Pros: Funny, British-humor take on space travel
Cons: At only 215 pages, it's very short
Arthur Dent is having The Worst Thursday That Ever Happened. Work crews are just minutes away from bulldozing his English home in order to make way for a bypass. Unbeknownst to Arthur, that traumatic experience coincides with a larger event—the destruction of Earth by a race of civil servants known as the Vogons, to clear a path for a new intergalactic highway. Luckily, Arthur's friend Ford Prefect, a galactic hitchhiker, saves Arthur by thumbing a ride for both of them on a Vogon ship. Such is the premise of Douglas Adams’ funny 1979 novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
When Arthur Dent awakes one Thursday morning to discover bulldozers converging on his house, he learns that he has much bigger problems. His friend Ford Prefect drags Arthur off to the local pub to tell him that the world is going to end.
Prefect is an intergalactic hitchhiker who has been stranded on Earth, doing field research for an updated edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a mind-numbingly large travel/survival guide that shares with its readers the ins and outs of planets, civilizations, and the importance of towels.
Moments prior to Earth’s destruction, Ford manages to hitch a ride for Arthur and himself on a Vogon ship. The Vogon’s (who compose the third-worst poetry in the universe) hate humanoids and jettison the duo into space, where they are (luckily, for them) quickly and accidentally rescued by Prefect’s cousin Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy.
Beeblebrox is a flamboyant, impulsive sort who has stolen a space ship called The Heart of Gold and is searching for the mythical planet Magrathea, where Arthur learns universal secrets about the true origins of Earth, why Norway has award-winning fjords, and the true intentions of mice.
Adams’ book is funny as hell in a silly, British humor-sort of way. It’s a short read—only 215 pages—but each page seemingly has chuckle-inducing prose.
Along the way, you’ll meet a manic-depressive robot named Marvin, who is in the midst of a large bout of self-loathing. You will learn how to mix a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the “best drink in existence.” And you’ll learn the importance of hitchhiking with a towel (“wet it for use in hand to hand combat, wrap it around your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal…”)
Arthur finds himself in the middle of a short, daft adventure. While reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Arthur is confronted with the knowledge of the true fate of all the lost ballpoint pens in the universe. On Magrathea, he meets an old man named Slartibartfast, who shares the secret that humans aren’t the only species attempting to solve the answer to the mystery of life—seemingly everyone out there is contemplating that question (you will be surprised at the answer—which only spawns new questions—carefully calculated over seven-million years by a supercomputer called Deep Thought.)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an entertaining, funny read worthy of its cult status. It’s science fiction—sort of. Really, it is just a silly way to spend a couple hours of your time here on our “mostly harmless” planet. If you’ve never gotten around to reading it, now is a good time to remedy that error.