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The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

posted Sep 4, 2017, 9:04 AM by Viktor Zólyomi   [ updated Sep 4, 2017, 9:04 AM ]
`Don't Panic.' These are the words printed in large friendly letters on the front cover of the titular Guide in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Written by Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy started out as a radio play until he was persuaded to write a novel, and then a trilogy, and then what we know today as the `increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker trilogy' spanning five books. (Six of you count the one written by Eoin Colfer after Adams' passing.)

The first novel explores the idea of the Earth being in the way of an interstellar highway and being subject to demolition by an alien constructor fleet. As horrific as that might sound, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is in fact a comedy. Sure, the Earth gets blown up by Chapter 3, but it gets blown up because it's in the way of an interstellar bypass, and the demolition crew clearly points out that the citizens of Earth had no business to complain about the destruction of their planet as all plans had been public for fifty years and available for consultation just a few shy lightyears away, and anyone too lazy to bother going to the complaints office didn't deserve to have a planet anyway.

That, right there, is the kind of hilarious, absurd nonsense that permeates the entire novel. Largely told from the point of view of Earth's seemingly sole survivor Arthur Dent, who is just as baffled by everything that goes on around him as the reader, the novel takes us on a wild ride across the Galaxy with a plethora of assorted absurd characters, such as the blithering idiot President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who is introduced to the reader when he steals a prototype spaceship, or Marvin, the depressed robot, a.k.a. the `Paranoid Android,' who seems to be the butt of an endless string of vile jokes throughout the series.

The nonsense doesn't stop with the premise and the characters, either. The novel takes the idea that the towel is the most important thing you should take with you when you travel and turns it into a spectacular running gag. Then there's the number 42, which, if anything, you must have heard of as the ultimate answer to the ultimate question even if you've never read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. And of course there's the titular Guide itself, an e-book from before the rise of e-books filled with endless useful and useless trivia about the various places and people in the galaxy, which has the words `Don't panic!' written on the front for good reason. And the list could go on, but no list can do the novel justice. Best to just go read the book and enjoy the insanity: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is an endlessly amusing absurd comedy that deserves a place on every bookshelf.

The absurdity and cruel humor of the Hitchhiker's Guide novels served as fantastic inspiration for the world of Con City. Sure, there are no depressed robots or idiotic galactic presidents in Con City, but we have a cyborg on her way to split personality disorder, a moron who tries to fake a solar eclipse with a hot air balloon over a similarly fake volcano, a bullfighting promotion where the bull always wins, a space agency that wants to colonize the Sun, and an endless supply of idiots such as a would-be criminal who thinks it's a great idea to reveal the identity of your masked associate to the press in the name of marketing. And also, we have the Hitchhiker's Guide To Con City, which reveals that the rules of hitchhiking in Con County are so important that law prohibits them from ever being written down. Much of such nonsense would never have come to be had the Vogon constructor fleet not built that interstellar bypass through the third planet of a certain solar system.