying to pick her up. Talk about coincidence!

There is a bit of a buildup to describe Zaphod Beetlebrox, the President, and how he became president, just to steal the improbability drive and get to this planet. He somehow sealed up the memories of why he wanted to steal the ship and come to this planet, something we would probably discover in a future book, if I decide to continue.

Zaphod, Ford and Trillian team up to rescue Arthur (whose house was about to be bulldozed for a freeway bypass in England just before the world ended, by the way). The depressed robot had even fried the computer on the police vehicle that came to arrest Zaphod for stealing the Heart of Gold spaceship. Then off they go, to their next adventure.

The titular Hitch hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a device that very closely resembles a tablet from these days, able to scroll through thousands of pages and search entries at the touch of the screen. What prescience, and probably the best part of the book. The entries themselves were silly, but hardly relevant to the story. Again, I didn’t find them very funny, though I think one or two made me smile.

So the next question is whether I continue with the series or not. I’ve already read it once, and didn’t enjoy it. Am I willing to put myself through that again? Not at the moment. Maybe I’ll forget how I felt while reading this book and go for the second one someday. I just don’t see that happening right now.


+ -- First reading (paperback)
May 5th to 7th, 1994


No review available.


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