Science Fiction, more commonly known as Sci-Fi, is one of the most popular fiction genres in the world today; stories such as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Star Trek’, ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Doctor Who’ being household names. The huge content of this literary genus gives it a wide, and vague definition, ranging from space travel to zombies; from time jumps to creating life. However, one text which manages to sum up all the ridiculous, hilarious and genius that the genre of science fiction has to offer is ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. The first of a five-book trilogy, “THHGTG”, published in 1979, is undoubtedly one of the most popular science fiction novels in existence, and with good reason! Its humour, well-written characters, and interesting concepts, “THHGTG” is certainly worth a read.
Our story begins on earth, with fellow human being Arthur Dent. Arthur, upon waking up, realises his house is about to be knocked down; but that’s frankly the least of his problems. After spending sometime lying in front of the bulldozers outside his house, Arthur is convinced by his friend Ford Prefect, to take a trip to the pub, where he is told that the world is going to end. Ford, as it turns out, isn’t as human as he appears to be. Luckily for the both of them, he has a very special book with him, entitled ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. This, similar to our earth guidebooks, offers the secrets of the wonders of the universe, including a pan-galactic gargle blaster; an alcoholic beverage which leaves the drinker requiring several days of rehabilitation. With ‘The Guide’ by their side, and nothing left to loose, Ford and Arthur, joined by ex-president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his human companion Trillian (Trisha McMillan), roam the universe, in search of adventure.
Interestingly, ‘THHGTG’ did not begin life as a book. Rather, as a radio series by Adams, broadcast in 1978 and radio four. The first season, dramatically entitled ‘The Primary Phase’, essentially follows the same plot as the book, although the different format of delivery (i.e. sound vs written words), likely makes it a totally different experience. It still seems, however, that Adams is able to present humour equally well in both scenarios. The pure ridiculousness of science fiction aids Adam’s jokes well; for example, the notion that the President of the Galaxy can get a third arm fitted, just because he wants to- is equal parts humorous, and sci-fi. The improbability drive; a piece of technology which causes highly unlikely things to occur, like a missile turning into a sperm whale, is again, hilarious, and based around futuristic-technology.
“THHGTG” was the novel which introduced me to science fiction. Aged twelve, I fell in love with not only Adams’ writing, but the notion of the incredibly wide array of possibilities that the universe held. The book is neither dystopian, nor utopian, sub-sets of the sci-fi genre, but rather offers a more balanced outlook. That is to say, that great danger, ugliness and fear exists in, and beyond our world. But so does great beauty, great excitement, and above all, great hope.