The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book

Although Dune was the first sci-fi novel I read, I would not recommend it to someone looking to read his or her first science fiction book. Instead, I would steer them straight to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The book follows Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect as they narrowly escape the destruction of the Earth by bureaucratic aliens and their subsequent adventures trekking across the universe. Throughout the book we see how life in the universe is not that different from our life on Earth (before it was destroyed), just weirder.

What hooked me into the book originally is how it told a science fiction story without an overly complicated plot or without throwing a bunch of new aliens or jargon at you. I also really enjoyed Adams’ writing, which does a great job of being engaging while blending in a good dose of British humor (based more on the turn of a phrase than slapstick). This leads to some great quotable moments that stay with you long after you finish the book. My favorite is when Ford tries to explain to Arthur the effects of going through hyperspace:

Ford: “It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.”

Arthur: “What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?”

Ford: “You ask a glass of water.”

Readers will also enjoy the other characters in the book such as Marvin, the paranoid/depressed android, Zaphod, the President of the Galaxy, and Trillian, Zaphod’s companion who shares a common link with Arthur. Then there’s the Guide itself, which is part Encyclopedia Britannica, Fodors guidebook, Wikipedia, and has “Don’t Panic!” printed on the cover in friendly letters. The Guide’s entries are entertaining and act as narrator at certain times during the book.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is very accessible to most readers, even if they are not fans of science fiction. It’s age appropriate for anyone age 14 or older (younger readers may have a hard time getting the humor or following the storyline). There is an excellent unabridged audiobook version available from Audible, narrated by British actor Stephen Fry (who you may recognize as Dr. Wyatt from Bones or the narrator’s voice from Little Big Planet). If you do get the audiobook, be careful you are not getting the dramatized (think radio theater) version, which has a slightly different plot line than the book, or the original abridged version (abridged audiobooks are a disgrace to the audiobook world, at least in my opinion). A movie version of the book was released in 2005, and while the plot does stray from the novel, it is a fun movie and captures the spirit of book very well.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars | Release Date: First published in 1979 | Pages: 216 | Buy on Amazon

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