The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

Hardcover, 1980

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Harmony Books, 1980. First American Edition

Description

After Earth is demolished to make way for a new hyperspatial expressway, Arthur Dent begins to hitch-hike through space.

Media reviews

Humorous science fiction novels have notoriously limited audiences; they tend to be full of ''in'' jokes understandable only to those who read everything from Jules Verne to Harlan Ellison. The ''Hitchhiker's Guide'' is a delightful exception, being written for anyone who can understand the thrill that might come to a crew of interstellar explorers who discover a mysterious planet, dead for five million years, and then hear on their ''sub etha'' radio a ghostly voice, hollow, reedy, insubstantial: ''Greetings to you. ... This is a recorded announcement, as I'm afraid we're all out at the moment. ...''

User reviews

LibraryThing member jeremytaylor
Douglas Adams’s 1979 adaptation of his popular BBC radio drama spawned a cult following that persisted through four sequels, a TV series, and a movie and continues to thrive eight years after his death. The sometimes witty, often satirical, and always humorous quasi-science-fiction/fantasy story about a young man traveling the galaxy on an involuntary quest for the meaning of existence has managed to survive and remain startlingly current through an entire generation of changes in technology and literary trends.

Arthur Dent doesn’t have a lot on his mind other than surviving his hangover when he wakes up one morning to find that his house is about to be bulldozed to make way for a bypass. His objections are met with sympathetic indifference by the crew chief until he lies down in the mud in front of the offending bulldozer. What he doesn’t realize is that the earth itself has been slated for destruction by the evil Vogons as part of the development of a hyperspatial express route. Moments before the earth disintegrates, Arthur and his secretly alien friend Ford Prefect escape by hitching a ride on one of the Vogon ships, and their journey begins.

As Arthur and Ford and the improbable gang of galactic characters they join up with travel from system to system in search of the mythical planet Magrathea and the Question to the Ultimate Answer, they are guided by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an e-book that offers such insightful wisdom as “Don’t panic” and contains articles on subjects such as the importance of towels as well as helpful information about various planets and species. Along the way, Adams hilariously lambasts everything from religion to art to politics to human nature.

The story, while mildly entertaining, is not what makes the book work. Rather, Adam’s sardonic narration and ultra-dry humor are what make it worth reading. Virtually every page contains at least one description or parodic exposition that makes you want to either laugh out loud or groan.

Since the book doesn’t have a message or even much of a plot, it might be hard for some to find a reason to read it. But those who enjoy British humor (think Monty Python) or want to see how the destruction of the earth can be so funny may well enjoy it. The good news is, if you really like it, there are four sequels, so you could potentially be laughing for a long time.
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LibraryThing member beckykolacki
From the very beginning, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy won me over with its charm and its intelligent jokes. It's the kind of humor that makes you chuckle inwardly, rather than laugh out loud (most of the time). The story begins by introducing us to Arthur Dent, a thoroughly average and somewhat boring human being, who shows a few odd quirks soon enough. His house is being destroyed, so he lies down in the middle of the path of the bulldozer to stop them.

As it turns out, it doesn't much matter that his house is being destroyed because the whole planet is being demolished by Vogons (a type of Alien). Arthur is the only human rescued by his friend Ford Prefect, who is actually an alien from Betelgeuse. They travel in a ship known for its improbability drive - which means that every improbable event that you would never expect to happens, happens. One of the most entertaining and intriguing bits is finding out the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything - probably one of the most well known parts from this book.

At times it can be a little difficult to follow the journey of Arthur and has companions (Ford, Zaphod, Trillian, and Marvin), because each chapter jumps around to a different event. This is no doubt due to the fact that this series started as a radio play. Also, we meet a wide cast of characters but get very little character development - we don't really get to know these people, and as a result don't particularly care about them.

Though the books is mostly silly and humorous, it does leave you able to contemplate a few things about human existence as we know it.
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LibraryThing member ariebonn
What a fun read this is. It's not what I would normally pick up but I heard a lot of good things about it and have been meaning to read this series for a long time now so recently I got the first book. I wasn't sure what to expect from it but found myself really enjoying it. It is an odd story and a very silly one too, but what I really liked about it is that it's so funny at times.

The characters have great personalities that are so amusing especially that of Arthur. One of my favorite quotes in the book is made by Zaphod Beeblebrox though, "If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now." And then there's Marvin, he has got to be the most depressed robot that ever existed, the poor fellow just can't see any light at the end of the tunnel but it's funny how his depressing mood saved them in the end. The concept that we are all part of an experiment is quite interesting too, who knows maybe we really are after all!

Put together, the great characters, their journey through space on the Heart of Gold and their adventures make for a witty and fun book. I am definitely going to read the rest of the books in the series.
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LibraryThing member selkie_girl
It was a rather a horrible Thursday, as far as Authur Dent was concerned. His house was getting knocked down for a freeway that nobody had told him about. So he decides to lie in front of the bulldozer to prevent it from destroying his house, in the mud no less. He didn’t think the day could possibly get any worse. Then the earth exploded.

DON’T PANIC!

His best friend, Ford Prefect, just happened to be an alien in disguise who just happened to know about the earth’s destruction and just happened to hitch a ride for him and Authur on an alien ship. Then the real adventure began.

Honestly I would have never picked up this book if I hadn’t seen the movie and for that matter, I wasn’t at all impressed with the movie, in fact I didn’t get through it until after I had read the book. But this book is really really funny. Adams has a dry wit and loves to make fun of just about everything. This book isn’t something you should read in a public place or while you are drinking milk, because you’re going to laugh out loud. Adams tends to rattle a bit but you’re going to be quick to forgive. Anyone who likes sci fi or humorous books should pick this up.
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LibraryThing member CarltonC
First read over 30 years ago and a joy to read again after all these years.
It is still very funny and just has so many quotable passages in it. Yes, it has little in the way of character development - perhaps our Earthman, Arthur Dent, is slightly less bemused at the end of the book than at the beginning, but it is such unexpected fun.
Such as: The destruction of the Earth in chapter 3; The Vogon Constructor Fleet hanging "in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't"; The planet to which all biros travel after you have mislaid them; Marvin the depressed robot whose first words are "I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed".
Fantastic.
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LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
After the earth is destroyed to make way for a hyper-space bypass, Arthur Dent, the only human survivor and Ford Prefect, a writer for the most famous book, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, goin on an outspace romp, meeting strange, wonderful, scary and interesting creatures, get caught in battles,etc. It is laugh out loud funny, with great characters, action, and dialogue. Can't wait to read the second book in the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member susiesharp
I read this book back in high school which was a long time ago and I forgotten just how much I loved this book!

The irreverent humour, the fun of it all. And to make this re-read even better I listening to it on audio read by the incomparable Stephen Fry he did a Fantastic job as narrator.

There are hundreds of reviews of this book out there so I will wrap it up by saying this series has once again hooked me and now I have to read them all and fast!
5 Stars
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LibraryThing member KLmesoftly
At this point in my life, I've read this book too late. As I read, I got the distinct impression that I would have found it absolutely hilarious in my grade school/teen years, and I think I'd definitely recommend this book (and most likely the entire series, though I won't be reading it myself) as a "gateway" to other science fiction, but would I recommend it to other adults? No. It's cute, and I enjoy the originality of the concept, but the high-ish rating I'm giving this book is only due to the fact that I probably would have loved it as a child. Right now, it's done nothing for me (besides raising my pop culture knowledge score just that tiny bit).… (more)
LibraryThing member akblanchard
Arthur is an unremarkable Englishman whose odd fate it is to be rescued from Earth moments before the planet is completely annihilated. He and his friends, including his rescuer Ford Prefect, President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, and former Earth-girl Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend, have a number of strange adventures as they travel through various holes in the Universe and visit Magrathea, a once prosperous planet whose long-ago inhabitants became wealthy by creating additional planets.

It is all very clever, and such a part of popular culture that its catchphrases ("Don't Panic!", "42", "So long and thanks for all the fish") are familiar even to those who haven't read the book. I couldn't help but feel, however, that I am missing part of the joke. I am glad I read it, if only to be able to say I did.
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LibraryThing member vre2010
Douglas Adams' first book, which spawned a cult hit. This romp into the absurd has inspired many a late night and a few efforts at Vogon poetry. Natalie B.
LibraryThing member emvuu
Outrageous and hilarious. Adams brought on a new meaning to fun with aliens and other worldly beings.

Normally these types of books are not my cup of tea but reading it, I was astound at how much laughter could come out of me. The characters were quirky and fun, saying the right things at the right moments.

It is so absurd it's amazing. Props to being hit when you think !
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
This book (and radio/television series) is almost legendary now, and it's only after becoming personally acquainted with Douglas Adams' vivid imagination and absurd sense of humour that certain everyday names and cult catchphrases start to make sense. So that's where 'Babel fish' comes from! 'So long, and thanks for all the fish'. Not to mention that the 80s pop group Level 42 are said to have named their band after the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

Utterly random, but very entertaining, and Mr Adams' imagination is staggering. I love Marvin the Paranoid Android (I think we share a life philosophy), and can't wait to read the rest of the series. Better late than never!
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LibraryThing member mybookshelf
One ordinary Thursday, Arthur Dent awakens to find a yellow bulldozer outside his house, ready to knock it down. Surprisingly, this is not the worst of his troubles, as his friend Ford Prefect, who turns out to be “from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and not from Guildford as he usually claimed”, suddenly informs Arthur that the world’s about to end. So Ford and Arthur escape on a Vogon spaceship and begin their own galactic odyssey…

***

This is the funniest book I have ever read. I have read it many times, and it never fails to make me laugh out loud. I love the narrator’s way of connecting unconnected events in the storyline, and the many memorable descriptions (e.g. “the ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t”)!

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in this book, is an actual book, that this book is written about. Douglas Adams’ book contains many helpful examples of entries from the true Guide, informing the unwary Arthur, and thereby the reader, about various alien races, planets, and beverages. As such, reading this story can be a little like dipping randomly into an encyclopaedia, but in the mean time a sort of plot does unfold.

The plot of the novel is complicated by the invention known as the Infinite Improbability Drive, which powers one of the spaceships Arthur and Ford eventually hitch a ride on. Although the mathematical explanation given in the story is a bit bewildering, this Drive essentially means that whenever the characters are stuck, something extremely improbable is likely to happen to them.

For example, the extraordinary coincidence of being picked up from the total vacuum of space just before running out of their one lungful of air is not sufficient; the improbability factor is such that both Ford and Arthur recognise the two people already on board the ship, despite the fact that the Earth has indeed been destroyed to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

In addition to Ford and Arthur, the book’s other significant characters can be found on the Heart of Gold spaceship. There is Trillian, who Arthur once tried to hit on at a party; Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy and the guy who took Trillian away from Arthur at the party; Eddie, the ship’s computer; and (my personal favourite) Marvin, a robot with the brain the size of the planet and a great deal of dejection and boredom to go with it.

This book, which is an adaptation of a radio series, was not intended for a young audience. All the characters in it are adult, and many are preoccupied with recreational alcohol. However, I feel that the zany humour throughout the narration is a sufficient recommendation for any mature reader. It is, like its namesake, “a wholly remarkable book”.
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LibraryThing member dczapka
Reviews of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as far as I've seen, are almost universally praise. At the risk of offending the book's enormous fan base, mine will not be quite so glowing. But this is not to imply that the book is not a science fiction classic or that it is not worth reading -- because it most certainly is, on both accounts.

The novel's twisted plot concerns the perpetually perplexed Londoner Arthur Dent, who is taken away from his one-man protest to keep his house from being demolished to make a freeway by yet another public works project: the Earth is being destroyed to make way for a galactic freeway. He and his extraterrestrial buddy Ford Prefect then proceed to, as expected, hitchhike the galaxy while seeking answers to also sorts of questions -- not the least of which is the Ultimate Question.

The book's plot is hardly a surprise to most people, and those who are familiar at all with the story will find the book a phenomenally easy read. It's almost the precise definition of light reading, a work whose pages fly by at breakneck speed, perfectly matching the twisted machinations of plot and Adams's trademark absurd observations. The edition I borrowed from a friend is the film tie-in, featuring a lengthy interview with the screenwriter, who frequently asks how the author came up with this stuff. The observation is totally accurate, and makes for a hell of an entertaining adventure.

I suppose my criticism is that, outside of its exceptionally radical creativity, the novel is fairly mundane. The story ends with a certain degree of suddenness, propelling the reader into the sequels, but as a stand-alone novel it's a bit lacking. In addition, much of the joy of one's first reading is to be surprised by the ridiculousness that ensues -- but though I only just read it for the first time, I'm a huge dork. And when one is as entrenched in dork culture as I am, HHG references drop often, rendering the craziest plot points little more than oh-THAT's-where-that-came-from! moments sprinkled throughout. It was like hearing the setup of a great joke but knowing the punchline's coming eventually.

While I suppose that criticism is my own fault, it's still surreal to see how influential this book has been on science fiction, comedy, and pop culture at large. If you are unfamiliar with it, you should read it as soon as possible to avoid the anticipointment I experienced. And if you have read it before, then I don't need to say anything more to get you to read it again.
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LibraryThing member RoseCityReader
Having finally gotten around to reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I have a better understanding of why it is so popular and why I do not like science fiction. Stories about other planets and other kinds of creatures, with lots of whiz-bang gimmicks are just not interesting to me. This one in particular had some appealing sophomoric humor, but overall it was too cheeky for my taste.… (more)
LibraryThing member doxtator
The satire and humor never seems to end, and is still as resonant today as it ever was. It's also a great adventure story.
LibraryThing member thea7
In parts this book was extremely hilarious and had me falling off my chair in hysterics. When I began reading I hadn't prepared myself and could not stop laughing for the life of me. Of course part of the "funny" comes from the physical plot line which at times is completely and utterly bizarre and backwards, something that after a long day is thoroughly enjoyable. But at other instances, it was such a drag that it kind of killed the mood. I enjoyed the twists and turns, especially the one regarding the mice being the smartest creatures on Earth, which happened to be the best computer every made. I think that Douglas Adams has me hooked enough to give its sequence a shot. I find his style is witty and entertaining, and he is extremely creative. This is probably the funniest book I have ever read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Narilka
DON'T PANIC

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the first of five books in The Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy by Douglas Adams. Yes, you read that right: the series is a trilogy in five parts. This is the novel adaptation of the radio series of the same name. The book begins with a rather mundane start: Arthur Dent finds his home about to be demolished to make way for a bypass. Arthur's best friend, Ford Prefect, takes him to the local pub to drown his sorrows and deliver earth shattering news: The planet is about to be destroyed. Vogon's have arrived to demolish the entire planet to make way for a space bypass. Ford and Arthur hitch a ride on the Vogon's ship in the nick of time and so starts one of the quirkiest trips around the galaxy.

This was a group read on another forum and a reread for me. I last read it in 2010. I had definitely forgotten many of the details. The book has aged quite well. It has some very British humour, which I enjoyed immensely. The book is quite quotable:

"Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans."

"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

"The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?"

The book also introduces several great concepts, some of which are still used in pop culture today: The answer to everything is 42; the Improbability Drive; Babel Fish; always know where your towel is; humans are only the third most intelligent beings on the planet.

It's a fun, irreverent scifi classic. One day I need to download and listen to the original radio broadcast.
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LibraryThing member DavidDunkerton
This story by Douglas Adams has existed in several media, including, radio, television, comic book, and film. The book version was first published in 1980, but the edition I read was printed in 1995. The random humor is quite funny in places, and it is an enjoyable read if one does not think about it too seriously. It begins with the Earth being disintegrated, and only Arthur Dent escapes with his friend Ford Prefect. Ford is a hitchhiker/editor of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from a planet near Betelgeuse. The only other Earthling who was not blasted into tiny bits is Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan) who had left Earth previously with Zaphrod Beeblebrox.
This book is a satire of just about everything one could think of, and I do not think the author intended to have a point. I think certain teens would enjoy it, and others would be turned off because it does not make any sense. I wonder, though, how many people would read it and admit that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes.
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LibraryThing member Phr33k
It goes about a man named Arthur Dent, whose house gets bulldozed about 5 minutes before the Earth is destroyed. He is saved from the same fate by a friend, a hitchhiking Alien in duisguise named Ford Prefect. This triggers an extremely improbable adventure, which includes getting a lift with the President of the Imperial Galaxy who is looking for a mythical planet. In the end they find the planet and Arthur is offered an enourmous amount of money in exchange for selling his brain the mice (who were the true rulers of the world) so that they may learn the question to the answer of Life, The Universe, And Everything (42). He refuses. They are attacked by a group of Intergalactic Policemen and almost die, but they make it back to their ship and fly away. The End.… (more)
LibraryThing member stef7sa
The first volume of a "trilogy in five parts". That says it all, I think it's hilarious. My kind of humour anyway. Marvin, the depressed robot. Oh my god. This is the written version of Monty Python.
LibraryThing member MoonshineMax
Wild, zany, pure lunacy, utterly hilarious and a few truly 'wtf' moments, this novel is a rollercoaster of a ride through space and time. While being, at times, perhaps too wierd, it's captivating and has that peculiar ability to make one forget that one is reading a book when face with Adams' darkly satirical outlook upon the world

A true English institution throughout. One would assume that some of the jokes would be lost on an American reader - Ford Prefect for example - but this is not to the degeneration of the novel, instead makes it that little bit more special.

Very good
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LibraryThing member silentq
A re-read for birthday party research. :-) It's shorter than I remembered, it's a quick read and motors along through the introductions of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, the arrival of the Vogons and the adventures on the Heart of Gold. I have Ideas about how to make my own version of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. :-) I must have re-read this a *lot* when I first got it (I think it may be a first edition, from 1979) since a lot of the quotes were still tucked deep in my brain. :-) It felt a bit dated though, with references to tapes and pocket calculators.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tullius22
The blurb on the back calls it a "whimsical odyssey" and there's a lot of truth to that: Adams can tell a good joke, but there's more to his work than humor. 9/10.
LibraryThing member woodsathome
More years ago than I care to admit, my high school physics teacher took the class to the library and made us read a science fiction book for the class period. I picked up Hitchhiker's and was hooked. I read the then four book trilogy (and doesn't that just say it all) in a weekend.

Since that time I've probably re-read the book every few years. Each time is as refreshingly funny as the first time. Though I understand the humor is not everyone's cup of tea (or cup of almost but not quite entirely unlike tea).

Some humor is lost in translation. For the unintiated a Ford Prefect is the British version of the Ford Escort
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