Everybody knows what the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” is. Everybody, that is, who has been blessed with reading the gem that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
As the second book in my 100 to read challenge, Douglas Adams’ eternal classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy features. One of the books I have read previously (though not the others in the series), this has to be home to not one, but several of the most famous scenes in modern literature. Man lying in front of bulldozer? Check. Man’s home demolished? Check. Man’s home planet demolished? Check. Earth is indeed demolished in the very early stages of the book in what must surely be one of the most shocking starts to a novel.
The story details Arthur Dent’s journey with his (alien) friend Ford Prefect through space, with not much of a plot other than their exploits, and meeting up with the President of the Universe. Incredibly, despite the astronomical (!) gamble, Adams somehow seems to pull it off, the lack of plot not being an issue (it only really establishes the basis of the next four books in the series in the last few chapters). The witty scenes and the eternal quotes-and quips-from not only The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (an encyclopaedia within the book), but from a series in which robots are actually made funny works very well, and I seem to remember having a few wry smiles reading it-and even, if my memory doesn’t deceive me, a chuckle or two.
As with one or two of the other books I’ve reviewed recently though, I feel the book suffers a slow start, taking several pages to get going-after all, who wants to read about a house demolition? Somehow it just seems slow, and doddery.
Another quibble I have with the book is that it is excellent for children. ‘What is wrong with that?’ I hear you querying. Well, it’s the bits that aren’t suitable for children, the one (that I can remember) swear word, the couple of profanities… It is a perfect family book, one to be passed from generation to generation-apart from the swearing, which ruins that effect somewhat.
Publishing house-Pan books
Value for money-an average price, perhaps a little on the steep side given the book’s been in print 35 years-★★½
Character development-as I was reading it, I grew to love the characters, and the personalities of all were well developed-★★★★
Readability-another slow opening but otherwise brilliant-★★★★★
Overall-a slow opening and occasional profanity detract a little from the book, but otherwise an enthralling read-★★★★★ (with the 100 to read, I will also rate books out of 100: 90)