Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Publisher: Random House (2005)

Narrated by Stephen Fry

Blurb from Seconds before the 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 begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years. Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don't forget to bring a towel!

I read this for the first time perhaps 15-18 years ago. It was good to pick it up again, and extra good as an audiobook. Douglas Adams filled this book to the brim with quirky British humor that had me snort laughing in the car on my commute to work. Have no fear; I did not inflict my snort laughter upon anyone else as I am a single-occupant vehicle most of the time.

Ford Prefect takes his buddy off-planet (by hitchhiking) just seconds before the planet is destroyed. They eventually end up on the stolen ship, The Heart of Gold, which is a super-duper, brand plastic-smell vehicle which includes the stunning feature of the improbability machine. President Zaphod purloined this ship in order to find the mythical planet of Magrathea. Now keep in mind that Zaphod recently had an extra head added, and therefore, might not be in the best frame of mind.

The unseen, often rumored about, Magrathea is the home of the Planet Builders. Yep, pre-order now your perfect vacation planet. These guys were pretty snazzy when they were active, with glossy pamphlets and everything. Imagine our heroes' shock when they actually find this planet. Only to ambushed by the mice.

Yep, mice have been using Planet Earth as one gigantic experiment to find the right question to the answer 42. It sounds quite silly until you read the book, which is very well laid out. If you saw the latest movie version, I believe it went beyond the first book. But I could totally picture Mos Def as Ford Prefect the entire time listening to this audiobook.

Stephen Fry was the narrator for the latest movie as well as this audiobook. He has the perfect voice for this. He performed the dry, snarky British humor without flaw. His rendition of the Volgon poetry reading had me laughing out loud.

Pluses: Lots of British humor, concise story, a whale, the Babel fish, practicality of towels.

Minuses: Lots of British humor, only a single female character, Trillian, (unless you count the bowl of petunias, the ship's female personality, or the brief appearance of 500 naked female skydivers).


  1. Wow, it was probably about 15 years ago that I read this for the first time too.  I remember furtively lending it around when i was in high school. Us midwestern American kids didn't understand any of the British humor, so of course we thought it must be referring to something dirty.

    I should really read it again, now that I'm old enough to get all the jokes! 

    I'm sure plenty of people had complaints about the recent movie version, but I thought they did a pretty good job. 

  2. I honestly don't see how you can't count the 500 naked female skydivers. I mean, it's right there in the name: naked... wait, I mean female. Sorry, what were we talking about again?

  3. I know. So many women bringing so much beauty into the world as they descend from heaven. The world needs more men like you, because you are easily distracted ;) and then women will take over the world!