Enough cannot be said about this book! This has to be, hands down, one of my favourites ever!
The story begins one murky, thursday afternoon when Arthur Dent finds out that his house is being demolished to make way for a new bypass. As he is lying down in the mud in front of the bulldozers (protesting that he was not made aware of this until yesterday when he went down to the planning office, where the plans were on display “in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard”), his friend Ford Prefect drops by and tells him that he (Ford) is not exactly from this planet and warns Arthur that the world will be ending soon and he’d be wise to leave with Ford right away. Oh, and also bring his towel with him.
Arthur eventually finds out that Ford comes from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese and had come down to Earth about fifteen years ago to do some research about the planet for the most comphrehensive encyclopedia in the galaxy – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which has the friendly words “Don’t Panic!” in bold on the cover) and got stuck here. He and Arthur then hitch a lift on a Vogon spaceship (seconds before the Vogons obliterate Earth) where they are promptly discovered and treated to a reading of Vogon poetry (the third worst kind of poetry in the universe, which, at one point, literally caused internal hemorrhaging in four people and the fifth survived by gnawing one of his own legs off).
Elsewhere in the universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed President of the Galaxy and Ford’s semi-cousin, steals the “Heart of Gold”, a ship powered by an infinite improbabilty drive, along with his friend Trillian and a clinically-depressed robot named Marvin (the Paranoid Android) and goes in search of the legendary planet Magrathea, which makes customised planets for people with a whole lot of money. On their way they pick up Arthur and Ford (after they’ve been kicked out of the Vogon ship) and eventually land on Magrathea where they run into a man named Slartiblartfast, who is an expert on creating coastlines when it comes to designing planets.
From him, they learn a shocking secret about the planet Earth and also, surprisingly, mice. A sudden turn of events sees Arthur (and the others) on the run, while trying to avoid his brain being bought and dissected by certain beings intent on finding out the ultimate answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything”.
Do they escape? Does Arthur get to keep his brain? What secrets are Zaphod’s two heads hiding? Why is Marvin so depressed? What is the answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything”? Wait, what is the question to “Life, the Universe and Everything”? How ever do the mice fit into all of this?
The entire book is a laugh riot from start to finish. For a story that seems to have been made up as it went along, Adams has nailed it! This is one book that keeps you bursting out in laughter randomly, long after you are done reading it. This is the first in a series. Following this are – “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, “Life, the Universe and Everything”, “So Long And Thanks for All the Fish” and “Mostly Harmless” (The first three in the series are very good but the last two just didn’t cut it for me)
Marvin the robot (quite possibly my favourite character in the entire series) is depressing to the point of being funny. Here are some of his quips –
Marvin: “I am at a rough estimate thirty billion times more intelligent than you. Let me give you an example. Think of a number, any number.”
Zem: “Er, five.”
Marvin: “Wrong. You see?”
“My capacity for happiness,” Marvin added, “you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first”
“I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.”
“I got very bored and depressed, so I went and plugged myself in to the ship’s external computer feed. I talked to the computer at great length and explained my view of the Universe to it,” said Marvin.
“And what happened?” pressed Ford.
“It committed suicide,” said Marvin
“Life,” said Marvin dolefully, “loathe it or ignore it, you can’t like it.”
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy – Must have, must read. Don’t read it at you own peril!