Morgan's Reviews > The Hitchhiker's Trilogy

The Hitchhiker's Trilogy by Douglas Adams
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's review
Feb 21, 10

bookshelves: reread, scifi, favorites, time-travel, robots
Recommended to Morgan by: Mom, Dad
Read in October, 2009, read count: 3

After having read it several times (So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless one less time than the others), you really do start to pick up on various little things between each book.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is probably by far the best known, if only for the fact that not only was it a radio play, then a BBC special, but then also it's bizarrely adapted 2005 feature film release (which I'm partially okay with, because Douglas Adams cowrote the script, and because Alan Rickman voices Marvin). We all know and love it for its zany screwballery, subtly scathing satire (fucking alliteration), and half a dozen token terms (42, knowing where your towel is, the Vogons, the Babel fish, not entirely unlike, the Infinite Improbability Drive, Slartibartfast, Deep Thought, and so on and so forth).

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe follows in much the same manner, half continuation and half entirely different story line. For some reason, I can never remember that the Frogstar attack on the Guide offices comprises the first half of the book, which is particularly odd because I love the tank shooting out the floor and yelling "Hell's bells!" on its way down; I always think it's in the third book, which makes no sense at all. Actually, it does make a sort of sense, because I grew up watching the BBC serial before my parents decided it was time to enlighten me as to the actual book series, and the Frogstar attack and Zarniwoop are not in the BBC serial. (My favorite part of the serial went from the beginning up until right before they landed on Magrathea, and pretty much any of the bits where the Guide spoke. I wasn't entirely a fan of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe bit, and discovering that the serial ended before the end of the second book threw me for a loop.) But for the most part, the first and second book follow with the same comic vein, and everything seems to make a sort of sense.

Life, the Universe, and Everything is, for me at any rate, a bit of a turning point. It's still uproariously funny as the first two (Krikkit Wars! ha!), but the feel is just that side of different. To me, it sits between the rampant ridiculosity of the first two books, and the dark humor of the last two. It's also the point at which things get a little bit more "mucky," as in, our protagonists are now doing more mucking about in time and space than we saw before (picking up from where Restaurant left off, but starting on a course that is a bit more . . . involved, we'll say). It's also the end of Zaphod's quest, and the last time the character actually shows up, and he doesn't really do much. In a way, I guess, Zaphod lends a sort of levity to the proceedings because he is so bouncy and vacant, and his position of power as captain (and ex-president) of the Heart of Gold kind of give him that edge as the person you tend to allow to lead even if you don't think it's really that good of an idea. Arthur is the ultimate protagonist, yes, because he is the everyman and a reflection of humanity, but he's not the person leading the expedition. He's the person stuff keeps happening to on a cosmological level.

(Hmmm, I could've been an English major and written my thesis on this. Oh well.)

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish marks, for me at least, the beginning of the dark humor. Zaphod and Trillian are only mentioned a few times, Ford is stuck in a bizarre space ship with tools whizzing through the corridors (to be honest, I still don't get that part), and Arthur is now in love with a woman named Fenchurch. It is also, of course, the death of Marvin. I mean, who doesn't love Marvin? He's so depressed.

And then on to Mostly Harmless. When I first read the entirety of the trilogy, having already gone through the first three before being stopped in the early chapters of the fourth (I think that's when I moved . . . maybe), I felt like there was something off about Mostly Harmless. I chalked it up to the fact that I hadn't read it before, whereas the other books I'd had previous experience in, and settled on knowing the least about it. Rereading it, however, proves that it actually wasn't me that was off, it's that the book is actually decidedly different from the others (Adams, himself, noted that the last two books where different, and described Mostly Harmless as "bleak"). First of all, a lot of the zany craziness has dropped away, appearing mostly in the Ford Prefect storyline. Trillian is an entirely different character than her previous incarnations: she's presented as rather heartless and self-centered, whereas before she was sort of quiet and calm and hyper-intelligent. Also, the traveling that's done in Mostly Harmless is caught up in parallel universes, creating schisms upon schisms in the cosmological makeup that gives quite a different feel than simply an Infinite Improbability Drive. Perhaps it's too, I dunno, heavy? Too heavy in the sense that it's more "mundane," more of a normal thing than a ludicrous Infinite Improbability Drive, which is easier to grasp because it's completely beyond our means to grasp it. Parallel universes, though also completely beyond our scope of comprehension, are more well-known, and not just the creation of a comical genius.

Is this making any sense?

On another note (and another thing!), there are some funny coincidences I've recently noticed between the Guide and new technology. For instance, the Amazon Kindle or iTouch/iPhone . . . wouldn't they make a weird sort of sense with the words "Don't Panic" written on them?


Also, Wikipedia. Could this possibly be the current form of the Guide? It can be, for the most part, "wildly inaccurate" and it has "supplanted" the Encyclopedia Brittanica as "the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom". It's also cheaper, because you don't have to buy it. Hmmm, makes you wonder.

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09/27/2009 page 206
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