“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

April 5th, 2005

Often times you’ll hear certain books (or other media) referred to as having a golden age, a concept quite distinct from, say, the Golden Age of SNL or the Roman Empire. No, this “golden age” refers to the best age for the consumer to be exposed to the product, the age at which the appeals of the work are most effective and its flaws are most easily overlooked. When it comes to HHGttG, I missed it…twice. See, I read the first book of this tetralogy, The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself back when I was…oh, twelve-ish. I’m not even sure. I was really young. I was too young, I guess, ’cause it didn’t work for me. The dim impression I had of it was that it had some funny bits but mostly just seemed full of nonsense. It wasn’t until I got a little older, and started having, like, friends, that I found out how many people basically worshipped this silly little book. I was enough of a knee-jerk iconoclast, though, that I just rode that wave of “Oh, I read it, I just didn’t think it was all that” for all it was worth. I’m not sure how much that was, actually…probably not enough. Some time ago I figured that was pretty silly, and that I really ought to give this thing another go, since others thought so highly of it and were so baffled by my opinion of it considering my other tastes. One thing or another, though, and I never got around to it. Well, the movie comes out in a couple of weeks, and it was being passed around by some friends, so I’m all “What the hell, count me in” and got in the queue after VeggieSteph. One of the good things about these books, without a doubt, is their easy readability. I don’t think it took me more than two or maybe three sittings to go through any one of them, and considering the little snippets of time I get most of my reading done in these days, that’s saying something. I think one of my problems with HHGttG the first time around was that it’s a terribly incomplete story, in a lot of ways, with very little substantive character growth, or much of anything accomplished…really it’s a complete set-up book. If you let the style carry you along, though (and this time I was certainly able to do that), the second book, The Restaraunt at the End of the Universe, really starts to get things moving. Arthur Dent finally starts to show a hint of personality (one of the biggest problems with the first book, IMO. Yes, I get it, the British Everyman isn’t supposed to have a personality…I get it, really), Zaphod gets some intrigue along with the story, Trillian begins to not just be fluffy nerd porn, and Marvin is annoying, which is the point. For me, Life, the Universe, and Everything was the best of the bunch, and brought things to a satisfying conclusion. In fact, I would have considered it a completely satisfactory conclusion if Adams hadn’t clumsily inserted the poor sap overdosing on Truth Serum bit. A very weak hook, AFAIC. Yes, I know there’s a fourth book. No, I probably won’t read it. So I enjoyed these, but I’m still not blown away. The Grant Naylor Red Dwarf books do the same thing considerably better IMO; and yes, I know they built on what Adams had already created, but that doesn’t mean that what they did can’t be substantively better in some ways. Anyway, these are a fun, light read, and if you’re one of those guys like me who likes to read the book right before the movie comes out, I can’t see any harm in it, and you won’t waste much time regardless of whether you’re in the “golden age” bracket or not. If you do happen to be between the ages of 14 and 20, say, and you’re reading this booklog entry without having read these books, then A.) Go out and read them, I bet you’ll like ’em; and B.) you’re not in my expected demographic, so please speak up and let me know what you think.

2 Responses to ““The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy””

  1. Emmet says:

    Well, the first book is so incomplete because Adams broke every conceivable deadline extension and was finally told "We’ll have a motorcyle courier there in half an hour; have a manuscript ready for him."

    I used to love them when I was twelve or so; have not actually read them in ages. What I really admire most about Adams is not the funny bits but how underlying them there’s an absolute genious for making really quite complicated concepts beautifully clear – like the bit about the Infinite Improbablility Drive,

  2. Skwid says:

    I have to agree that he had a talent for imagery, and conveying a real sense of scene and concept to the reader. The bit about the sperm whale and the petunias stands out in my mind as a particularly difficult to forget example.

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