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Book Review: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

I read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the beginning of the year when the house was still cold from wintery winds blowing through the Negev when being curled up with a cup of tea and a good book was the order of the evening. I imagine Douglas Adam probably wrote Hitchhiker's Guide in about the same position.

Determined to find his way into film and writing, Adams dropped out of university and pursued writing full time eventually writing and making appearances in several episodes of Monty Python Flying Circus as well as becoming script editor for the Doctor Who series. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was written several years later and was the first of a "trilogy" of five books.

Summarized on the back cover of the 1979 paperback copy (I can't go on without at least mentioning this once, but when I look at that hand on the cover, all I see is a butt) as,

"A wildly funny novel about the end of the world and the happy-go-lucky days that follow it. About the worst Thursday that ever happened, and why the universe is a lot safer if you bring a towel."

As much as I love and appreciate British humor in general, in the case of Hitchhiker's I found that I loved the movie more than the book, but only because of the extremely well-chosen cast and the how well the movie script stuck to the book (though it did leave several parts out probably for time's sake). The book itself was short and sweet. Perfect amount of zany British humor and steady plot. I particularly enjoyed the parts the described the Guide to the Galaxy itself,

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a very unevenly edited book and contains many passages that simply seemed to its editors like a good idea at the time.

One of these (the one Arthur now came across) supposedly relates the experience of one Veet Voojagig, a quiet young student at the University of Maximegalon, who pursued a brilliant academic career studying ancient philology, transformational ethics, and the wave harmonic theory of historical perception, and then, after a night of drinking Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters with Zaphod Beeblebrox, became increasingly obsessed with the problem of what had happened to all the ballpoints he'd bought over the past few years.

There followed a long period of painstaking research during which he visited all the major centers of ballpoint loss throughout the Galaxy and eventually came up with a quaint little theory which quite caught the public imagination at the time."

Zaphod Beeblebox was my favorite character, and exceptionally well-cast in the movie. Zaphod really personified the beatnik mentally that reflects the period in which Douglas wrote the book. One of the advantages of reading the book over watching the movie is the ending is much more clear and less disjointed than it is in the movie. Possibly the greatest reason the movie was such a hit for me is because the Guide to the Galaxy is narrated by Stephen Fry. I think we can all agree that Stephen Fry is the British narrator equivalent of American narrator Morgan Freeman.

As a lifelong fan of Stephen Fry from having grown up watching him portray the butler Jeeves in the Jeeves & Wooster television series and more recently portraying Mycroft brother to Sherlock in the 2011 (ten years ago???) Sherlock Holmes movie, I was entranced when I saw him walking through the London Heathrow Airport with a lady actress friend. I was so enthralled with seeing Stephen Fry that I couldn't place who his friend was or what exactly I had seen her in, but she was a tall blonde who reminded me of Julie Andrews.

I was waiting at my gate for my flight back home after a hiking trip in the Highlands (more on this later, one of the most beautiful places in the world) and it was felt mutually among my friends and I that we were beneath Stephen Fry's acknowledgement and therefore should not approach him but just follow him and his friend around the gate gawking at him until it was boarding time. *sigh* I was younger than I am now, I do think I am wiser for those years. There is nothing but talent that separates me from Stephen Fry and I should have approached him and calmly stated that I love him and then begged a Jeeves impression from him. Next time.

3.5 stars for this classic. You can see it on my virtual shelf here and on my bookshelf at Sunbird House here.

Have you read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Let me know in the comments!

Until the next review, be well.


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