Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Curiously enough the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.”

So the first Reading List entry I’m going to spiel about is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
It’s on the list because I’ve always seen it as a cult classic that I thought I would like. When I discovered that Douglas Adams had worked on Doctor Who* it solidified the idea that this was a book I should be reading, after all British sci-fi credentials don’t get much better than that (in my opinion)!
I also watched the film years ago and I’ve watched it again since. I know the film isn’t usually held in very high regard among fans and I guess I can see why –  they changed things and that’s nearly always annoying (but can also trigger reactions ranging up to painful – why The Burrow, why?**) especially when you’re a particular fan of something. But because I saw the film first I liked it, Martin Freeman plays a great Arthur Dent and reading the book I read The Guide as having Stephen Fry’s voice (which in my opinion is no bad thing). I do think the book missed out though on not opening with a big choral number made up of singing dolphins like the film did. Overall, however, I thought the book was definitely better.
I love Douglas Adams’ voice as an author, it’s funny, eccentric and I feel that he is to science fiction what Terry Pratchett is to fantasy but, as I’m basing this off this one book and a school production of Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters, this has every right to be completely wrong. I really enjoyed reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, would thoroughly recommend it and look forward to reading the rest of the “trilogy in four parts”. I am now going to ramble about bits I liked so…

..from now on it is possible there could be SPOILERS.

I liked all the popular culture references and was probably a little too proud of myself whenever I managed to get one like Eddie the Computer possibly being a Liverpool FC fan (he sings You’ll Walk Alone – Liverpool’s anthem – in the face of impending doom) or the reference to the classic Star Trek/grammar nerd thing with “to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before”. Of the one’s that passed me by (including most of the Ford Prefect joke which was explained in the book’s introduction) I’m going to partially blame the fact the book was first published in 1979 as well as just me being me.
It is also testament to Adams that he can employ the curious plot devices of complete detours from the story to tell you about entirely unrelated events and utterly destroying any tension in a near death experience by telling you the outcome before it even happens but still be an engaging storyteller, also peculiar is that in the latter there was still tension as to how they would reach that perfectly safe outcome (and I’d seen the film, I knew how).
I would also like to recognise that I’ve always been very pleased that the answer to the question of Life, The Universe and Everything is 42. 1) It’s a number, I do Maths, enough said. 2) 6 x 7 = 42 has long been my favourite times table (#ReasonsWhyIKnowI’mAGeek) which I can try to make sound more normal by saying it was one I struggled with, persisted with and then have never struggled to remember since hence slight fondness over other numbers but I know there’s no escaping it – it’s weird. Furthermore, “Don’t Panic!” while great life advice and iconic of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will always be first and foremost in my mind Jones’ catchphrase from the 70s British sitcom Dad’s Army which I’ve watched repeats of for as long as I can remember.


*It should be noted for future reference that I can link a lot of things, both likely and unlikely, back to Doctor Who; ditto with Harry Potter.
** Told you.
*** Ta Ta For Now