Douglas Adams

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy

If you like this series, or want to find out more about it, read below, or alternatively, try to find a copy of Don't Panic: The Official Guide to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Neil Gaiman, which is more of a biography, but a fascinating one, about Douglas Adams and his body of work (whenever he managed to finish something in time to be published or performed).

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

This is the first of five books in the "increasingly inaccurately named" The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adams. It begins the tale of the earthman Arthur Dent as he escapes the destruction of Earth by hitching a ride on a spaceship, aided by his friend Ford Prefect, who is really an alien that has been stranded on Earth for 15 years. Unfortunately, the spaceship belongs to a dastardly bunch of evil Vogons whose ultimate punishment is to read their extremely awful poetry to their victims. How do Arthur and Ford escape their clutches alive? You'll have to read and find out for yourself!

This is one of the group of books which I gravitate to when I am in need of a laugh. The humour is not for everyone and it helps if you are a fiction of sci-fi or fantasy to begin with. But otherwise, it is a hilarious book full of twists and turns and very unexpected events.

Ford: You better prepare for the jump into hyperspace. It's unpleasantly like being drunk.
Arthur: What's so unpleasant about being drunk?
Ford: You ask a glass of water.

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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams

The second book in the "increasingly inaccurately named" The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adams. It continues the story of Arthur Dent and his friends from The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Having escaped from the two surviving members of the smartest species of the planet formerly known as Earth at the factory where Earth Mark II is being planned, Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian are feeling rather hungry. But they have to face many dangers and adventures (what, again?) before they can make it to Milliways, the restaurant at the end of the universe.

Expanding on the characters he made famous in the first book, this has more twists and turns and evil Vogons for us to read about.

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Life, the Universe and Everything - Douglas Adams

The third book of five in the "increasingly inaccurately named" The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Ford and Arthur, last seen in prehistoric earth with two groups of possible ancestors for the human race, have parted ways since then. Arthur, tired of being stuck in a cave in what will become Islington, decides to go mad one day. Right on cue, Ford shows up again, and another lot of adventures begin, involving a paisley couch, a cricket ground at Lords and a new group of dastardly evil space travellers. It is up to Ford and Arthur to save the universe from destruction as they battle it out to find some very important objects...which keep passing them by without them knowing. Along the way, they meet up with Slartibartfast from the first book, and learn a new branch of maths called Bistromatics.

None of the previous sentences may have made any sense, but read the book anyway! It may help to read the first two books beforehand though, but it's not compulsory. I might add at this point that I started the series with this book, and it didn't dampen my enthusiasm for it, though it did make me rather confused for a while.

Ford: I told you! Eddies in the space-time continuum!
Arthur: Ah, and this is his couch?

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So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish - Douglas Adams

The fourth, and originally the last but now only the penultimate, book of the "increasingly inaccurately named" The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. In a strange twist, Arthur has returned from his frantic space hopping to Earth, which is still intact, to his great surprise, considering that he originally left it just before it was supposedly destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway. Nevertheless, he is back, and to top it all off, he's found love. But not in a soppy way, don't let it put you off. Arthur finds his dream girl, Fenchurch, who was conceived in the ticket queue at a train station and has been in an asylum for the past half year or so, because she is the only person on Earth, other than Arthur, who knows that something did happen to Earth some time back (ie. it was destroyed) and the fact she is still living on it is secondary. To make sense of all this, Arthur and Fenchurch visit the only person who can shed light on this mystery, a man named Wonko the Sane (but he sees angels who wear green Dr Scholl sandals and ride scooters). He urges them to go see God's final message to his creation, the location of which was revealed to Arthur in Life, the Universe and Everything. And there's a cameo from Marvin the Paranoid Android near the end, as well as a rather rambly ending from the author.

This was supposed to be the last book in the series, and in some ways you can see how Adams originally intended to end it. The book focuses on Arthur; Ford is barely in this, and Zaphod and Trillian are only mentioned in passing. Some fans didn't like this book as it does depart from the previous three a bit, but then the final book, Mostly Harmless, came out, and then they all changed their mind and said Adams should have left it at this book.

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Mostly Harmless - Douglas Adams

Finally, the last book of the "increasingly inaccurately named" The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, the one that actually has an ending. However, this ending is not universally liked. It strangely dumps Fenchurch from the narrative with a single sentence, reducing poor Arthur back to his sorry wet normal self (maybe people wanted it that way?), and Arthur is once again trying to get back to Earth. The most amusing bits involve Ford, Arthur and some Perfectly Normal Beasts. And there's a messy subplot involving Trillian, and the woman who was Trillian on earth.

By the way, I am one of those people who believe that the series should have ended with the previous book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

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Other Books

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams

Richard is an up and coming programmer. He's written a piece of software that has sold fantastically, and his employer, Gordon Way, is thrilled to bits and eager for Richard to write another one. However, this becomes one of Richard's problems as he is stuck for ideas; the other problems are 1) his sofa is stuck in the stairwell of his house and his calculations say this is impossible, 2) there is an electric monk who believes, and has been turned loose on London, 3) he thinks he has just run over the ghost of Gordon and 4) Svlad Cjelli is about to reenter his life - or Dirk Gently, holistic detective, as he is now known. All these elements come together in a very funny book about time travel, classical music, computers, and the danger of belief without thought.

This book is offbeat, but as it is based on Earth, it is more accessible to newbies of Adams' writing and thus comes highly recommended. It is funny, unobtrusively literate (unless you dislike Samuel Coleridge, Bach and cello music - Adams seems to have something for cellos, Fenchurch in So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish played the cello as well) and a well written story of reasonable pace and intricate plotting. However, I do NOT recommend the sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Somehow, Adams lost every element that made the first Dirk Gently book funny and interesting in writing this sequel. Avoid.

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The Author

Douglas Adams has also written several other novels including the sequel to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. It is mentioned in one of the 'about the author' blurbs in his books that he was writing another book in this series, but owing to the fact that Adams was notoriously known for ignoring even the most penultimate of deadlines, one should not hold their breath. Of course, the fact that he died in May 2001, supposedly still writing a book that his publishers had been waiting 12 years for, does make the previous statement slightly on the bad taste side. He was 49 when he died of a heart attack in a gym, which just proves my point that exercise is indeed bad for one's health. It has been noted by many people that he had possibly passed his own deadline literally (haha - sorry) as he was 7 years past the number he made infamously immortal - 42.

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