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on 29 April 2006
But I prefer a good old SF classic based on a beleivable storyline: Like The Triffids or The Trouble with Litchen or The Cephae or even Oryx and Crake. I had been recommended the Hitchhikers by several 'intelligent' friends but after reading a couple of chapters I found that the story, like other fantasy, just did not hold my attention, so I dropped it into our local charity shop. Sorry Douglas, I tried, but this one's not for me.
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on 30 May 2013
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is incredibly funny and incredibly smart. Let's all accept that from the start. End of. Period. Full stop. That's not in question for me. So why the one star? I admit that part of my purpose is provocative; I'd like to start a little debate here. But most of it is due to the persisting sense of despondency that the book has left in my mind, like a lingering shadow, each time I remember it. It seems that diversion and delight are not the same, after all.

Forget about the funny incidents, look at the big picture. The Earth and virtually all of its inhabitants are destroyed for trivial reasons. The Earth is literally a planet-sized computer, the construction of which could earn extra-terrestrial beings a prize. The universe is ruled by (either) a megalomaniac idiot or a being who is not sure about what actually exists. The answer to the question of the meaning of life is absurd i.e. both silly and hollow. It's possible to watch the entire cosmos collapse from the viewpoint of an eatery at set intervals.

Isn't this tragedy rather than comedy?

'But it's the little incidents that you're overlooking that make the novel funny in the first place. You're not supposed to take any of the rest of it seriously. The sci-fi structure is merely a platform from which to lunch chuckles at the whimsy of a certain type of Englishman. There is no tragedy here, no downgoing, no fall, no hubris and flaw. Lighten up, dude! It's a literary, novel-length joke, nothing more.'

Good points. Let me retort with a question that will divide you.

Can any subject form the subject matter for a joke?

For example, is a racist joke still funny if it's racist? Those who answer that certain things cannot be counted as funny admit that jokes have their limits. Well, for me, at a primitive, emotional level, jokes about the meaning of life and death of the Earth/universe are in the same category as racist jokes, only more so. And to those who answer that nothing is outside the field of the risible, I answer, I don't believe you unless you are a nihilist, holding nothing as intrinsically significant or valuable at all.

Which is exactly where I feel THGTTG takes me: nihilism. Everything - including genocide, torture, and totalitarianism - is the object of mirth within these pages. There are problems with this, ethically and logically. Do you truly want to maintain they everything on earth is funny? For example, is child abuse funny? And if everything is funny, then nothing is funny, because 'funny' cannot be defined in contrast to the non-funny.

My point is not legalistic. I'm not saying that one ought not to laugh at certain things, like a po-faced, prissy puritan. My point is, what does the fact that we do laugh about these things say about us? What effect does such laughter bring in the longer term? The more you laugh at high and deep things, the less there are great or profound things about which to laugh. Life becomes a flatland, with the death of a light entertainer as noteworthy as the death of a village, or a rainforest, or a star. Oh, wait, that's where we are, isn't it?

'It's only a comic novel, a work of light entertainment, not a philosophical treatise. Douglas Adams wasn't purporting to offer an accurate worldview in THHGTHG.'

Really? So why, then, on certain websites that promote a philosophical viewpoint, do we find this quote?

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."

I read this and smirk. But after the smirk has vanished, what remains?

42. That's what.

Only 42.
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on 27 October 2009
Over many years now I have noticed with frustrating regularity that when things achieve cult status, then quite often a knock-on effect is created, whereby all honesty in any critique goes straight out of the window, and at a greater frequency, velocity and finality that Ford Prefect ever achieved. Despite this being just one instance of negativity in this sea of five star reviews, I am very sorry to have to say that in my opinion, the late Douglas Adams's three then four then five book 'trilogy', featuring the not-so-central-character of Arthur Dent along with a motley gathering of aliens, a splattering of humans and a few robots, is on the whole, mediocre.

The main culprit is, and it is so sad to have to say this, is: large chunks throughout all five books in the series, are, boring. These parts just seem like at best, filler outs, or even grand space holders as Mr Adams used to talk about a lot, at worst, inane drivel. Add to this a frequent tendency to fall back on well clichéd stereotyped spacey / physicy names and descriptions; Mugwump Sector 7 in the 9th Quadrant of the Corsair Triangle ( not a direct lift I know, but I am sure you get my point ) is funny, once, early on, but not again and again and again, ad nauseum. Mr Adams was a great Python fan as we know, but, Python knew to discern between silly-funny and silly-silly. Also, the strange episodic feel is not good, and for me means not enough care was taken in making something initially for the radio and screen into the fully written form. Odd this, as we know the books are not exact transitions / translations, but this just means even more care was needed. Loose / unfinished sub plots; I've noticed this tendency endeared ( and still does endear ) many fans to the author and is accepted as being an aspect of his writing style. For me, I tend to prefer large loose ends tied up somewhat better.

Now, mediocrity, does not thankfully mean, terrible / useless, and I know there are some good aspects to the saga. When Mr Adams was on fire, the story and dialogue were superb; Marvin's parts in particular were a sheer delight, it is a great pity he was not far more central than he was throughout. I laughed out loud and still do when thinking, even when walking down the road, about the first five million years were the worst, the next five million years were the worst also. Brilliant. Actually, I had an inkling when reading the story that unless the crew put right their time tinkering, that it would take an unspeakably long haul by Marvin for him to catch up with them again.

The end, when it came, was tragic. I think Mr Adams had a sixth in mind, and thus allowed himself the leeway for such an open ended ending to Mostly Harmless, this is the only loose ending throughout the series I can understand, or at least accept. But, tragically, we lost Mr Adams before he could rustle up another.
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on 15 June 2012
I'm a science fiction fan and I'd been putting off reading this book for reasons I was never sure of. The BBC TV series had been okay, funny in places, sardonic even. And I had always thought a book would always be better than the TV series or film spun off it. Well, I don't hold that view any more. This book is bad, badly written, badly edited, just plain bad.

Unfortunately such a rep has grown up around it that it's legion of fans can't see this. There is no story, just a series of half thought out scenes and characters that sort of connect with each other and sometimes with the story too.

May be I was expecting too much, may be the book has not aged well, may be something's been lost in translation........I made that last one up!!!!!!! But then there might be no reason at all, it might be just what it is, bad.

I guess legions of fans will descend on this review and point out the error of my ways. All I can ask these mis-guided, blinkered, fanatics to do is re-read their beloved's masterpiece and discover it isn't anything of the sort!!!!
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on 24 July 2013
I ordered this book in between my busy work schedule thinking it was a good price to buy one of my favourite books from my adolescence.
This was ordered around the 20th of June. It is now the 24th of July, over a month later and this book has still not arrived in the post, despite the fact that it states it should've arrived a couple of weeks ago.

I've even tried contacting the seller and filed a claim through Amazon. I don't have the luxury of time to go browsing in a bookstore, and even then most of the shelves are filled with celebrity tripe which I'd rather not even look at.

It might be a couple of GBP but there should still be common respect between the buyer and seller to get the item delivered by the estimated time, and if it hasn't been delivered it should be replaced immediately or refunded for.
Be careful when ordering cheaper item on Amazon because some people might just take you for a ride.

I hate writing bad reviews but now, finally, I have the time to browse and will have to go through the whole process again. who ever said online was more convenient eh :)
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on 11 March 2012
The H.H.G is the book which anticipated the Kindle , and I cannot think of a work more suited to read on it .

Arthur: What is it?
Ford Prefect: It's a sort of electronic book , it'll tell you everything you want to know , that's it's job.
Arthur : I like the cover "Don't Panic" , that's the first helpful or intelligible thing anyone has said to me all day.
Ford : That's why it sells so well . Here , press this button , and the screen will give you the index ...

I'm a great fan of Douglas Adams , and the first volume , The Hitch Hiker's Guide , is quite possibly my favourite book of all time : witty , inventive and with a central core of philosophy , it has a quote for every occasion . I'd decided that having the saga in CD form (the radio series) cassette tape (talking book & the LP ) as well as the script book and the paperbacks , I could not justify buying the whole thing all over again on Kindle .
But I can't resist it at this bargain price .
All I want now is a Kindle cover with the words "dont panic" in large friendly letters ...
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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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 March 2018
Even before I was shown the meaning of life in a dream at 17 (then promptly forgot it because I thought I smelled pancakes), I knew this to be true--and yet, I have always felt a need to search for the truth, that nebulous, ill-treated creature. Adams has always been, to me, to be a welcome companion in that journey.

Between the search for meaning and the recognition that it's all a joke in poor taste lies Douglas Adams, and, luckily for us, he doesn't seem to mind if you lie there with him. He's a tall guy, but he'll make room.

For all his crazed unpredictability, Adams is a powerful rationalist. His humor comes from his attempts to really think through all the things we take for granted. It turns out it takes little more than a moment's questioning to burst our preconceptions at the seams, yet rarely does this stop us from treating the most ludicrous things as if they were perfectly reasonable.

It is no surprise that famed atheist Richard Dawkins found a friend and ally in Adams. What is surprising is that people often fail to see the rather consistent and reasonable philosophy laid out by Adams' quips and absurdities. His approach is much more personable (and less embittered) than Dawkins', which is why I think of Adams as a better face for rational materialism (which is a polite was of saying 'atheism').

Reading his books, it's not hard to see that Dawkins is tired of arguing with uninformed idiots who can't even recognize when a point has actually been made. Adams' humanism, however, stretched much further than the contention between those who believe, and those who don't.

We see it from his protagonists, who are not elitist intellectuals--they're not even especially bright--but damn it, they're trying. By showing a universe that makes no sense and having his characters constantly question it, Adams is subtly hinting that this is the natural human state, and the fact that we laugh and sympathize shows that it must be true.

It's all a joke, it's all ridiculous. The absurdists might find this depressing, but they're just a bunch of narcissists, anyhow. Demanding the world make sense and give you purpose is rather self centered when it already contains toasted paninis, attractive people in bathing suits, and Euler's Identity. I say let's sit down at the bar with the rabbi, the priest, and the frog and try to get a song going. Or at least recognize that it's okay to laugh at ourselves now and again. It's not the end of the world.

It's just is a joke, but some of us are in on it.
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on 30 September 2011
An amazing novel by probably the best science-fiction comedy writer of all time. This review is alas, however, for the Kindle edition, which is riddled with errors brought about by its direct OCR translation to digital format, which evidently never underwent anything as elaborate as a once-over proofread before it was released.

Some of these errors diminished understanding of the text altogether. For example, at a pivotal point during the novel, "a book fell out of the pocket" reads "a hook fell out of the pocket," in this edition. The non sequitur caused a cognitive paradox which tore the fabric of the universe around it, and kept me awake for an hour researching wherefore a hook should fall out of any bloody pocket in this novel in the first place.
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on 23 October 2017
I’ve been rereading some of the science fiction that I enjoyed at school, just to see how the future has treated it. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy made a huge impression on me in 1978. The original BBC radio shows were on late at night. I’d listen sitting on a dark gold velour sofa, in subdued 1970s light cast by a ridiculously tall, scarlet lamp decorated with amber flowers. I recorded each show, carefully pressing Record and Play together on a cassette deck. When the book came out at the end of 1979 I bought it immediately.

Feeling nervous thirty nine years later, I downloaded a copy of Hitchhiker’s to my iPad and started to read…

It was like meeting an old friend again; but it wasn’t all about nostalgia. At school, I just went for a ride. This time, as we flew along, I had a poke about in the book’s engines. It might seem presumptuous to claim knowledge of how those engines work, but I think it has something to do with exploiting quirks in the amusing contradictions of an infinite universe.

The nature of the Hitchhiker power is there at lift off, in the first chapter. Arthur Dent faces a local council official who has arrived with bulldozers to knock down Arthur’s house to make way for a by-pass. Immediately big and small things start mirroring each other. It is a big deal to Arthur Dent that the local council want to build a bypass through his house. Arthur’s predicament, however, is insignificant compared to the threat posed by unpleasant aliens called Vogons who are planning to build a hyperspace bypass through Earth. The threatened destruction of Earth seems a big deal, until, in turn, you remember how Earth is described as the book opens – an utterly insignificant blue-green planet in the backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy. Against this background, you start to question the difference between big and small.

All of the humour and wisdom of Hitchhiker’s then spins out from this paradoxical colliding of opposites set up at the beginning. After the Vogons move their bulldozers through Earth, a rescued Arthur Dent tries to come to terms with what’s happened. He can’t feel the loss of Earth, since the event is just too overwhelming. The thing that really hits him is the loss of McDonald’s hamburgers.

Later in the book, for reasons I won’t go into, Arthur visits a chamber of hyperspace, thirteen light seconds across. This truly is a place revealing the odd nature of the scale of things.

“It wasn’t infiniy, in fact. Infinity itself looks flat and uninteresting. Looking up into the night sky is looking into infinity – distance is incomprehensible and therefore meaningless. The chamber into which the aircar emerged was anything but infinite, it was just very very very big, so big that it gave the impression of infinity far better than infinity.”

Ironically, with any immensity, a quality of smallness must be involved. This combination gives the sense of a long journey coming right back to where it started. I really enjoyed the comfort of that message. You could go back to sit on that velour sofa. At the same time you could take a typically 1970s kind of journey where you’re standing by a road sticking your thumb out, not entirely sure where you might end up. I once hitched in Scotland, and found myself dropped off in the middle of nowhere, north of Inverness. There was snow on the ground and doubt in my mind about whether I would get another lift before hypothermia set in. I took the advice on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide - Don’t Panic. I might have been in the middle of nowhere, but relatively speaking I wasn’t really far from home. The Guide’s advice remains as relevant now as it ever was.
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