Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

, the increasingly-inaccurately named trilogy of five.


“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker ) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass , map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit, etc ., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have ‘lost’. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Adams, Douglas (2012-03-01). The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Trilogy of Five (p. 31). Macmillan Publishers UK. Kindle Edition.

I seriously did not expect the ending to be so dark, but having briefly known Mr. Adams through the 250K or so words (I read all 5 books in one go, over couple weeks), I guess I should have expected that.

He wanted to write a 6th book with a more uplifting ending, but died before he could do that. There is a 6th book written by Eoin Colfer, the author of Artemis Fowl.

Don’t think I am going to read that, though. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is all I know about Douglas Adams, and I want to keep the series purely his in my mind.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is really a work like no other. It’s a combination of sci-fi, original humour, sarcasm, ironies, and (lack of) story, in perfect stoichiometric ratio.

It’s a book that really only consists of a joke after another after another… yet somehow he manages to get the reader to think about some pretty deep issues, and grow quite fond of the character, all while ROFLing. All the jokes are also completely original, and tie very well into their respective contexts.

There is so much mind-bendingly twisted and convoluted concepts in the story that it’s a miracle that the story still made sense, and I don’t think it would have, in anyone’s hands but Douglas Adams’.

It’s also a really nice read in the sense that you can easily stop, and pick it up later to keep reading, without having to backtrack much, because the amount of the elapsed story that you need to keep track of to make sense of the next little bit is incredibly short. There are no long and convoluted story lines that you have to keep in your head, and doesn’t cause much mental stress. Of course, that’s only if you can actually put the book down.

‘OK,’ he said, ‘hear me, hear me. It’s, like, these guys, you know, are entitled to their own view of the Universe. And according to their view, which the Universe forced on them, right, they did right. Sounds crazy, but I think you’ll agree. They believe in . . .’ He consulted a piece of paper which he found in the back pocket of his Judicial jeans.

‘They believe in “peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms”.’ He shrugged. ‘I’ve heard a lot worse,’ he said.

Adams, Douglas (2012-03-01). The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Trilogy of Five (p. 376). Macmillan Publishers UK. Kindle Edition.

In his own words, he is a “radical atheist”.

Many people believe the passage above is a satire on Islam, but I don’t think anyone got a confirmation from him, and now no one ever will because he is dead.

But hey, Islam is definitely not the only religion that believes in the obliteration of all non-believers, at least at some point in history.