Once again, we got to Wednesday night and I realised there was no way that I’d finish my current read in time to write a review for today. So, once again, I went on to my Audible account and picked a short audiobook to listen to yesterday at work. I’ve been meaning to go back to Hitchhiker’s Guide for ages and I’m always up for listening to some Stephen Fry narration. Just the thing to get me through a Thursday when I’m feeling rubbish,
People talk about classic literature all the time but Douglas Adams’ science fiction novel is a whole other level. It has had such a long-lasting impact on both the literary and wider world. Even if you haven’t read the book, you may well be aware that the meaning of life is 42 and that it’s always good to know where your towel is. It’s influenced so many aspects of life and you can find so many references throughout recent history. As far as classic sci-fi goes, this has got to be up there with the best.
And what was it about this book and the rest of the series that spoke to people so much? It’s Douglas Adams himself. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book that is as much about Adams as it is about Arthur Dent and his companions. The tone of voice, the jokes, the general silliness is unmistakably him. He inhabits this book in such a noticeable way. Something that many readers will not appreciate but others will really not.
The story originally came from an idea for a radio series originally broadcast in the late 70s. This first book in the trilogy in five parts was based on the first four parts of the radio series. It introduces us to Arthur Dent, the human who finds himself hitchhiking through space after the Earth is mistakenly destroyed. Arthur is joined by his friend Ford Prefect, president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, and fellow human Trillian. Where will the group end up and will they ever find out the answer to life’s all-important questions?
Is this the best book ever written? No, of course not. Adams’ writing style is definitely more relaxed and there are moments that were obviously just written to include a specific joke or pun. There’s an awkwardness to it but I don’t think that’s a problem. In fact, I think it works really well for this. There’s such a great energy in this book that makes it really easy to engage with. The humour is clever and it’s difficult not to get on board with it immediately. It’s absurd in all of the best ways.
It’s also very important to point out how good Adams’ technology is considering when this was written. So much of the technology he introduces are just standard in our lives now. It means that the book has aged remarkably well. The only scene where it is obvious that it is written decades ago is the fact that Ford can buy 6 pints and have change from a £5 note. That’s the only bit that took me out of the story. Everything else about this book is thoroughly enjoyable. Although, I can see why people don’t like the abrupt ending. If you demand closure, I can see how it would frustrate you.