The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is, indisputably, a classic; the kind of book you’ll find sitting proudly in a Books-To-Read-Before-You-Die display at Chapters; right next to the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Catch 22. I re-read The Hitch Hiker’s Guide for the umpteenth time a few weeks ago – it just never gets old and I still find myself laughing uproariously at least once every page. You honestly can’t beat Douglas Adams’ sense of humour. His zany characters are the source of endless quotations in my own home, and I recently heard him quoted in a new movie, thirty years after the book was first published.
Ford Prefect, an editor from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, has rescued Arthur Dent from imminent death just before the Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyper-spatial express route. They manage to hitch a ride on a Vogon spaceship until rudely thrust into deep space, but not before being exposed to a reading of Vogon poetry, the third worst in the entire universe. Luckily for them, Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Imperial Galactic Government, has stolen the Heart of Gold, a mindbogglingly beautiful spacecraft powered by an improbability drive, and they miraculously, or more precisely, improbably, cadge a ride. (As noted in the book, the President is pretty much a figurehead, wielding no particular power whatsoever. It’s his job not to display qualities of ‘leadership, but those of finely judged outrage.’ Beeblebrox’s success in attracting attention away from real power has been hailed as the most successful ever, having spent two of his ten years as President actually in prison).
With such an original cast of characters, including the almost-but-not-quite-endearing manically depressed robot, Marvin, and the permanently dressing-gown-clad Arthur Dent, the reader is taken for an hilarious romp of a ride, that constantly digs at the quirks of humanity and our inexplicable obsession with digital watches. As an aside, my dad has the exact same dressing gown that Arthur wore in the TV series – one he’s had since the age of 15. Sixty plus years later it’s still going strong, and I’m pretty darned sure that Douglas Adams’ legendary series will prove even more resilient over time. This is especially true, well, possibly true, now that children’s author Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame has been commissioned to write a sixth instalment of the trilogy. This actually makes me very nervous indeed. On one hand I just wish they’d leave well enough alone, but on the other hand I love the books so much, I just want them to go on forever. Anyway, it is in fact, entirely out of both of my hands, so I will just have to sit tight and see what transpires. In the meantime, I’ll be re-reading the entire series in preparation for And Another Thing… to be published in October next year.