Series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace bypass and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed with the big, friendly words: DON’T PANIC.
The weekend has only just begun…
Thoughts: I had been meaning to read this book for a couple of years, but never got around to getting a copy. So when a friend finally just gave me a copy for Christmas, I knew I had no reason to wait.
There are so many things about this book that make it a classic. Besides the humour – which there is plenty of – the social commentary is extraordinarily insightful. As with the case with a lot of science fiction, the universe provides a new venue for us to examine ourselves. Adams did the same thing as most sci-fi writers – he just did it with a hell of a lot more wit.
There are so many quotes in this book that deserve a mention – and half of them you probably know without reading the book. So I thought I would share instead a quote from the letter Adams wrote to his US editor. It does an excellent job at demonstrating the quality of his humour, his ability to see straight through things to the truth, and also sets up the very British-ness of the book:
There are some changes in the script that simply don’t make sense. Arthur Dent is English, the setting is England, and has been in every single manifestation of HHGG ever. […] So why suddenly “Newark” instead of “Rickmansworth”? And “Bloomingdales” instead of “Marks and Spencer”? The fact that Rickmansworth is not within the continent United States doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist! American audiences do not need to feel disturbed by the notion that places do exist outside the US or that people might suddenly refer to them in works of fiction. […] If you feel that referring to “Marks and Spencer” might seriously freak out Americans because they haven’t heard of it […] we could either put warning stickers on the cover (“The text of this book contains references to places and institutions outside the continental United States and may cause offence to people who haven’t heard of them”) or you could, I suppose, put “Harrods”, which most people will have heard of. Or we could even take the appalling risk of just recklessly mentioning things that people won’t have heard of and see if they survive the experience. They probably will – when people are born they haven’t heard of anything or anywhere, but seem to get through the first few years of their lives without ill-effects.
Bottom Line? HHGG is absolutely hysterical. And like the best humour, it has a very truthful ring to it. Also, reading it will let you in on all sorts of jokes that you have been missing all these years!
DON’T PANIC about the boring cover! The new re-release is meant to be a DIY book cover. It is really kinda awesome, as it has a bunch of HHGG stickers to decorate the book with – and whatever you have left over you can paste where you like. Very very cool. (Check out the video!)