Books Culture

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

12 March 2016
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I first heard of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy several years ago and it is such a well-known book I’m surprised I didn’t read it earlier! It had been on my Goodreads To-read list forever and after seeing a few amusing quotes here and there on the Internet, I bit the bullet last month. Here’s what I thought!


There is a galaxy full of space creatures out there, us humans just aren’t aware of it! The planet Earth is destroyed to make room for an galactic freeway and Arthur Dent is saved by his galactic researcher friend Ford Prefect who he previously believed to be just as human as him. Together they embark on a journey through space that has Arthur questioning everything he had thought to be true when he woke up for breakfast that morning.

My opinion

I have been thinking about how to write this article for some time now and I am still not sure how to go about talking about it. I am quite sure that those who have read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will understand why! (I am also hoping you will understand why there are three beers on this article’s main photo!) As for those who haven’t read it yet… Well, this book is very weird.

The novel is full of wonderful ideas: Douglas Adams clearly has a fantastic imagination. I wish my own was only half as colourful! I can scarcely begin to imagine how much thought and planning must have gone into the writing that plays around a lot with the English language, especially everyday, mundane words such as “yellow”.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

About halfway through, I finally realized that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reminded me of the Theatre of the Absurd, where actions and dialogues have no apparent logic to them but actually have a very clever second degree meaning. To be honest, while I could see why this book is a best-seller, it was kind of frustrating not “understanding” everything despite really trying to. As a reader, I just had to accept the craziness and go along with it all. At times I felt like I should be analyzing this book with an experienced literature professor but that would have been entirely beside the point!

Still, the story was fun and very well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed finding quotes that I had read here and there before and understanding their meaning in the context of the book. Also, the sarcastic tone is very amusing, especially given the fact that one of the main characters’ genetic programming prevents him from understanding sarcasm in the first place. The various revelations towards the end of the book were thought-provoking and funny at the same time, all the while making perfect sense in the overall storyline. I definitely did not expect this book to tackle theology and the meaning of life! Sci-fi is not really my genre of choice – despite a few exceptions – and although The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy hasn’t changed my mind about the genre, I’m really glad I gave the book a try.

I also intend to watch the film soon, especially after having seen this (crazy) trailer:

Have you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? What did you think?

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  • Reply Tony 11 May 2017 at 18 h 49 min

    Hi Glad you enjoyed the books. Don’t bother with film, I laughed twice.
    The TV series is good and so are the radio plays .
    Hint ,good science fiction isn’t about ray guns and exploding galaxies, it’s the fight of good against evil, the moral struggles of characters being given old or new choices (made possible by being set in the future, such as can there being artificial intelligence and how do we treat it). When you realize that and just ignore the warp drives etc you really get to understand it. Great examples can be found in Star Trek the original series and the Next Generation.
    This is about racism that was still rife is from the original series.
    Excerpt here
    Best wishes

    • Reply Nathalie 23 May 2017 at 7 h 20 min

      Thanks a lot for your interesting comments Tony, I will take a look at the Youtube video you linked to!

  • Reply Rob Williams 23 March 2016 at 23 h 13 min

    Glad you enjoyed it.
    I thought I would comment as I picked this up at its inception and have lived its various incarnations.
    In the early 1980s, it started life as a radio series followed by the books; then a disappointing TV series, then the film. The later books were eventually turned into Radio series for the latter part of the ‘growing trilogy ‘and TV and film were different storylines to the original TV series. But unlike Peter Jackson’s effect on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings changes, all the hitchhiking variations were overseen by Adams himself.; Finally the family of Douglas Adams commissioned Eioin Golfer to write the “sixth part of the Trilogy’. Mind-blowing stuff. And that is before you go into the content.
    I’ve always enjoyed the sparkling humour, and Adams, who was the only non Python to have a writing credit for ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ had, as you rightly say, a tremendous comic imagination. Adams came up with many comic gems, but is unusual in that he did not overdevelop his ideas but left them as fleeting whimsical pictures which occasionally come back to delight the reader instead of flogging the ideas to death. One thinks of Zaphod’s 2nd head and third arm, which were part of the over the top picture one carried in one’s mind from radio and book, , which were spoiled by the TV version as the 2nd head was like a parrot on his shoulder, most unconvincing, and always there staring you in the face. The film dealt with this in a most ingenious way but to be fair; by the time it was made , film technology had advanced amazingly, allowing this to happen.
    You commented on never expecting it to tackle theology .
    My favourite piece was the section whereby the existence of the Babel fish which had broken down all barriers between races and caused more wars than anything else; was believed to be so improbable as to have evolved, that by the weirdest piece of Adams logic imaginable, it was seen by some to be the final proof for the non-existence of God. -And after “God vanished in a puff of logic”, it continues—‘that was easy says man, goes on to prove that black is white, and gets killed on the next zebra crossing”.-Very clever.
    For anyone who is thinking of getting into this monumental work of comic genius, I strongly advise you to get the BBC radio series which is superbly played by the whole cast, with the star being an old late English actor Peter Jones who played ‘the Book’; another example of Adam’s comic ingenuity;, then read the books, then watch the film.
    “That is how I see it, but then I think water is wet so who am I to judge?” Enjoy!

    • Reply Nathalie 22 April 2016 at 10 h 36 min

      Thanks for your comment Rob! I had no idea Eoin Golfer was involved in this, I absolutely love his hilarious Artemis Fowl series. I also really liked the idea of the Babel Fish and the message it sent by creating more wars than ever before. Very interesting!

  • Reply Stephanie Jane 15 March 2016 at 8 h 09 min

    I loved the Hitchhiker’s trilogy (of four!) as a teenager and still found them to be good when revisited some twenty years later. Like you say, the work Adams put in to choosing just the right words and phrases was phenomenal. I also have fond memories of the original BBC television series which must look incredibly dated now in terms of special effects. The movie is pretty good too!

    • Reply Nathalie 15 March 2016 at 11 h 22 min

      Thanks for your comment! I hadn’t heard of the TV series but I am looking forward to seeing the film! Martin Freeman seems like a great choice for Arthur Dent :)

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