Read: 17 June, 2008
The edition I have has The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, and So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish all bundled up into one book, so I just read that straight through and I’ll be reviewing all four together.
Firstly, I loved Hitchhiker’s. It was by far the best of the four. It was the most solid in the sense that I could just relax and go with the story without ever having to put the book down and think “okay, now how does that make sense?” I know it seems strange when reading Douglas Adams, but Hitchhiker’s had good internal logic or verisimilitude, something the other three novels didn’t quite achieve to the same degree. I also found this first novel to be the most densely packed with humour.
I found The Restaurant at the End of the Universe to be a little dull, honestly. There were good moments, but the whole bit that followed Zaphod as the main character just didn’t work for me. I love Zaphod, he’s a great character, but most of his appeal comes from how he appears to others. Taken alone, he lost much of his individuality because we saw him having to do non-Zaphody things out of necessity. This was made all the worse because I had an image of who Zaphod was that the real Zaphod, with the story seen from his perspective, couldn’t live up to. I found him dull and tiresome.
Life, the Universe and Everything and So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish were better, but didn’t have that “embarass myself by laughing out loud in public” quality that Hitchhiker’s had. Taken separately from the first novel, I liked them quite a bit (loved the ending, by the way). I just didn’t feel that they measured up to the first novel.
I think that most of what put me off the three novels after Hitchhiker’s is that they spent a lot of their time trying to explain or expand upon the jokes made in the first novel. These were jokes that had worked beautifully on their own. It felt like, when at a party, you tell a joke and some guy comes along while everyone else is laughing and tries to explain the punchline. He might do it in a funny way, but it’s still a little annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I did like all four novels. My complaints are more about saying how wonderful Hitchhiker’s was, rather than saying that the other three weren’t.
Arthur Dent was by far my favourite character. He was just fabulous. I found Trillian well handled – she’s not a major part of the story and she isn’t described in any great detail, but what is said aboput her hints at a character with a lot of depth. Zaphod was great, but, as I said earlier, works best when seen through others as an extravagant character rather than as an actual human with his own mundane life. I felt that Ford Prefect was rather unmemorable. All the details the narrator tells us about him were interesting and funny, I just didn’t find that he jumped off the pages when he spoke or acted in the same way that the other characters did. And why does everyone call him Ford when that’s just the name he used while on earth? That bugged be a bit! Marvin was good. He was funny and, thankfully, wasn’t around enough to get annoying.
All in all, a good read that I would highly recommend.
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