Book5 10

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1980)

OK, Halloween was like four days ago, enough with the horror, right? This is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979 UK, this is the first US edition from 1980). Technically, this is the novelization of the 1978 BBC radio play, but despite coming second chronologically, this is most folks entry point into Douglas Adams’ science fiction farcical trilogy of five+ books (all pictured, though I am mostly just talking about the first one) (side note — I got the paperbacks at a book sale when I was in, like, 5th grade?).

In short, Arthur Dent’s house gets demolished to make way for a highway shortly before the Earth is demolished to make way for the space equivalent of a highway. Arthur escapes, sticks a fish in his ear, winds up on a stolen starship with the president of the galaxy and learns about the universe by consulting the titular guidebook. Eventually, he learns that Earth was a supercomputer designed to calculate…well, I can’t easily explain what it is meant to calculate, but the thing was blown up moments before it spit out the answer, and some very upset mice want to carve up Arthur’s brain to see if what they’re looking for is inside. He escapes and then, with his friends, goes to lunch at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which shares its name with the title of the next book, conveniently. It gets weirder from there. Honestly, bizarre as it is, this is the most grounded and reasonable of the series. I love it, it was for a long time, the only science fiction novel I liked. It greatly informed what little sense of humor I have. I’m a little bit bittersweet on it now, as Adams’ untimely death makes me feel incredibly sad whenever I think of it, and it is a bit hard to not think about when reading the book.

I do wish someone would explain the cheeky green guy who fronts the covers of the US editions. Is he meant to be a Vogon? I’ve never understood it.

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