The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You know that old question, what book would you take with you if you were trapped on a desert island? Well, my first pick would be a book on survival training. But my second pick would be "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." I know I could spend the rest of my life reading this book, because I've already read it more times than I could count, and I'm never tired of it.
It's hard to overstate my love of this book. It's influenced my sense of humor and writing style and everything in between. It also introduced me as a kid to concepts like quantum theory and alternate realities, so it shaped my interest in science.
Okay, so now let's get to the actual book. "Hitchhiker's" is about the end of the world, and what comes next. Arthur Dent is your average human living a mediocre life until he wakes up to find someone trying to bulldoze his house to make way for a bypass (highway for Americans). Just when he thinks he's got that solved, aliens come along and destroy the Earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass. Fortunately, Arthur manages to escape when he discovers his best friend is actually an intergalactic hitchhiker who hitches a ride on the demolition fleet before Earth's destruction.
From there, Arthur finds himself traveling the Galaxy with the two-headed president of the Galaxy and another Earthling woman he once fell in love with, trying to find the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything. He discovers that Earth was actually an experiment to find the meaning of life, and his brain holds the key. I won't say much more to spoil it, but it gets crazier from there.
The characters are all brilliant, and funny, and inspire the most hilarious and insane scenes that the comedy crackles off the page. He also has an amazing imagination, creating other planets and species that are wholly original and also fun. Like Magrathea, a planet that runs a company to build custom planets. Or the Jartravartid, a species with so many arms that they invented deodorant before the wheel.
Part of Adams' humor is based on the idea that the problems of Earth are universal. Even in outer space, politicians are corrupt, technology is confusing and malfunctions, and parking garages smell like urine.
The only flaw in the book is that it was originally written as a radio series where Douglas Adams was making it up as he went along, so the story doesn't have a consistent narrative. It tends to jump from one scene to the next as a series of skits rather than a story with an arc. But I love that style.
It's hilarious, imaginative, and glorious. So...read it.
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