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Group Reads > Group Read: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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message 1: by lisa, Questioner (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
Hello Everyone!

My name is Lisa and I'll be your friendly moderator for one of our November Group Reads -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I recommended this book because (a) I've never read it (b) it's on the Reader's List of the Modern Library's Top 100 Novels, but most importantly, (c) when I was in college, I had friends who would make references from this book and quote it all the time and I never got it. Finally, I would just ask "Is that from The Hitchhiker's Guide?" and we'd all have a laugh. So now I'll get all the comments about 42, and fish, and towel day.

I thought I would post new questions for discussion on Wednesdays. I also just got my copy of the book and came up with this reading schedule:

November 6th - Chapters 1-9
November 13th - Chapters 10-18
November 20th - Chapters 19-27
November 27th - Chapters 28-35

I hope this will give everyone a chance to get a copy of the book and have a few days off if you read one or both of the October Group Reads.

Sound off below about why you're looking forward to reading (or rereading) the book below. I'm looking forward to a great read!

Lisa


message 2: by Mekerei (new)

Mekerei | 204 comments Hi, I read this years ago, so looking forward to re-reading it


message 3: by lisa, Questioner (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
Mekerei wrote: "Hi, I read this years ago, so looking forward to re-reading it"

Glad to have you here!


message 4: by Tima (new)

Tima (tsunanisaurus) Mekerei wrote: "Hi, I read this years ago, so looking forward to re-reading it"

I loved this book! I probably won't re-read it because I'd have to re-read them all back to back, haha. Enjoy!

Anyone who hasn't read it before, is in for a big treat!


message 5: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1514 comments Mod
lisa wrote: "...(c) when I was in college, I had friends who would make references from this book and quote it all the time and I never got it. Finally, I would just ask "Is that from The Hitchhiker's Guide?" ..."

For me, that happened in high school. I don't know why all of a sudden a bunch of my friends were quoting from it, but they were, and I totally didn't get it.

I saw the movie that came out a few years ago and wasn't really all that impressed. I have a feeling I'm not going to be all that impressed with the book, but I'm going to try to keep an open mind. Plus, it's on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, so then I get to mark a book off my list!


message 6: by Faye (new)

Faye | 673 comments Mod
42


message 7: by Mekerei (new)

Mekerei | 204 comments Faye said "42"

I get it.


message 8: by lisa, Questioner (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
Hello! Happy Wednesday! DON'T PANIC! I said that in both of my classes today and it's my new favorite line from a book.

Sorry I've been a bit absent from the discussion thread and double apologies for being a tiny bit behind in the reading. Still, I have some questions to get us started in our discussions on the book, and feel free to add your own questions that you want to talk about. So...here we go.

1. If you’re a new reader, what are your initial responses to the book?

2. If you are re-reading the book, how is this reading different or the same as your previous reading?

3. Does anyone else think they are in an episode of Doctor Who? Really, right now I feel like Ford could be the Doctor and Arthur his companion. Particularly when Ford puts the fish into Arthur’s ear and he can suddenly understand what Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz is saying.

4. I am reading this on my Kindle. Did anyone else chuckle when Ford tells Arthur that the Hitchhiker’s Guide is a kind of electronic book? Also, what do we think so far of the technology that appears in the book so far?

5. What do you think of Ford and Arthur so far?

6. It’s pretty typical for alien invasion stories to suggest that Earth tech and science is lagging way whatever alien species exist in the universe. Why do you think sci-fi/fantasy makes this claim time and time again?

7. Here’s a question I would probably ask my literature students: The book begins with Arthur fighting the demolition of his house and then we get that paralleled with the demolition of the Earth by the Vogons, both in order to build new superhighways. What point is Adams trying to make with this?

8. What have you found to be the most interesting thing about the book so far?

Let's discuss!


message 9: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1514 comments Mod
Okay, I'll start (I feel like I'm back in school, hesitatingly raising my hand, hoping I don't sound stupid)...

1. This is the first time I've read this book. As I mentioned before, I saw the movie, but this is my first experience with the words, and with Douglas Adams. So far, it's .... quirky. I think if I weren't reading it for the group read and for the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, I might have stopped reading it. Not that it's bad or that I dislike it, but I'm just not sure I'd want to continue with it when there are so many other books to read. And like with most other books that I've debated stopping, I probably would have hemmed and hawed so much that I would have ended up finishing it anyway. But since I *am* going to read the whole thing, it's likable. I definitely don't hate reading it. It's quirky.

4. I, too, giggled when the "electronic book" was brought up. Ooh, an *electronic* book. How weird! That will never happen! When the book first came out, were people completely baffled by that idea? And did they hear dramatic music in their heads when they read that and thought about the possibility?

As for the rest of the technology through chapter 9, *shrug* it seems to me like typical sci-fi stuff (As I say below, I'm not a huge sci-fi reader, so maybe it's completely out of the ordinary for sci-fi; I don't know). But I do love the idea of the Babel Fish. How awesome! Except for the feeling of a fish wriggling in your ear canal, it's a pretty genius idea.

5. I like Ford and Arthur so far. Ford is quirky (well, of course he is: he's from another planet!) and a likable know-it-all (or maybe he just seems like a know-it-all because he knows more than we silly humans do); Arthur (so far) is ... well... kind of whiny, but I like him anyway.

6. I've been thinking about question #6 for a few days now, and I don't really have an answer. My best guess (especially because I'm not generally a sci-fi fanatic) is that it's just ... weird and cool and mind-boggling to think that there's something out there that knows more than we do. As humans, we tend to be pretty full of ourselves and think we know everything -- but what if we *don't*? What if we're the joke of the universe? What if there are numerous types of life-forms out there (contrary to what many human scientists say) and they're all WAY smarter than we are? It's kind of a crazy thought that not only might there be others out there, but that they'd be smarter than us, especially considering our experts think they don't even exist. So we'd go from "No way is there anything else out there" to "Oh my God, there are a ton of them, and they're WAY MORE advanced than we are. Oops, our bad."

Plus, from the scary sci-fi/fantasy perspective, it heightens the tension and scariness of the story. The War of the Worlds, for example, was supposed to be a scary story about alien invasion. Yeah, it would be scary if aliens came down, but when you add to that that they have technology we don't have and don't know how to combat, I'd think that would make the story even scarier. We're not just being invaded, but we can't even defend ourselves. I think not-scary stories, then, like The Hitchhiker's Guide, probably just take that theme and run with it, since it's such a well-established theme by now.

7. Uhh... progress is everywhere, and it's destructive and sucks, no matter where you are? :)


message 10: by Leanne (new)

Leanne (belly-dancingbookworm) I'm now on page 62 of this (i started it this morning) and I have to say so far I am loving it! I've never read this before, I'm reading my boyfriend's old battered paperback, but if I enjoy this one I will read the others as I have them all on my Kindle :)

So far I am loving Adams's style of writing, which if I'm honest was a pleasant surprise for me! I have already laughed out loud on a number of occasions!


message 11: by Anja (new)

Anja | 5 comments I have read it three months ago, found it hilarious, love people who don't think in stereotypes and put me of balance (only in literature)


message 12: by lisa, Questioner (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
Hi Tiffany!

Great thoughts! I think I agree with you that for me, the book got off to a slow start. I'm through Chapter 17 now and it is getting better, but I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

I also was thinking of The War of the World (that is such a fantastic book!). I also love the idea of Babel Fish. That made me laugh out loud. In fact, as I was reading last there were several things that made me laugh out loud, and for me that's always a good sign.

Thanks for being the first to start!


message 13: by lisa, Questioner (last edited Nov 15, 2012 08:22PM) (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
Hello!

Sounds like everyone has had some laugh out loud moments with the book so far. I also think the book is kinda quirky and what I love most about Adams' writing style are the entries from the Guide itself. The talking computer on the Heart of Gold ship is also quite funny.

I also asked about the technology. One thing that really interested me was when they talked about Zaphod operating the radio and him being able to operate it by touch and then by sweeping his hand over and I had to ask when this book was written because hello, that's our technology now!

So what's there to talk about with this next set of chapters? What does everyone think of Trillian? And Zaphod? I'm hoping that Trillian is going to be a more complex character and not simply the obligatory female brainy character?

I've also been interested by the budding bromance between Ford and Arthur. Or maybe I'm thinking that's what it will turn into? Just two buddies hitching across the galaxy together?

Another question I have, and this isn't necessarily a complaint yet but I was thinking about it last night, but does anyone else feel like they are waiting for the plot to get started? Right now I still feel like I'm just reading a series of hitchhiking adventures. Granted, I'm entertained and amused and I think there are some really interesting characters (I loved when the Vogon Captain started reading his poetry) but I kind of feel like I'm waiting to see where it is all going? Maybe now that the planet has been found, this will happen?

Anyway -- I'd love to read everyone's thoughts. I'll try to be a bit more present for the next couple of weeks (thanksgiving break starts tomorrow and the semester is nearly over!).


message 14: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1514 comments Mod
I also like the computer on the Heart of Gold: it makes me giggle. I remember that I really liked Marvin in the movie, too, but I'm more-or-less indifferent to him/it now (But I did have an "Ah-ha!" moment when I read the words "paranoid android." I'm not a Radiohead fan, but I do at least know the song title, and now I know where it came from [or maybe I already knew that from the movie but forgot].). I think maybe in the movie I was enchanted by how cute Marvin was and the voice (which I just found out/was reminded was Alan Rickman).

Like lisa, I also took notice when the book mentioned being able to touch and swipe, and I also thought "Just like now!" but then thought maybe I was finding (or trying to find) *too* many parallels between 1979 science fiction and 2012 reality. But now that someone else has mentioned it, I don't feel as silly for thinking it.

As for the characters: I like Trillian, but I do wish the character were developed more. She seems intelligent, but we don't get to hear from her too much. Zaphod seems like your typical show-off thinks-he-knows-it-all. I do like the Ford/Arthur relationship. Yes, they seem like they have a bromance, especially early in the book, before Earth is destroyed.

And I'm still not all that into the book, so like lisa, I feel like I'm waiting for it to start. I'm keeping right on track with our reading schedule, which puts me well over halfway through, yet it still feels to me like we're in the opening setup. And as indifferent as I was to the movie, I actually like it more than I like the book. I wouldn't say the book is bad, just that I'm not enjoying it as much as some people obviously do. But at least now I know.


message 15: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1514 comments Mod
I also agree that there are some quirky, made-me-laugh moments. I'm noticing that Adams has a rye, dry, witty sort of humor, aside from just the idea of a depressed robot. Two instances of a subtle humor that made me chuckle to myself today: 1) "Arthur slapped his arms about himself to try and get his circulation a little more enthusiastic about its job." (Come on, blood! Rah! Pump, pump, pump! You can do it!) 2) In chapter 22, Marvin's presence is requested, so he makes a big show of coming forward as if it were a physical difficulty for him, and then once he isn't wanted after all, "made an equally big show of turning round laboriously and trudging off down into the crater again muttering sour nothings to himself." (Poor Marvin. Poor depressed little robot.)

These aren't big laugh out loud moments for me, but they're the types of things that make me chuckle on the inside. The events and characters that Adams has are obviously quirky, but even the way Adams approaches words and descriptions are quirky.


message 16: by lisa, Questioner (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
I agree with Tiffany in terms of the book not being bad, but also that I'm just not all that into it. I was telling some friends this weekend that we were reading this book, and one of my friends said that you really have to read the entire series to get everything, and so maybe that's why we are well over halfway through and it still feels like we're still in the setup phase?

I was also reminded that Douglas Adams has written for Doctor Who before, so maybe that's why I have a sense of similarity between the show and the book.


message 17: by lisa, Questioner (last edited Nov 21, 2012 10:57AM) (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
It's Wednesday! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday if you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow! If you're like me and you're cooking the meal, remember, don't panic! If this is your first reading of the novel and you haven't yet gotten through Chapter 27, you might want to look away now...

So. Rats and Dolphins are more intelligent than humans! Rats are experimenting on humans and not the other way around! And the Dolphins were thanking us for the fish! I finally get that now!

And it's the rats that are searching for the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Ha-ha. I have to admit. I smiled several times while reading these chapters because I'm finally getting it. The Answer is 42!

Anyway, has anyone changed their minds on the book since we first started it? Is it getting better or are you still feeling lukewarm about it? I do think that there is finally a direction in which the book is going, so that's an improvement.

Another thing that has been on my mind while reading this book: I tend to read a lot from the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but I think because of that, and because of all that I've heard about this book, I came in with different (and higher) expectations for this book, so maybe it was inevitable that I would be disappointed? I haven't seen the film so I don't have any comparisons to make on that level, but I just... I really wanted to love this book, and I'm sad that I'm not loving this book. What does everyone else think, especially if this is your first reading of the book?

I'm also wondering if anyone finds themselves identifying with Arthur? I mean, I think as the Earthman, readers are intended to identify with Arthur, so do you identify with him? Or do you identify more with one of the other characters? Or do you not identify with any of the characters?

I am looking forward to finishing the book and seeing how it all ends. Will Arthur end up back on the New Earth and in London? Or will he start hitching across the galaxy? Guess I'll find out soon!


message 18: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1514 comments Mod
lisa wrote: "...one of my friends said that you really have to read the entire series to get everything, and so maybe that's why we are well over halfway through and it still feels like we're still in the setup phase?"

Ah, that could be. That's unfortunate, then, and sort of a circle: we might not like this book much until we read the next books, but would we want to read the next books if we don't like this book much?

Myself, I probably won't bother reading the other ones. What about you, lisa? Is it worth it?


message 19: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1514 comments Mod
lisa wrote: "It's Wednesday! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday if you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow!"

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who is celebrating! Eat lots, be merry, and try to think of at least one thing to be truly thankful for (I know sometimes I get wrapped up in trivial things and sometimes forget that there *are* things to be thankful for).

Now, on to the book:
"So. Rats and Dolphins are more intelligent than humans!"
I thought the part about the dolphins and rats being smarter than humans was really funny. I've always suspected they were smarter than we are :) I especially liked that the dolphins' warnings about Earth being blown up were misinterpreted as Sea World-type tricks. That was definitely a laugh-out-loud moment for me.

"I'm also wondering if anyone finds themselves identifying with Arthur?"
I do identify with Arthur. I mean, how can you not? He's the last human (we assume), and he's 1. just found out there are other lifeforms out there; 2. just found out his home planet has been blown up; 3. on a weird spaceship with weird characters; 4. stuck on that weird spaceship with weird characters; 5. completely confused! Yeah, I think he's handling it about as well as I would; I totally feel for him. His confusion makes for funny moments, especially because he's spluttering just like I would if I were in his situation.

"Anyway, has anyone changed their minds on the book since we first started it? Is it getting better or are you still feeling lukewarm about it?"
I'm still lukewarm on the book, but I also feel like maybe we're finally getting somewhere (now that there are only a few chapters left). I think, like you, I'd heard so much about HOW AMAZING the book is that I came in with really high expectations, and it's just not meeting those expectations for me. The movie was just "meh" for me, but I tried to hold out hope that maybe the book would sit better with me. Unfortunately, it hasn't. Part of me is looking forward to finishing the book to see how it ends, but part of me is looking forward to finishing the book just to be done with it. :/

Okay, it's officially Thanksgiving day -- only a few more hours (Okay, really, more like 18 hours, but it's finally today) until I can dig in to some pumpkin pie! Yum!


message 20: by lisa, Questioner (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
I do identify with Arthur. I also wonder if I would identify with him more if the whole story were told from his point of view.


message 21: by lisa, Questioner (new)

lisa (cravescoffee32) | 286 comments Mod
Okay, so it's Wednesday. Has everyone finished the novel?

What are your final thoughts on the book?

My final thoughts are that I'm disappointed, but if it really is the case that I have to really read the entire series in order to really appreciate the books, then okay and maybe I just need to pick up the next one in the series (and I am all about series fiction, so...).


message 22: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1514 comments Mod
I'm also still disappointed in the book. As the ending got closer, I really started to feel like your friend might have been right in saying that you have to read the rest of the series. I kind of kept feeling like I was saying "And...?" as I was reading. Me, though, I'm not going to read the rest. I spent my time reading this one, and I don't see it being worth the time reading the next one(s) in *hopes* of retroactively feeling like I didn't waste my time reading this one. Ah, well. To each her own.


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