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Is There Anything Strange In The Universe?
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.