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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

By

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
I remember when the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a British mini-series on PBS back when I was a kid. One of my friends was like, "Oh, man, it is gonna be so cool; my brother said it is gonna be great." And I was like, "What is it?" And he was like, "You know, like a really funny show or something." And then I think I remember watching about five minutes of it before heading back outside to jump in a pile of leaves some more.

I spent the next twenty years or so never quite getting around to reading the book, even though I kept hearing about it relatively consistently from friends who always seemed to think it was the bees knees. I guess I just always had this sneaking suspicion that I'd rather be out back in a pile of leaves than reading the book version of some weird BBC tv show that sucked when I was seven.

I WAS WRONG. I picked up the original paperback recently and blew through all 216 pages in about a weekend's spare time. This book is so funny that I just about couldn't put it down. Don't read it on an airplane, unless you don't mind everyone staring at you because you're the idiot who can't stop laughing out loud at your paperback the entire flight. Seriously.
I'm not ruining anything by telling you that Douglas Adams' book starts out with the destruction of the planet Earth, and just gets stranger from there. It is oddly freeing for a story to begin with what would amount to your own death, unless you were one of the two earth people to survive (and you are not). It gave me the feeling of, "Oh what the hell. The point is obviously not to save the Earth - it's already gone. I wonder what will happen next." Most sci-fi thrillers involve the hero trying to save Earth or a similar homeworld, or battling some evil force that has invaded the galaxy.

Absent that possibility, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ends up being a wickedly sardonic story of Western politics and big business - set in space. And the characters are as cool as Chilly Palmer in Get Shorty. I mean these guys are cool. They take nonchalance to a whole new level.

Talking about this book to someone who hasn't read it is like trying to explain what sex is like to a virgin. It is difficult to communicate the subtlety of the experience, but trust me - it is well worth the effort. It is literally off-the-wall humor that manages to continue to be surprising and hilarious page after page.
I have seen previews for the new movie version, and the special effects and scenes they show look good. I wonder if they can actually translate the pure comic beauty of this work of literature into a feature film, though. What is so wonderful about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the story and it's telling - which has very little to do with special effects.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been through many iterations - as a radio series, another radio series, a book, a series of books, stage plays, a computer game, a tv show, and now a movie. I can't vouch for anything but the book. If you are like me, and put off reading it for 20+ years, then

DON'T PANIC.

Just stop by your local bookstore and pick up a copy. And if you haven't read it in awhile, read it again. It is such a quick and hilarious read that I may just read it again myself before I see the movie!

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