The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThere are some books you wish you’d read years earlier. (And some movies you wish you could unsee.) To be honest, I wish I’d figured out sci-fi as a whole sooner – but I was hugely resistant to it. I don’t even know why. But  there were always people in my life who tried to tell me I’d like a certain book, movie or TV show, and I just felt the urge to say no.

Turns out they were right. (I really hate when that happens.)

And this is how I finally came face-to-face one day in a book store with a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I thought, what the hell. I didn’t want to put it down. Lately it’s been hard for me to find a book like this. It was interesting, compelling, funny, smart, and very British.

I’ll handle this – I’m British; I know how to queue.

Douglas Adams is not just funny and smarmy, but also had an incredible vision of the future, and most of that vision has come true: e-books, the Internet, touchscreen, Wikipedia…some other things that are not available to everyone just yet.

Don't Panic

Besides the book being so forward thinking, it provides an interesting look at humans and human nature. Between war, climate change, illness, and poverty, we do a pretty good job of destroying the planet and each other. Maybe that’s why it makes sense that humans wouldn’t necessarily been seen by outsiders as the smartest, or dominant life form.

The lessons held within are extensive. Some are obvious – Don’t Panic seems a basic lesson for life in general. Others are a little more interesting, and complex, but really, for a short and funny book, I’m impressed Adams squeezed them in. The story of Magrathea and its demise makes for an interesting comparison to consumerism. Anyone who can be elected President of the Universe shouldn’t be trusted to do the job – hence the president doesn’t actually have a lot of responsibility. Maybe don’t trust the tea on a spaceship. Then again if you’re desperate, maybe go ahead and go for it.

Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realized what it was.

“Is there any tea on this spaceship?” he asked.

Have you ever wished you could un-see something? I wish I could un-see the movie. I watched it not long after finishing the book. I’m so sorry I did. I’m so sorry it was made, and I’m so sorry, given the cast, that it was the disaster it was. It may actually require me to re-read the book to erase some memories of the movie from my brain. Normally I’d at least say read the book first, but in this case, just read the book.

In honor of Hitchhiker’s 35th anniversary last year, Time put together 35 lessons from the trilogy. If you’ve already read even the first one, you’ll enjoy this. If you haven’t read any of them, this will not make sense. So go read the book first. And yes, I’m currently working through the other two. Obviously I’m going to like them though.

If you really want to go crazy, some fans made their own Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition. Enjoy. I need to get back to The Restaurant at the End of The Universe.

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