When I meet new people, and they ask me what my favourite book is, I am usually scandalised, because that is a bit forward, and not the kind of question you ask someone when you first meet them. However, after that, I get quite confused. What is my favourite book? Is it The Hunger Games, with its graphic action, or Divergent, with its heartbreaking ending, or The Maze Runner, with engaging characters? Until March this year, I didn’t have a proper answer.
Then I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the situation was speedily rectified.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a sci-fi caper involving mice being more intelligent than humans, lifts with existential crises, whales, dolphins, and the President of the Universe. Filled to the brim with iconic and quotable moments, like the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything”, being forty-two, and the knack to flying being “learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book that has made me laugh out loud all of the five times that I’ve read it.
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
Arthur Dent, a man whose life has hitherto been, in a word, ordinary, wakes up one morning to find his house and his planet on the verge of demolition. Luckily, as his friend Ford Prefect is from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and not from Guildford as he usually claimed, Author manages to escape, hitchhiking onto a ship called the Heart of Gold which has been stolen by the President of the Universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox. The rest of the book is full of their adventures in the mind-bogglingly big universe.
This book’s plot is quite a twisty-turny one, but in contrast to other books I could mention, it makes it work. The fact that in all its randomness, it still makes sense in a complicated sort of way pays homage to the brilliant mind of the author, the late Douglas Adams. Peppered with extracts from the book mentioned in the title (a sort of Wikipedia for the Galaxy, featured in the story), this really is a brilliant read.
“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
The characters in this book, although from all corners of Outer Space, are somehow relatable and funny in their own sort of way. With the eccentric Zaphod Beeblebrox, the clever and dependable Trillian, the cool Ford Prefect, and Arthur, who just wants a cup of decent tea, the characters are the best crew an interstellar hitchhiker could hope for while trying to see the Universe for less than thirty dollars a day. Throughout the course of the book and indeed the series, the characters draw you into their world, until you really don’t want it to end.
“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?”
The best thing about this book is that it’s funny – all 218 pages. It doesn’t set out to tell you that you can be yourself or that you are special (although it does it anyway) – there are plenty of books for that. This book is just for brightening your day a bit. It puts a smile on your face, makes you laugh out loud, and leaves you thinking that maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all. With a fast-paced plotline and a perfect set of characters, this is a cult classic to be returned to again and again.
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