Many books in my book queue are waiting to be read, and a common theme among them is they’re all part of a series, trilogy or saga. Each Sunday, I’ll share a book from a series. You can read along with me, or add the books to your own reading list. This week, I read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” the first in a humorously named “trilogy in five parts” by Douglas Adams.
I’ve started to become mildly obsessed with science fiction. First, my husband, Mike, got me into “Star Wars.” A few years later, my friend Dan got me into “Doctor Who.” Lately, I’ve been watching old episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
I love science fiction because of the immense creativity that goes into imagining other worlds and different ways of telling a story. Sci-fi writers tend to copy one another on different concepts, so it’s hard to tell where a single idea originated. Douglas Adams is, undoubtedly, one of the pioneers of science fiction. Much of his work is copied in modern science fiction, but it can be traced back to his wildly disjointed and wonderful “Hitchiker’s Guide,” which, oddly, started as a radio series.
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” narrates the adventures of Ford Prefect, an alien from around Betelgeuse, and Arthur Dent, a dopey Englishman. They meet up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy, and Zaphod’s girlfriend Trillian. Zaphod has two heads and discovers his brain has been tampered with, so he steals a spaceship and travels across the galaxy to Magrathea. There, the group meets Slartibartfast, who helped to design the fjords of Norway (and won a design award for it.) The group is trying to discover what has happened to Zaphod and also find the answer to “the life, the universe and everything.”
Adams’ writing style is so sporadic and disjointed that the main plot is pretty difficult to follow. Sometimes he’ll go off on a completely different train of thought in the middle of a chapter about how a wormhole opened up and something else happened in a parallel dimension. Or he’ll write entries from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” pertaining (or not) to whatever topic is on hand, and escape on a different thought sequence while writing.
Adams’ writing style can be extremely humorous to some, but more frustrating to others. I read several reviews of “Hitchiker’s Guide,” complaining that the subject matter was too boring and the writing style was tedious to read. Personally, I found the conversational tone of the novel amusing. Adams threw in some punchy little jokes that, if you’re reading carefully, can be screamingly hilarious.
I’d recommend “Hitchhiker’s Guide” if you understand sarcasm and dry humor. You kind of have to like books and movies about space and time travel, too, since naming nonsensical planets and aliens is a big part of the novel as well.
The novel ends with Zaphod asking Arthur if he wants to get a bite to eat, so the next novel is named “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” and I’ll be reading that next week!