I first read the classic science fiction work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams years ago. We just started a science fiction/fantasy book club at the library, and our first discussion will be about Hitchhiker’s.
It’s hard to put into words why this is a classic. It’s got a certain something I can’t capture in words when I try to describe to someone who has not read it why it’s a great book. It has a ridiculous plot, so it’s not that. It has some ridiculous characters too, although exasperated Arthur Dent, reeling from the fact that his home planet of Earth has just been destroyed, is someone just about every person can relate to in some way.
The many absurd aspects of the book are part of the appeal. The suggestion that a towel is “about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” The idea of a spaceship powered by an Infinite Improbability Drive, which causes any number of highly improbable things to happen. The intelligent, contemptuous, depressed robot Marvin. The fact that mice are the most intelligent species on Earth. A race of beings who write poetry so bad it’s torture to listen to it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a very funny book. But it is also a book that makes you think about things. Things like Life, the Universe, and Everything. Conceived as a radio comedy in the late 1970s, it foresaw technology in use today. If you are not a fan of science fiction and fantasy, or if you like your fiction tidy and sensical, you may just not get it. But if you are a sci fi fan and you’ve not yet read it, get it on your “to read” list. (And if you have read it but not lately, maybe it’s time to revisit it!)
If you'd like to discuss the book but can't attend discussion tonight at 6 pm at Alternate Realities, please comment here!