“It’s science fiction and it’s extremely funny…inspired lunacy that leaves hardly a science fiction cliche alive.”



Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is so quintessentially British that it’s as much a part of British pop culture as Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers, and The Beatles. Arthur Dent is the archetype of what you’d expect a Brit to be and the absurd humour that weaves its way through the narrative is indicative of the kind of comedy that is found in a country that produced sitcoms like The Office, Blackadder, and Peep Show.

The novel encapsulates everything that’s so charming about British humour that it’s really no wonder the series has remained so popular since it made it’s debut as a radio series in 1978.

Despite having heard much praise for the novel over the years, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only just got around to reading it for the first time, and now I finally understand what I’ve been missing out on. For those who’ve been living under a Vogon for the past 40 years, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy follows the adventures of an Englishman named Arthur Dent, who’s day is thoroughly ruined when Earth is destroyed in order to make room for an intergalactic highway. Luckily for Arthur (or perhaps unluckily), he is saved by his best friend, Ford Prefect, who reveals that he’s actually an alien who has been trapped on Earth for the past 15 years. The two manage to hitch a ride on one of the Vogon ships, but are swiftly ejected into space by thoroughly unpleasant Vogons. Upon being saved by the half mad Zaphod Beeblebrox, his partner Trillion, and the paranoid android Marvin, Arthur finds himself reluctantly embarking on a quest to a legendary planet known as Megrathea, which used to create bespoke planets for wealthy clients. Along the way they’ll encounter sentient mice, a very unlikely Sperm Whale, and the rather disappointing meaning to life.

Having read and enjoyed the writings of Terry Pratchett, I instantly felt at home with Adams. If you enjoy the kind of humour and character that Pratchett writes then you’ll definitely enjoy your time with Adam’s work. Like Pratchett, Adams excels at creating a world, or rather universe, that is totally whacky and unpredictable, whilst also managing to keep it all grounded enough for you to still care about the characters. There are a lot of crazy, unexpected, and random things to be found in Adam’s universe, but it never felt so quirky that I didn’t still feel attached to Dent and his unlikely friends. There’s something about this zany universe which drags you in and, upon finishing it, I’m left understanding why the series has spawned so many adaptations over the years, from video games, a TV show, and even stage productions.

While Hitchhiker is obviously deeply routed in the genre of comedy, I was quite surprised to find that it still makes for an excellent sci-fi novel. Sure, it may not be quite as ambitious in its world building as Frank Herbert’s Dune or Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, it still delivers a universe that feels alive, even if it is slightly bonkers. I discovered a galaxy with much more depth and detail than I’d anticipated, and the inclusion of in-universe extracts from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy does a great job in fleshing out the strange planets, creatures, and cultures that readers are presented with, I only wish I could get my hands on the real books so I can read it all!

While the book may seem like a lot of silly fun, it’s clear that many of the gags serve not only for a chuckle, but also as a satirical swipe at humanity. Adams makes it very clear that human beings aren’t the most intelligent animal found on Earth, let alone the galaxy, and Earth’s two word entry in the Hitchhiker’s Guide consists of ‘mostly harmless’, which rather puts our significance in perspective when faced with the vastness of the universe. I also get the sense that Adams has had some terrible experiences with red tape when it comes to how he portrays the utterly horrible and bureaucratic Vogons.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the sort of book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and is also the kind of book that can be enjoyed differently upon re-reads. Younger readers will delight in Arthur’s adventures and laugh at the woefully depressed Marvin, while older readers will appreciate Adams’ satire and perhaps relate a little more with Dent’s bewilderment and poor Marvin’s cynicism. I thoroughly enjoyed my time hitching through Adams’ universe and I look forward to seeing where the remaining books take me. This is pone journey I would recommend to anyone, just remember: DON’T PANIC!


Reviewed by:

Thom Peart

Added 7th May 2019

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Thom Peart


In the beginning the Universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move, but it was followed, in 1979, by something rather smaller but infinitely more useful and far easier to read – “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, the story of Arthur Dent, local radio executive, dressing-gown wearer and interplanetary refugee.

Originally released as a BBC Radio series, H2G2 quickly found its way to print and was followed over the period of thirty-odd years by five follow-up books, a TV series and a film. In that time the story arc gained a huge fan-base and brought its author, Douglas Adams, a degree of immortality achieved only by the lesser gods.

This edition gathers together the first five books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), Life, the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984) and Mostly Harmless (1992) under one cover. The sixth book, And Another Thing … was written by Eoin Colfer in 2009 and is available separately.

So what exactly IS H2G2? Ostensibly, it tells of Arthur’s peregrinations across the universe in search of a nice cup of tea (the Earth having been destroyed by a Vogon Constructor Fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass) accompanied by Zaphod Beeblebrox (ex Galactic President and totally hoopy frood), Ford Prefect (roving researcher for the Guide and expense account software beta-tester), Trillian (just some girl, you know) and Marvin (a Paranoid Android). The characters sound fun but actually they are rather cod, stock sci-fi personnel so… move on, there’s nothing to see here (although Marvin is the most endearing and best loved literary robot of all time).

There is not really much in the way of a storyline either, at least in the first two books, and what develops subsequently isn’t much cop – hopelessly confused and confusing and it’s clear that Adams was either trying too hard or not hard enough. Or at all, for that matter; he famously stated that he wasn’t much good at plots…

He also noted, even more famously, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” which hints at the true genius of the man. Douglas Adams was a profoundly gifted humourist, a satirist of no little repute if you will, and THAT is one reason why people love his books. It’s the gentle Wodehousian humour, the sideways look at late 20th century culture and technology that makes these books so special and anyone who’s read the series has his or her favourite quotes. For my part…

“For a moment or two the old man didn’t reply. He was staring at the (spaceship’s) instruments with the air of one who is trying to convert Fahrenheit to centigrade in his head while his house is burning down.”


“You mean,” said Arthur, “you can see into my mind?”
“Yes,” said Marvin.
Arthur stared in astonishment, “and …?”
“It amazes me how you can manage to live in anything that small.”

…sum up the man’s ironic genius but my personal favourite is the description in So Long of a Porsche… “It was a low bulbous shape, like a small whale surfing – sleek, grey and rounded and moving at a terrifying speed.” Fantastic! and if you can imagine five (shortish) books written in that vein, you have an inkling of what you will be reading.

Another reason for reading these books is Adams’ prodigious talent for setting out strange and provocative ideas: the eponymous Restaurant of the second book is one, as are his two revolutionary faster-than-light transport mechanisms – the Infinite Improbability Drive and Bistromathics. Silly? Yes. Wildly impractical? Frequently. Amusing? Yup. Inherently and strangely logical? Mais certainement… Well, maybe not always so silly. Consider the answer to the meaning of life etc etc. i.e. “42”.

What Adams is saying is that we spend so much time looking for answers that we forget to wonder which are the most important questions. Sentient household appliances, cloud computing (for which, see Hactar) anyone? And, of course, with The Guide itself he managed to predict the development of the pocket internet so, not just amusing, but also prescient and thoughtful.

I think it’s fair to say that DA did, for scifi literature, what Monty Python did for comedy and the Sex Pistols for popular music. Have you read anything by Terry Pratchett? The man owes his career, and probably also his knighthood, to Adams.

That’s a hell of a legacy.


Reviewed by:

Campbell McAulay

Added 28th July 2015

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Campbell McAulay