Douglas Adams,
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
(Pan, 1979)

I don't like Thursdays.

They're miserable, exhausting almost-weekends. Deadlines loom, pressures build, children whine. Disastrous as they may be in my opinion, my challenging Thursdays can't compare to Arthur Dent's.

On one especially dismal Thursday, the highway department bulldozed Arthur's house, the Vogon's disintegrated his planet for an interstellar bypass, his friend Ford Prefect turned out to be an alien, and he was forced to endure a hyperspace jump, which is unpleasantly like being drunk. (For any readers who are as confused as Arthur was, "Ask a glass of water.")

After 20 years, it seemed like time once again to cruise the universe with Arthur, Ford, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adam's first foray in his five-book "trilogy," is funny sci-fi for the hyperactive. The rapid-fire images careen off each other, splashing absurdities across the pages. It's great fun, even on the fourth, fifth or forty-second read!

Zaphod, the flashy President of the Imperial Galactic Government, exudes irresponsibility charmingly. These are the precise characteristics which make him a great president, but he also knows something -- something so covert he mutilates his own brain rather than allow himself to know what it is. Zaphod isn't known for being trustworthy, which explains his tendency to steal things.

Trillian, who Zaphod picked up on a brief stopover in London, provides much of the logic in a book that relishes chaos. She also supplies the brains of the team, toting along a pair of white mice, one of the three most intelligent species from the recently obliterated Earth.

Ford, delighted to be freed from his 15-year stranding on Arthur and Trillian's mostly benign and really boring planet, resumes his career as a field researcher for that "wholly remarkable book," The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The novel is interspersed with humorous, friendly entries from The Guide and provides countless insights regarding Babel fish, Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, space ("vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big") and other universal truths all travelers should know.

Arthur Dent, the usually clueless earthman, appreciates The Guide because it states "Don't Panic" comfortingly on the cover. An everyman with a heart and conscience and somewhat astounding luck, Arthur usually manages to stumble across solutions and a cup of tea. He might put his brain toward asking the great question regarding life, the universe and everything. (The answer's been provided, but the question is tricky.)

And who can forget Marvin, a supremely depressed artificial intelligence with a brain the size of a planet and a tendency for paranoia.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. If you haven't read it lately, it's time. Maybe it will brighten your Thursday.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]



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