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The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams
Writing a review of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series... Where do I even start?
First things first: this is a really weird book. It is by far the weirdest book I have ever read, and that is saying a lot, as I have spent a significant chunk of my existence reading. It is also one of the funniest.
The story begins on an innocent Thursday morning, which just so happens to be the day Earth is scheduled to be demolished by the Vogon Constructor Fleet to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. Shortly before this unfortunate event takes place, the main character (a man named Arthur Dent) is rescued by his friend Ford Prefect, who, it turns out is from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and is a researcher for a revised addition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the greatest book ever to come out of the great publishing company of Ursa Major) who has been stranded on Earth for the past 15 years. The duo hook up with Ford's childhood friend, the two headed ex-hippie, ex-President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox and his girlfriend, Trillian who have been on the run ever since they hijacked the government ship Heart of Gold. The story unfolds from there.
Throughout the series, Adams drops little snippets of comic wisdom. We learn (among other things) that the knack to flying lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss, that it is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems using only potatoes, and that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42. The book's absurd outlook on life, outlandish use of personification, and intentionally strange phrasing kept me almost constantly amused. There were many times while reading these books that I found myself thinking they could not get any weirder, and each time they proved me wrong. And while the concepts and theories about the universe put forth by these books are extremely absurd to say the least; they remind us how little we really know about the universe as a whole. To use an example from the book, how can we prove that Earth is not a giant supercomputer designed by mice (who are actually hyperintelligent pandimentional beings), especially if we, as part of it, are programmed not to be able to prove it? And in the grand scheme of things, does it even matter?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy began as a series of radio scripts author Douglas Adams wrote for the BBC starting in 1978. These were eventually developed and expanded into numerous other radio shows, books, movies, TV shows, etc., most of which flatly contradict each other (however, as The Guide doesn't make much logical sense to begin with, this doesn't much matter). The series I am reviewing was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but now includes five books: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979); The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980); Life, the Universe, and Everything (1982); So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984); and Mostly Harmless (1992). The saga garnered a large fan following, even resulting in “Towel Day” (May 25), on which fans openly carry their towels around with them in honor of a piece of Adams's Hitchhiker's wisdom: a man should always know where his towel is. (For the reasoning behind this see page 24 of the first book in the series).
In conclusion, after repeatedly deleting and rewriting large sections of this review because I appear to be incapable of accurately portraying just how out there this series is, I have to agree with Eoin Colfer who compared writing a foreword of this book to “trying to describe to a five-year-old how it feels to be struck by lightning, using words of one syllable or less. You can give it a go, but you know before you start that, no matter how hard you try, when that five-year-old finally does get hit by lightning he is going to be totally flabbergasted, and will probably use a few one-syllable words of his own.”
Though The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series is definitely not for everyone, I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good laugh and some subtle satire, or who just wants to rock their world a bit. Just remember: no matter what you read (to quote the words words printed in large friendly letters on the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Don't Panic.
And, of course it is Adams himself who sums this series up best at the end of So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish,
“There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler's mind.”
Maybe the forgotten point is that there is no point – to Life, the Universe and Everything; or anything else. Get over it. Just live your life and don't constantly try to find nonexistent meaning in all the meaningless things your brain tells you are going on around you. Maybe we'd all be much happier if we were okay with being pointless and insignificant; okay with not always understanding everything, least of all these books.