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Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a crazy, crazy book. And I mean that in a totally good way.

Seconds before Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic freeway, Arthur Dent is whisked away by his close pal, Ford Prefect, who’s been posing as an out-of-work actor for the last fifteen years… even though he’s really a researcher for a revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And thus begins a wild journey through the galaxy, during which the two friends meet with out-of-this-world adventure and an assortment of zany characters.

If you’ve seen the movie Men In Black (1997), you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that this book is the literary equivalent of that movie. To quote the School Library Journal, “Very simply, the book is one of the funniest SF spoofs ever written, with hyperbolic ideas folding in on themselves.”

The characters we are introduced to throughout the course of the story are a truly delightful bunch. There’s the hapless protagonist Arthur Dent, who can’t seem to view the demolition of his home planet with the same flippancy that his friend – the intrepid Ford Prefect – does. There’s Zaphod Beeblebrox, a double-headed ex-hippie endowed with extra appendages who also happens to be the President of the Galaxy, and his girlfriend, Trillian (whom Arthur once tried to pick up at a cocktail party on Earth). We also meet Marvin, a paranoid, chronically-depressed android. He’s positively hilarious, though I’m sure he wouldn’t think so.

Adam’s narration of the story is quick-moving and clever, and along the way, he offers plenty of hilarious commentary. For instance, concerning the horrendous poetry of a certain alien races, he writes,

Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode to the Small Lump of Green Putty I found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning” four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been “disappointed” by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve-book epic entitled My Favorite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intenstine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leaped straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.

Adams then adds,

The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England, in the destruction of the planet Earth.

Content-wise, the book is fairly clean. The author occasionally pokes fun at Christianity (there’s very little he doesn’t poke fun at), and needless to say, his understanding of it is pretty off-base. Some of the dialogue features a smattering of suggestive humor and crude language. Personally, I’d say the book is an appropriate choice for ages 15 and up.

I highly recommend The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s not altogether perfect, but it’s certainly worth your time. It’s science fiction laced with laughs – and I can hardly think of a funnier book I’ve read all year.