Series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1
Published by Random House Audio on April 5th 2005
Genres: Science Fiction
Narrator: Stephen Fry
Length: 5 hrs. 51 min.
My content rating: Adult, but mostly fine for YA (Some mentions of sex, but nothing particularly racy)
Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.
Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don't forget to bring a towel!
This book was one of my first all-time favorites. I read it in high school, and Douglas Adams’ sense of ironic wit called to me. I read every book in the series (and all of the Dirk Gently series as well) and savored each and every one. But, for some reason, I haven’t picked up the series in my adult years. I think I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my memories.
When the SYNC audiobook program offered this one up this summer, I decided I needed to give an old favorite another try, and the audiobook felt like a great way to revisit it. I didn’t end up downloading it from SYNC (just because I didn’t want to take up space on my phone), but it inspired me to put the audio on hold at my library.
The book is pretty much exactly what I remembered it to be: amazingly insightful and more than a little absurd. Right from the very beginning, I was reminded of everything I love about this story. The utter irony of Arthur Dent trying to save his house from being bulldozed to make way for a highway, only to have to escape Earth before it’s destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway is pure gold. (Not to mention the long, complicated, bureaucratic explanation of how both Arthur Dent and the earthlings were supposed to have learned of the proposed highways—one of the notifications was “on display” in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory.)
Yep, the book is just as I remembered it. I’d forgotten how satirical the story truly is, though. One of my favorite things about listening to the book again was that, despite the story’s absurdity, so many of Adams’ ponderings about life, the universe and everything are so spot-on (even still today—a few of his political statements feel especially timely). It’s also fun to see how closely the “outrageously futuristic book” The Hitchhiker’s Guide resembles the internet (remember, the book was originally published in 1979—but the book works much the way the internet does today!)
Adams offers up satirical wisdom on many subjects: politics, religion, philosophy, depression, the workplace, human intelligence, and of course, the meaning of life. Here are just a few of the many witty quotes that highlight these:
If you haven’t read this book, you need to get on it right now. If, like me, you read it eons ago and you’ve yet to revisit it, give the audiobook a try. Stephen Fry is a fantastic narrator who seems to genuinely enjoy the story (unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he narrated the other books in the series—but there are versions narrated by Martin Freeman that I’m going to try). I think you’ll find yourself endlessly amused by Adams’ genius.
I still give this book 5/5 stars (even in its ridiculousness) and it remains an All-Time Favorite.
***The storyboards for this review were created via Storyboard That. Head over there and give it a try!***
About the Author
Douglas Noël Adams was an English author, comic radio dramatist, and musician. He is best known as the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Hitchhiker’s began on radio, and developed into a “trilogy” of five books (which sold more than fifteen million copies during his lifetime) as well as a television series, a comic book series, a computer game, and a feature film that was completed after Adams’ death. The series has also been adapted for live theatre using various scripts; the earliest such productions used material newly written by Adams. He was known to some fans as Bop Ad (after his illegible signature), or by his initials “DNA”.
In addition to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote or co-wrote three stories of the science fiction television series Doctor Who and served as Script Editor during the seventeenth season. His other written works include the Dirk Gently novels, and he co-wrote two Liff books and Last Chance to See, itself based on a radio series. Adams also originated the idea for the computer game Starship Titanic, which was produced by a company that Adams co-founded, and adapted into a novel by Terry Jones. A posthumous collection of essays and other material, including an incomplete novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.
His fans and friends also knew Adams as an environmental activist and a lover of fast cars, cameras, the Macintosh computer, and other “techno gizmos”.
Toward the end of his life he was a sought-after lecturer on topics including technology and the environment.