March 03, 2006

42

In the interest of completeness, I suppose I should fill out more books from my now-completed library shelves that aren't Star Wars books. First on the list is a staple most people have already read, Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". What's there to say about this book? It's a little dated, sure, but it's that dry British humor crossed with science fiction, and that's like rocket fuel for the high school or college age male reader. So many of the plot devices and sayings in this book have entered the popular culture, you have to read this at some point just to understand what all of us geeks are talking about.

Of course, anything so popular is going to create a backlash, and there are plenty of people who dislike this book for perfectly good reasons (writing quality isn't so great, plot jumps around and is very hard to follow, too many characters, too many jokes that don't work). But you have to consider that this was a real groundbreaker back when this was released a couple of years after the original Star Wars movie. This was pitched to a generation that grew up watching Star Trek re-runs and lots of bad science fiction on TV and in the movies, and it still works for me.

The only really coherent thing I can say about the plot is that it starts with Arthur Dent, a normal Earth person whose house is about to get demolished to make way for a new road. Arthur soon finds out that the Earth is scheduled for demolition to make room for a new interstellar thoroughfare, and within hours, he's left the smoking rubble behind and is bouncing around the galaxy in an Odyssey-like (or Star Trek like) series of episodes on different planets with different aliens. The series goes on for another three books, mostly of similar quality, and they're very short, so the whole four-book series is like, say, one Robert Jordan magnum opus.

Anyway, when my friends and I read it in high school, we spent weeks quoting various jokes to each other, and we thought it was awfully clever. I don't know that it aged that well, but I still think there are some good laughs in there, and I know overall I enjoyed Douglas Adams a lot more than the author I think is most similar and still kicking around in fantasy, Terry Pratchett. I never did see the movie they made out of this book. I saw pieces of the old BBC movie they made on PBS once or twice, and it looked horrible, and I think that spoiled the whole thing for me. Maybe I'll see if I can get the kids to watch it and tell me what they think.

Posted by Observer at March 3, 2006 07:03 PM
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I'm pretty sure I read it in about the sixth grade. I enjoyed it, and haven't read it since.

So, basically, I have almost zero memory of it. Maybe I'll read it again sometime.

Posted by: Humbaba on March 3, 2006 10:13 PM