As you may have guessed if you have read the book that my last review was about, one of the reasons I chose to read Hitchhiker's was because it is mentioned as an entertaining read in Among Others. I also figured since it is one of the most well-known science fiction novels of all time, it would be a good thing to read, even though I don't usually read science fiction.
I am so glad I finally decided to read it. The entertainment value... wow. There are a LOT of good things about this book--it is not a factory of emotional ruin that steals your soul and permanently taints it with tears (*cough*TheChaos WalkingTrilogy*cough*TheHungerGames*cough*). The events which could be heart wrenching (like, you know, the destruction of Earth within the first 50 pages or so) are not, because it's simply not written that way. Though it's not written in such a way as to be aiming for comedy either. It's incredibly clever and kind of obliviously witty and... I can't really think of any other way to describe it. The number of "oh!"* moments I had while reading this book is slightly ridiculous-- "oh!" at the writing, "oh!" at a plot development, "oh!" at a funny line said by a character, "oh!" at a sudden realization.
I love the characters. I like Arthur Dent, the protagonist, how he doesn't seem like much and then he surprises you with his intelligence and quick thinking, and how well he takes the end of the world--but still in a relatively realistic way (I mean he still freaks out a little). I also really like Ford Prefect; I love the conversations between them and I look forward to more laughs in the subsequent books. And Trillian seems like she could be an interesting character if she is developed more in said subsequent books. As for Zaphod, I find him very difficult to imagine. While I find it easy to envision countless random made up magical creatures while reading fantasy books, apparently it is more difficult when it is simply a human being with a second head and a third arm...
It is now Dalia's Quote Time! Here are the passages I bookmarked as I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Ford beckoned to Prosser who sadly, awkwardly, sat down in the mud. He felt as if his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. --pg. 15
Oh, yes, an excellent example of the bizarre conversations that take place between Arthur and Ford:
"Good God," said Arthur, "it looks just like the sea front at Southend."
"Hell, I'm relieved to hear you say that," said Ford.
"Because I thought I must be going mad."
"Perhaps you are. Perhaps you only thought I said it."
Ford thought about this.
"Well, did you say it or didn't you?" he asked.
"I think so," said Arthur.
"Well, perhaps we're both going mad."
"Yes," said Arthur, "we'd be mad, all things considered, to think this was Southend."
"Well, do you think this is Southend?"
"So do I."
"Therefore we must be mad."
"Nice day for it."
"Yes," said a passing maniac.
"Who was that?" asked Arthur.
"Who--the man with the five heads and the elderberry bush full of kippers?"
"I don't know. Just someone."
"Ah." --pg. 70
(It kind of ends with an example of the randomness of this book too... anyway, moving on!)
Oh, this is a line that made me laugh out loud--it's still when Ford and Arthur are first in the Infinite Improbability Drive thing (so just after the above conversation) and Arthur's arms and legs start falling off and then:
"Ford," he said, "you're turning into a penguin. Stop it." --pg. 72
I think it just made me laugh because of how matter-of-fact-ly he says it--in fact they're both amazingly matter-of-fact throughout this entire sequence of events; it's one of the things that is so entertaining. Anyway.
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" --pg. 101
That was an "Oh!" moment but mainly because I disagree with the suggestion and it gave me a rather excellent idea for incorporating that quote into one of my story ideas. But you don't need to know about that yet.
Ah, yes, I'm at my "that moment when" moment--THAT MOMENT WHEN YOU REALIZE THAT THIS BOOK IS THE ORIGIN OF OUR SOCIETY'S UNRECOGNIZED INFATUATION WITH THE NUMBER 42. You know how people like to say that the answer to everything is 42? Well yeah, but I didn't know that that originally came from Hitchhiker's--
"And you're ready to give it to us?" urged Loonquawl.
"Now," said Deep Thought.
They both licked their dry lips.
"Though I don't think," added Deep Thought, "that you're going to like it."
"Doesn't matter," said Phouchg. "We must know it! Now!"
"Now?" enquired Deep Thought.
"All right," said the computer and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.
'You're really not going to like it," observed Deep Thought.
"All right," said Deep Thought. "The Answer to the Great Question..."
"Of Life, the Universe and Everything..." said Deep Thought.
"Is..." said Deep Thought, and paused.
"Forty-two," said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm. --pg. 152
That was probably my biggest "Oh!" moment. Now...
"Maybe. Who cares?" said Slartibartfast before Arthur got too excited. "Perhaps I'm old and tired," he continued, "but I always think that the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied. Look at me: I design coastlines. I got an award for Norway." --pg. 161
"Science has achieved some wonderful things, of course, but I'd rather be happy than right any day."
"And are you?"
"No. That's where it falls down, of course."
"Pity," said Arthur with sympathy. "It sounded like quite a good lifestyle otherwise." --also pg. 161
Oh, my last bookmark seems to be about poor Marvin, the manically depressed robot:
Ford stayed, and went to examine the Blagulon ship. As he walked, he nearly tripped over an inert steel figure lying face down in the cold dust.
"Marvin!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing?"
"Don't feel you have to take any notice of me, please," came a muffled drone.
"But how are you, metalman?" said Ford.
"I don't know," said Marvin. "I've never been there."
"Why," said Ford squatting down beside him and shivering, "are you lying face down in the dirt?"
"It's a very effective way of being wretched," said Marvin. "Don't pretend you want to talk to me, I know you hate me."
"No I don't."
"Yes you do, everybody does. It's part of the shape of the Universe. I only have to talk to somebody and they begin to hate me. Even robots hate me. If you just ignore me I expect I shall probably go away." --pg. 179
How pitifully sad is that? Is it weird that I nearly shed tears for this poor fictional robot? Well I'm not going to dny it. He's adorable and sad and his life (or lack of it), quite frankly, sucks.
Anyway, that's the last of my bookmarks.
One of the things that astonished me about this book--and I'm sure I've talked about this before with other amazingly surreal books--was how relatively comprehensible the story was considering that approximately 0% of it makes any sort of logical sense. Yes, I realize that that sentence was essentially an oxymoron, but that does not change the fact that it is true.
I keep wanting to end the review but then I think of more things I want to say. I don't want to forget anything! Okay, I think the only other thing I wanted to say was that I love how much foreshadowing there is in the book--foreshadowing without spoilers. By that, of course, I mean the references to the titles of the other books, the last reference being to the title of the second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
I didn't realize when I first decided to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that it was actually a part of a series--or as the back of the book says, "volume one in a trilogy of five". And yes I realize that is illogical. As I've pointed out, most of this book is based entirely on illogical fragments of brilliance. And for this reason, among others, I am entirely excited to begin making my way through the rest of the series.
I recommend this book to everyone.
*I call these "Oh!" moments because I don't really know how else to describe the feeling. That's basically what my mind/brain feels like it's doing when I come across a particularly beautiful phrase or a revelation or an amazingly clever pun. The term is fairly versatile, but I hope you can somewhat understand what I mean by it. :)