September 28, 2009

Rabid Reads "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams

Title: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Film Tie-In Edition)
Author: Douglas Adams; with afterword by Robbie Stamp
Publisher: Pan McMillan Ltd. (2005); originally published in 1979
Genre: Science-Fiction/Humor
Pages: 323
ISBN 0-33043798-4

Note: As part of Banned Books Week, I'll be posting a review of a banned book for weekday. In Canada, Hitchhiker's Guide was once banned from a school because of the use of the word "whore." Yup, that's all it takes.

I probably should have checked the table of contents or something before getting this novel. I, being more a child of movies and television than books, assumed this novel contained the entire "Hitchhiker" saga. Wrong. I had an inkling there were five parts to this story, and originally sold as five separate novels. I did not, however, think this book would only contain the first of the five novels. It's the film tie-in edition for crying out loud. Was I out of line in thinking this should contain the "Hitchhiker" saga in its entirety? I guess I was. Ah well, live and learn.

For being only one fairly quick read--the actual novel only comprises 220 pages--I still had a great time reading this story. I liked the movie, and have heard enough deification of Douglas Adams, I thought it a safe bet I would enjoy The Hitchhiker's Guide in book form.

While the movie told the vast majority of the story through the eyes of Arthur Dent, schlubby English nobody, as a way of giving the viewing audience a point-of-view they could relate to and gain familiarity with during the fantastical events of the story. The book, at least this first one, gives a wider range of PoVs, by giving glimpses into the minds of others such as Trillian (a beautiful academic and the object of Arthur's affection), Ford (Arthur's best friend and a vagabond alien), Zaphod (the President of the Galaxy and a glorious scoundrel), and even Marvin, everyone's favorite paranoid android.

For those unfamiliar, this story basically starts out with the destruction of Earth--not a bad way to get things rolling. Our little ocean pearl is in the way of some industrialist aliens, known as Vogons, building an intergalactic highway. So, POOF! Earth's gone. Moments before it's destroyed, however, our hapless hero, Arthur Dent, is spared demise via his friend Ford Prefect's secret alien connections. And the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Not long after being hurled into a mind-baffling universe of aliens of every shade of silly, Arthur is reunited with the woman he's pined over for weeks ... and the dashing alien who thwarted his attempts at talking to her in the first place. Conflict and hilarity ensue.

I don't think I need to bother summarizes beyond that, since the story is so absurd and hilarious it defies a proper encapsulation, and I'm just not the cat to do it justice. There's even a proper amount of suspense and action to keep the story rolling along.

While I enjoyed the movie, and subsequently this first novel in the series, I'm not a fanatic. I would require months of training to become as ravenous, protectionist, and geeky as the most ardent Hitchhiker fan. Or, maybe you must be born that way. I do think this was one of the funnier novels I've had the chance to read recently, though. The absurdest humor and snappy dialog really give this story a voice all its own.

It's an accessible sci-fi romp, so those like me who tend to stray from the harder sci-fi novels should feel comfortable sitting down to read this one. Just be prepared to take a lot of the terminology at face value and chalk it up to ridiculousness. And don't be surprised if you end up wanting to read the rest of the series, like me. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is on my wish list now.


  1. Banned for the word "whore?" Wow... we Canadians are prudes, eh?

    I have the version of Hitchhiker with all 5 parts in it. I agree with the difficulty of describing the plot. Basically, just grab a whole bunch of random stuff, throw it in a box, shake it up, and write it down in whatever order it falls. lol

  2. I read this last year or maybe two years ago (after having seen the film) and enjoyed it immensely. My local library has the books for loan electronically (ebooks), so I finished the rest of them lickety-split. All delightfully screwball (or screw loose), intelligent, weird and wonderful. Glad you enjoyed this!

  3. NotNessie - Yup, that's what I read on a Canadian library site anyway. People will object to anything.

    Celia - Yeah, the movie made me want to read this too. It got panned by some, but the movie had a special charm to it I loved. And Sam Rockwell can do anything.

  4. This is a banned book? This is my favorite book of all time. I've read it at least 20 times (I'd love to say 42 times but I'm not sure I've read it that many times!).

    I'm so glad you enjoyed. Most people either love it or hate it. Or the alternative, like me, are obssessed with it.

  5. I am writing about A Hitchhiker's Guide and it being banned. I can not find any sources that actually say it was banned, where did you find your information?

  6. Oh, gosh. It's been so long since I saw that factoid, I can't remember where I saw it. I want to say it was referenced on the American Librarian's Association's website as part of their list of challenged and banned books, but don't hold me to that.