Last Monday, Google was gracious enough to remind us of Douglas Adams’s 61st birthday with a new doodle. What better way to pay homage to the man who gave us the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything (along with the vital importance of towels) than to review his greatest work: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?”
For the uninitiated, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” hereafter referred to as the Guide, is a trilogy of five books (yes, you read that right) chronicling the various miseries of Arthur Dent, who, by virtue of having an alien friend, escapes planet Earth seconds before it is destroyed. It also contains various snippets of information taken from the titular Guide on how to “see the wonders of the Universe … for less than thirty Altairian dollars a day.”
The first three books (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” and “Life the Universe and Everything”) are a masterwork of comedic science-fiction, with subtle hints at issues of perspective and belief—without descending into heresy or criticism.
“Life the Universe and Everything” is a particular favourite, with a character who answers one of the more nonsensical mysteries of the first book in a manner that has never been seen before and can never be pulled off again. Whether you decide to look deeper or not, the humor promises to have you rolling on the floor clutching your sides and lets you in on two of the biggest “inside jokes” in history: the significance of 42 and towels.
The last two carry the same zany humour, but fall into the trap of going too far. “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” starts wonderfully, but becomes extremely crass towards the middle, to the point where even the author decides to leave a note. “Mostly Harmless” throws up its hands and goes so insane that, even if you have bent your mind around the “logic” of the previous four, you just want to say “hang the sense of it” and wonder if that isn’t exactly what Adams intended.
Neither of these issues should preclude you from reading them, though. The books are essential for any shelf, especially those of humorists and science-fiction fans. Just don’t go pestering the one man who knows the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything when you’re done.
Sany Farajalla Staff Writer