Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

If you haven’t guessed by my book and movie choices, I am a huge geek. Dork. Nerd. It doesn’t matter the definitions you use for those terms, I am one. And it wouldn’t surprise any of you to find out that I’m a huge fan of science fiction.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the scifi nerd’s Bible.

Douglas Adams first released the story as a series of radio plays in the late seventies and, shortly after, a series of books. The Hitchhiker’s Guide has been retold as stage plays, a 1980s television serial for the BBC, a text-based computer RPG, a three part comic book serial, and a feature-length movie. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a collection of all five of the books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, plus Douglas Adam’s short story “Young Zaphod Plays It Safe.” This series has been a part of science fiction lore for about thirty years. Remember, I’m twenty-one, so it’s been an important part of nerd culture since before I was born.

The main character of the series, Arthur Dent, is a normal, everyday British human man. He lives a perfectly normal, boring life until the Earth is destroyed and he finds that his friend Ford Prefect is not a human being, like he had previously assumed, but is in fact an alien working as a field researcher for a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Ford drags Arthur along to save him from the Earth’s destruction and poor normal Arthur finds himself in the most extraordinary circumstances.

I’m not entirely sure that I could summarize those circumstances with any sort of coherency, so we’ll leave those intergalactic and inter-dimensional adventures for you to discover for yourselves. But along with poor normal Arthur Dent and surprisingly alien Ford Prefect, this series hosts such characters as Trillian (or Trisha), the only other surviving, Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy and all around hoopy frood, Slartibartfast, a coastline designer for the planet makers on the legendary world of Magrathea, and Marvin, a manically depressed robot.

With characters like that, how can you go wrong?

You can’t. This book is amazing. The writing is witty and smart and just the right shade of hilarious. It somehow manages to address all the questions that humanity has ever had about our own existence and how the universe works, while maintaining a level of sarcastic humor that is simply breathtaking. I’ve read these books three or four times over the past couple of years, and every time I come away with an oddly comforting feeling that nothing will ever make any sense and I should just go with the flow because everything generally turns out alright.

I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of science fiction or anyone looking for some humor. This book might take a while for some people to read, because it is five books in one, but I find having all five books in one volume handy.

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