Monday, March 26, 2007

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Holy Moses is this book long. I never knew that Douglas Adams wrote five books in the series, or that he started writing them at all in response to the popularity that the original radio show received. All five are organized pretty poorly, and Adams is quick to admit this in his introduction, pointing out which books contradict which other books and how often. The first one ends completely abruptly, and should have been merged with the second one, and the plots of the last three are so weak that I don't think he should have written them at all. Clearly they just rode in on the coattails of the first two, which, in turn, rode on the coattails of the radio show.

Adams is a good writer; he's witty and creative and can write a good story, as long as it doesn't run longer than about 50 pages. All of the books follow Arthur Dent, a kind of awkward antihero who's forced into circumstances that lead to his rescuing the earth, galaxy, or universe many times. Too many times. Adams' original plan was to write a series of short stories in which the earth is invariably destroyed at the end of each; it seems, from reading this book(s), that this would have suited his abilities better. The story becomes very episodic after the first book (in the first book, even), and characters turn into empty stereotypes of themselves just as quickly. Odd as it might seem, it gets a little tedious reading, once again, about some new, loopy plot to blot out the whole of existence.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is meant to be a satire of just about everything; he pokes fun at everything humans have ever done, partly by trivializing the Earth to something that needs to be demolished to build a hyperspace expressway. This book was fun to read, in bits and pieces, but it goes on for too long and runs out of steam fairly soon after it starts. I had always hesitated to read this book because I was worried that it was just a nerdy cult classic, full of inside jokes to print on T-shirts and sell at Hot Topic. But, then again, what did I expect from a British, science fiction, comedy novel?


Nihil Novum said...

I liked the first one. Couldn't get into any of the others. His Dirk Gently books are better, I think.

Christopher said...

You're both crazy.

Nathan said...

Maybe they're just not meant to be read all at once.