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Book Review: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was my first pick of the Books Inter Alia Reading Challenge.

The first prompt on the Reading Challenge is ‘a book you loved as a child’. I may have been stretching the definition of both ‘love’ and ‘child’ with Hitchhikers Guide but J.M. Barry’s Peter and Wendy wasn’t holding my interest, and, for whatever reason, this book called to me as I was perusing my shelves. It’s a book that I have kept more for sentimental value than for attachment to the story  – or stories; this copy is a bind up (the other edition, pictured below, is the edition I added to Goodreads; this one contains only Hitchhikers Guide – why deprive your Goodreads challenge of two or even three books by classing them as one?), a ‘trilogy in four parts’ –  my dad used to read me the adventures of Arthur and Ford, to his great amusement, before bed.

What I remembered most from these readings was the humour of Adams’s writing and the first chapter did not disappoint. A very short chapter, only two and a half pages, it introduces us to the rather unfortunate Arthur Dent and his entirely relatable indifference to the mundane routine of his everyday life. Of course, we, and Arthur, very soon realise that this will not be just another ordinary Thursday, nor will his life ever be the same.  The writing is straight to the point, matter of fact, and in its blase way, for those first few pages it made me laugh:

“For a moment
it reflected a second bulldozer through the bathroom window.  Properly adjusted, it reflected Arthur Dent’s bristles. He shaved them off, washed, dried,
and stomped off to the kitchen to find something pleasant to put in his mouth.
Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn.
The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search
of something to connect with.
The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one.”

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Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together, this dynamic pair began a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed, ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; and Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot

Unfortunately, however, the whole thing quickly lost a lot of its charm. There was, undoubtedly, something that kept me reading, but I think a lot of that can be attributed to its short length. Under 150 pages this was not a book that was going to take much time. There were also reprieves when the humour returned and I was, once again, able to see why my Dad had so enjoyed the evenings reading. Marvin was fantastic, as were the other features of the Heart of Gold. I loved the reoccurring theme of a cup of tea, it was a great way to keep the characters relatable and to remind you that, even in this crazy universe, all of us need our home comforts.

In trying to write this review, I realise that my feelings towards this book are a little confused. At times it felt like a chore. Feeling, on more than one occasion,  as though I had to fight to find the plot amongst the necessary parts, crowbarred in to prove the cleverness of the author. The backstories of the characters also felt inelegant and – perhaps with the exception of Zaphod Beeblebrox who was learning the majority of his backstory along with us – almost entirely inconsequential. But there were other moments when everything seemed to work and to have a purpose, I maybe even laughed, and this helped to renew my motivation to continue. I couldn’t put it down because the next page might be when it all started to make sense.

In short, my primary feelings were these: I initially enjoyed the humour and the writing style, but it ultimately became boresome. It would have been forgivable if I had cared more about the characters and their journey but again, they got lost in a confusion of events, storylines and Guidebook entries. I felt deprived of the chance to connect with them.

Contradictorily, I would still recommend this to some people. It is really highly rated on Goodreads and a lot of people think very highly of this ever-growing collection of adventures. Also, I have found myself beginning to read the second instalment – The Restaurant at the end of the universe – with greater success.

Have you read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? What did you think of it; am I being harsh or fair? What’s your favourite book/memory of a book from childhood? Let me know in the comments section below.

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams Leave a comment

    • I didn’t really remember anything going back to it either. I could recall Marvin and the main characters like Arthur and Ford but that was it, and to be honest, I think I only remembered them because of how often they’re mentioned in pop culture. The rest of the ‘plot’ was a complete blur. The second one is a lot better so far. If you do reread it, let me know what you think. Fingers crossed you’ll enjoy it more than I did. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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