on 3 December 2003
There is just one reason why The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was voted into the BBC's Top One Hundred Books list, and that is because it is simply brilliant. It is a work of science fiction, but the humour contained within the story is not only incredibly witty, but also unusual within its chosen genre. Be prepared to susend your disbelief however, as the series of adventures and coincidences encountered by the characters is nothing short of extrordinary.
The story follows a rather eccentric Englishman by the name of Arthur Dent, as one Thursday morning the Earth is demolished by a group of poetry-loving Vogons who want rid of the planet in order to make way for a Hyper-Spatial Express Route. This sets the scene for Arthur and his extra-terrestial friend, Ford, to journey through space and, amongst other things, come accross the two-headed, three-armed President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, his one-time girlfriend Trillian, and a paranoid android by the name of Marvin. There are many aspects of the book that contribute towards its status as a cult classic, but I believe primary among these is the way in which Douglas Adams manages to bring accross the personalities of the characters. "Arthur said coldly, 'We've met, haven't we Zaphod Beeblebrox - or should I say... Phil?'" Not only are they resonsible for some of the most amusing lines I have ever had the pleasure of reading, but upon finishing the book I felt a longing to become one of the crew upon the Heart of Gold ship the characters inhabit. Arthur is a particular favourite of mine, and the way in which he looks upon the current events of his life with such fascination is a great source of amusement. "'You know,' said Arthur, 'it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogan airlock with a man from Betelgeuse and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.' 'Why, what did she tell you?' 'I don't know, I didn't listen.'" Another part of the writing I found hugely impressive was the way in which Adams managed to create a whole range of fascinating gadgets, including the ships irritatingly cheery Eddie, who is much-loathed by the other characters.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is only the first in a series of five novels which I am informed started life as a set of radio plays in nineteen seventy-eight (followed by the book, a year later). I would whole-heartedly recommend that any reader has enjoyed the book to set about reading the rest. I have to date read the books three times, and have each time been utterly seduced by the warmth, wit and humour. It truly deserves to be referred to as a classic.
on 26 August 2007
This is a review of the product, rather than the books themselves. This is all five of the "trilogy in five parts"; Douglas Adam's Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless. This is essential for any avid reader, and at this price (currently £4.50) it is an absolute steal.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had the good fortune to be invited to Maine to see the fabulous tree house that is the subject of The Treehouse Chronicles. I decided this would be a good chance to listen to a recording of an old favorite that I've never heard in audio form before. Browsing through the library, it was an easy decision to pick this new recording of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Within minutes, I could tell that I'd made a winning choice as I listened to Stephen Fry brilliantly share his voice to add texture to this intriguing story. Between the accents and the humorous references to irony, I was enthralled. I found myself wishing that the recording was a longer one.
When you read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it can come across a little simplistically in places. Those spots work much smoother in this audio version.
In fact, if you haven't read the book, I recommend that you listen to this recording instead. I think you'll enjoy and appreciate the book more in its more dramatic version here.
If you don't know the story, Arthur Dent finds himself awakening with a hangover determined to save his home. Only problem is, while the demolition crew looms, he's also about to lose his other home, the Earth. Aided by his alien friend, Ford Prefect, Arthur is soon off hitchhiking his way through the galaxy in a most improbable set of circumstances that will amuse and delight you. You'll meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, one of the most memorable aliens in anyone's fiction. Along the way, you'll learn more speculation about wearing digital watches and finding lost ballpoint pens than you ever expected to know.
Bravo, Stephen Fry and Douglas Adams!
on 16 August 2010
I read these books many years ago. I watched the BBC TV series, and unfortunately also watched the movie released a couple of years ago.
The books are fabulous and always bring a smile to my face when I read them, or someone quotes them to me (something my boss seems to like doing a lot ;))
The word of caution relates to the product description currently showing at the top of this page.
"A one-volume edition of the four HITCH HIKER novels"
As of the time of writing this is not the case. Purchasing The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [Kindle Edition] will get you exactly that. You will not get The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, nor will you get either of the other two books that make up this quadrilogy.
While these books are most definitely worth their individual prices, this page is currently mis-advertising what is actually on offer. Amazon are aware of this (I emailed them to make sure of it, and am told they are now looking into it) and I'm sure in time the page will either be updated with the correct info or the quadrilogy version advertised will eventually be on sale.
This is the first in the series of hitchhiker guides which tell the story of Arthur Dent’s and the life altering events that cause him to become a hitchhiker around the universe. Arthur’s day has started badly when he’s told to vacate his house as it’s about to be knocked down to make way for a bypass being built. As it happens his day’s going to get worse as Earth also gets demolished to make way for an intergalactic bypass.
Rather than this being the end to what would be a very short book, Arthur manages to escape Earth at the last minute thanks to his friend Ford Prefect who much to Arthur’s disguise has in fact been writing reviews for the ultimate hitchhiker’s guide to the universe – and you thought Bill Bryson wrote about some odd places you’d never like to visit. Together they travel around the known universe meeting odd characters such as the two headed Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the rather miserable robot.
This was the first Douglas Adams story I read (and certainly the first I’d recommend as the others follow this one) and I cannot recommend it enough – the style of writing is quite unique and the level of Adams’s imagination is quite startling. In the science fiction world of what might happen in the future, there is something strangely logical about much of what Adams has imagined, and the utterly preposterous stuff is so well thought out to make it entertaining.
All in all, a highly enjoyable read – I cannot recommend this enough. As for the number 42, well, yes, this is the book which is where the idea of it being the answer to the universe came from. Read the book and you’ll know what I mean. If you’re thinking of buying this book, also check out the ultimate hitchhiker’s guide which contains all the main books from the hitchhiker series.
on 7 March 2000
What can I say that already hasn't been said? I grew up with the radio series and the book is just as off-the-wall. Douglas Adams has a gift for warped logic that it is hard not to adopt in everyday life. For instance, if you take his argument proving that everyone you meet is just a figment of your deranged imagination you might just find it easier to cope with door-to-door salespeople! To my mind, there is also a lot of subversive comment about the way we live which makes it less science fiction and more of a polemic. After all, Arthur Dent appears to be Mr Average and pretty well at the mercy of the bureaucrats who run the universe not just his local council. Anyway, this is all getting far too deep and meaningful. My guess is that Douglas Adams never wrote this with the intention of being taken at all seriously and that he must look on all commentary on it as a figment of his own deranged imagination. All I can conclude with is this: if you read this book and fail to adopt 42 as your lucky number, you must be an accountant!
on 11 April 2001
I'm a fan of Hitch Hiker's, and have read all the books over and over. So whats the point of having it on Audio? Well its great to hear the author read it, adding his own speech emphasis, after all he wrote it! Also if you do a lot of driving having this cassette in makes the miles fly by. One star deducted - its not on CD !!! All in all a great Listen! - buy it now !
on 21 November 2012
'The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy' is one of those cult novels that 'everyone is supposed to read', but it passed me by for various reasons and I have only recently picked it up and read it.
Douglas Adams has created a universe in which the strange is normal. Or at least, what appears strange to us humans is in fact ordinary and normal for the rest of the Universe: quite an astute commentary on the state of scientific knowledge today. This book is also a biting social/sociological satire, a dark side that only shows itself in shades; but quite apart from the serious angle, the story is also highly entertaining in its own right. The ending felt disappointing in that it was precipitous and inconclusive. It felt like I was only halfway through the story, and suddenly that was it. The End. I was left with a sense that nothing of consequence had really happened, just this likeable bloke having a series of silly adventures and, bang, that's it. That said, there is a clear marker to a sequel. I also think the story is a little poorly-written in parts, with heavy (and, at times, irritating) use of dei ex machina, but this was Adams' first book and the overall quality is still good.
I think I'll bite and buy the sequel, if only to find out what happens next...but I'm in no hurry: Adams' series gives-off the impression of an overrated cult phenomenon and it's difficult to take it seriously when his cult followers seem to take it all seriously enough for the rest of us. Truth be told, this is not my cup of tea. The material is quite juvenile and I would say the right audience for this sort of stuff is young adult (say, 13 to 18). Admittedly, this book would make a curious and inquisitive teenager think about issues such as religion, fate and destiny and the role of chance, the value of science, the nature of knowledge, politics, capitalism and other social issues. It's probably also a very good book for a teenager who is either interested in astronomy or likely to take up such an interest with encouragement. I also think the book would be of value to a parent who wishes to encourage a young person to read: the fact there is a clearly sign-posted sequel and ensuing series will probably help in that respect.
My copy was the illustrated film tie-in edition. I must admit it was entirely chance that I ended up with this special edition and I didn't actually bother reading the tie-in sections, however having taken a glance at the interviews and other special features, it looks like this additional material would be of great interest to fans of the series, and so in that regard I recommend it.
on 31 October 2012
If there's one thing that's been with me since the year dot, it's science fiction. While Star Wars filled my head up with spaceships and ideas of telekinetic power, it was Douglas Adams that led me to the serious questions that scientists were asking. Are asking. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is meant to be a comedy and yet wound between the one liners and the absurd astronomical notions is a profundity that often borders on the philosophical.
The Hitchhiker's Guide has manifested itself in many guises. There the TV series, which has dated horribly, but still has some nice bits, especially the animated book sequences. The original radio series however is for me the best thing audio recording ever produced. I can quote most of both series, I've listened to them that many times. There is also the computer game, a text based version also written by Adams and hugely popular. There was even a stage play of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. We don't talk about the film. We never talk about the film.
Then there's the novels. Again, I have been reading these books since I was a teenager, listened to them being read by Stephen Moore and Douglas Adams until the tapes broke. I can quote large sections of them, they hold wonder to me, like Lewis Carroll or Harry Potter do for others. But also because Douglas Adams was a master at writing lean, wonderfully constructed sentences. Like the book's opening lines:
"This is the story of `The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. Perhaps the most remarkable, certainly the most successful book, ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor. More popular than `The Celestial Homecare Omnibus', better selling than `Fifty-Three More Things To Do In Zero Gravity', and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters: `Where God Went Wrong', `Some More Of God's Greatest Mistakes', and `Who Is This God Person Anyway?'."
The first few books in the trilogy are the most coherent version of the story Douglas Adams was trying to tell. It became less coherent as the trilogy spilled over into four and five books, but certainly the first three are the definitive Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Science fiction is at its best when it is using the distant future to comment upon present day issues and the Hitchhiker's Guide is no exception. Planet Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass and the last remaining human being, Arthur Dent, travels across the galaxy encountering bureaucrats and lunatics wherever he goes. The Hitchhiker's Guide is essentially the narrator of the story, or at least the book's chorus, frequent interrupting the plot with examples from the guidebook's pages.
The idea of a personal guidebook seemed farfetched when the Hitchhiker's Guide began its life in the late 70s and yet now with smart phones the phenomenon is almost ubiquitous. The Hitchhiker's Guide also features the Babel Fish, a fish that translates any language for you from inside your ear. There is now Babel Fish translation software freely available on the internet. Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov are credited with predicting much of future technology. As George Orwell knew, predicting the future is ultimately useless, yet Douglas Adams got so much right about the technological advancement of the last thirty years. And more than that, he helped shape its future course.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had a powerful effect on my mind when I first read it all those years ago and remains so today. Douglas Adams taught me the principal of reducio ad absurdo, of testing principles by reducing them to the level of the absurd. It's a useful skill to have. But mostly Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide just make me laugh. They're very funny books and all quite short and the philosophical aspects are so subtly done that you barely even notice they're there. The prose rips off the tongue and the grand absurd ideas warm your brain like the spreading glow from a glass of brandy. Like Sherlock Holmes or P G Wodehouse, they're a treat. Read them and luxuriate.
on 6 October 2011
I usually don't fall in love with a book so quickly, but this one stole my heart and captured my attention right from the off. Its zany humour and imaginative characters really won me over, so much so that I intend to buy the entire series as soon as I possibly can. I borrowed this one from the library.)
Arthur Dent is just your average man living on Earth whose house is about to be demolished. Naturally, he's very upset about this, so his friend Ford Prefect takes him down to the pub to converse and try to cheer him up. Oh, and also to tell him the entire Earth is about to be demolished, so his house is really nothing to worry about.
The story then quickly moves into the far reaches of space with Arthur and Ford meeting many delightfully quirky characters when travelling throughout the universe. To name a few, there's Zaphod Beeblebrox, an ex-galactic president with two heads and three arms; Trillian Astra, a human who is well-versed in mathematics and astrophysics; Marvin, a manic-depressive robot; and Slartibartfast, an elderly alien from the planet Magrathea.
Interspersed within the chapters are excerpts from the actual 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', which aims to help wandering intergalactic hitchhiker's with certain rules and tips. These are just as wonderful and hilarious to read as the main story and it never feels as though the focus is being torn away.
The pacing of this story is wonderful; it's always exciting and never boring, and if you're anything like me, you'll become so heavily involved in it that you'll find it hard to ever put it down.
The only downside is that at just 220 pages, it's rather short, and the story does end rather suddenly -- which is why I'm anxious to get my hands on the next books to finish off the tale.
In the end, if those are the only two negative things I can think of, 'Hitchhiker' is easily one of the best novels I've read.