Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (Part 1)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams
Series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Comedy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Unbelievable
On Goodreads (Note: I'm linking to the omnibus version of the first five books because it is the author's preferred text.)

Caution: you're going to need a notebook to pen down all of the quotes, a room empty of people so that you won't embarrass yourself too much, an improbability drive to sustain the improbable amount of laughter, and most important, a towel.

The first novel is rather short, a whopping 145 pages, but it tells its story well enough. The story of the human man, Arthur Dent, the day the Earth was blown up to be replaced with an Interspace Bypass, and his adventures thereafter. In fact, it tells the story extraordinarily well; my absolute favorite part of the first novel is the complexity with which it is written.

It is dazzling in its creative expression, each and every story arc tying into one another fluidly, and often with support from the author's narrative pieces specifically to the readers. A rather basic example of this is the fact that the whole story, Arthur seems so sensationally useless, and if we had paid a bit more attention, we'd have seen otherwise. It is hard to provide quotations (that aren't pages long) for what I mean but think about a small pond. Drop a few pebbles in the pond and the ripples will interfere, even as they die out and become almost unnoticeable.

On the other hand, the most gripping aspect of the novel is the humor, which is the aspect I'll place in second. I have literally never laughed so much in my life. Much of the humor found in this novel, and all subsequent novels, is self-referential and sometimes quite complex. Adams makes a good use of the first aspect here, tying together seemingly random bits of information into a joke.
It startled him even more when just after he was awarded the Galactic Institute's Prize for Extreme Cleverness he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn't stand was a smart-ass. (Adams, 61) 
Otherwise, the humor is found in the diverse and interesting cast of characters, especially Marvin the Paranoid Android, who would make depression an art form if it didn't inspire others to commit suicide upon speaking to him. He reminds me of Eyore gone very, very wrong, and very, very witty. But it's hard to forget Arthur's idiocy, Ford's sarcasm, Zaphod's . . . well . . . Zaphodness, and Trillain's wit.

This book is also subtly insightful. It is packed to the brim with interjections from the author and action and dialogue and there are rare gems embedded on these structures that you can't help but dog-ear or highlight or, indeed, simply write down. This book will screw up your thinking for a while, but you're going to appreciate it.
Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? (80)
However, Adans's insight is wonderful in that he often strives to prove himself wrong to show the balance of the world. The character who thought this thought is immediately shown that there are faeries at the bottom of a particular garden, but the quote still stands by itself as a plea to respect the beauty and complexity of nature without falling to superstition.

If there is anything I can complain about, it is that the beginning seemed to take a while until anything started actually happening, but I realized later why Adams took the extra few sheets of paper to set himself up. I also believed everyone to be static and that to be a horrible, miserable thing. However, Arthur changes quite a bit from the bumbling idiot (specifically to a slightly more passive bumbling idiot). Indeed, the book satirizes many science fiction and fantasy aspects, including static and over-dynamic characters. The dynamics can be found spanning the entire series rather than the books themselves.

In all though, this book deserves more than five stars. It is one of the great storytelling feats, able to deliver its massive messages in rather chaotic, messy, and hilarious situations.

- Marlon

What would you do with a ship that could take you anywhere?
Let us know in the comments!

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