08 August 2010

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Dent is having an exceptionally crappy day. First, his house is going to be bulldozed to make way for a new highway and his impromptu protest is having mixed results. Then, his quirky friend Ford pulls him away to the pub because the unemployed actor has something of great importance to tell Arthur. And, then, Ford tells him that the world is going to end in a matter of minutes--undercover aliens like Ford sort of get a hands up on these kinds of announcements. And then Arthur finds himself on a bizarre outer space adventure with Ford, a two-headed politician named Zaphod, a rather attractive scientist named Tracy who found Arthur quite boring at a party six months earlier, and a chronically glum robot named Marvin the Paranoid Android on a quest for a lost planet while aboard the Heart of Gold, a magnificent spacecraft gained by somewhat illegal means and powered by the Improbability Drive.

Several times on this blog--and in chats--I have lamented my lack of knowledge of the hard sci fi genre. I like sci fi, but most of my readings in the genre have been in dystopian sci fi. My familiarity with sci fi tales sporting aliens and space ships is sadly limited. To remedy this, my good friend Scott, an avid classic sci fi reader, has recommended several sci fi books to me, chief of which is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the premier sci fi comedy book. I mentioned blogging it last week and was pleased when Serena and Penguins commented on how much they love the book. As always has happened with book suggestions I get from my readers, I was not disappointed. I loved this book and can't believe I have lived 21 years without reading it. *beats head with book* Thanks to all of you!

First and foremost, this book is just flat-out, laugh out loud funny. Though I had moments that were my favorites--the Vogon poetry reading, the mouse experiments *wink wink*, and the police shootout--the whole book was full of delightfully weird characters, silly situations, and witty deadpan narration that reminded me very much of both Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde, two of my favorite writers. I also adored the absurdity of so much of the story. I was trying to remember where I had heard Adams' name before and was not too surprised when I flipped the book open and read his bio, which notes that he wrote for Monty Python. This book reminds me very much of Monty Python with the zany verbal exchanges and frequent use of irony.

One thing I particularly loved--and I'm not sure how much sense this is going to make, but here we go--is how Adams embraces the novel's insanity and runs with it. I've read several books where the author creates an interesting world but then tries to smooth over any reader disbelief by adding convoluted "logic" to back up the plot and any deviations from the real world. Adams, on the other hand, never relies on this, which more often than not backfires. Adams makes no attempts to logically explain away the craziness that's going on and that actually makes the novel even more enjoyable than if he had tried the alternative.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the perfect end-of-summer read. Its wildly inventive world will appeal to sci fans and the hilarious plot and narration will delight humor fans, especially for those who are fond of absurdist British humor. Penguins has told me that after finishing this one, I'll have to read the whole series. Indeed! :D
This Week in Literary History:
4 August 1792: Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley is born in Sussex, England. A talented poet--and born rebel--Shelley was kicked out of Oxford, famously ditched his wife for Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and drowned in a boating accident at the age of 29. Along the way he wrote some outstanding poetry, of which "Ode to the West Wind" and "Stanzas Written in Dejection" are some of my personal favorites. I also highly recommend his fascinating prose treatise "A Defense of Poetry" in which Shelley reiterates the need for poetry and provides what may have been a defense of his own notoriously tumultuous personal life in the process. I must admit, for years I was more of a fan of Shelley's wife, Mary--I adore her classic Frankenstein--but as I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate Shelley's work, as well.


Somewhat Important Announcement: This pains me to write, but I'm going to have to take a break from Blogger for the next few weeks. I don't want to! *nerd tantrum* But I am leaving on Friday for my new college's one week long orientation. Judging by the schedule, my internet time will be extremely limited, as will my reading time. After that, I am going to be carrying a full class schedule at a new school, working a new job, and living in a new residence. I don't want to make promises that I can't keep or post substandard posts, so I think I'm just going to take a little break and resume blogging in early September around Labor Day after I get adjusted to my new life. I'll be around until about Thursday--and plan to post a final post on my other blog later this week--so I should be able to respond to comments until then. Likewise, if you don't see me here on Blogger or Sparknotes or Critique Circle or Facebook or Twitter until early September, don't freak! I am not ignoring you and I have not been abducted by mutant giraffes bent on world domination. I will try my best to keep up with PMs and my e-mail, but it may take me a few days to get to it. I am going to miss all of you so much! But I am not abandoning you. I already have some reviews in the works, namely Markus Zusak's I Am the Messenger--a suggestion from Penguins. :D


A Somewhat Less Important But Less Solemn Announcement: My more observant readers--those of you who looked at the upper right hand corner today--may have noticed that I added two Goodreads widgets. (I stole the idea from Lucy and Bruce and needed help to do it from Windsong. :D) Now all of the books I have most recently read--along with how many stars I give each one--will be on the first widget, and the books on my immediate to be read list will be on the second one. In case you're wondering, yes, I most certainly joined a website just because I wanted awesome book widgets. (Hence, I was slightly disappointed when I uploaded all of the books I've read this year to the site only to find that only a third of them were displayed on my widget. Poor me.) Regardless, I like the site and I love the widgets! If you have a Goodreads profile, feel free to friend me on the site, though, as with my other internet playgrounds, I may not be active until September.

See all of you in a few weeks! *waves* :)


  1. GAWH! Leaving? But...but I just returned! You can't just *do* that! :(
    Ah, well. I CERTAINLY understand not being sure if you'll have time to blog. Yes, yes, this is a thing I understand, along with just playing it safe and saying you won't blog. ;)
    Well, you know how much I love The Hitchhiker's Guide, so I won't tell you again. I've read the whole series, up to...So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, I think. I like them all quite a bit, some more than others, (My favorite so far has been Life, The Universe, and Everything) but I can't read them for too long, because they *do* give me headaches. ;)
    I was actually thinking you might not like this book, though, Zella, so I'm glad you did!
    (Let me clarify, though, Zella, I am not an *avid* reader of hard sci fi. I read the classics. I'm not up on much of the new stuff, though I should be. Birdlady and Brad have given me some good suggestions. ;))

  2. Welcome back, Scott! *happy nerd dance* :D

    I'm sorry! But, you see, Scott, this is partially your fault. :D When you announced you'd be leaving for a month, it saddened me, but then I realized that was actually a rather brilliant way of taking a Blogger vacation without alarming your readers. So I stole it. (I have been stealing a lot of things lately. Apparently they'll have to keep everything nailed down in that dorm. :P)

    It reminded me way too much of Pratchett and Monty Python not to love it! Besides, anything that makes me giggle uncontrollably makes me happy. :D Just curious: Why did you think I wouldn't like it?

    Ah, my mistake! Can I edit it to avid classic sci fi reader? :)

    Thanks again for the great recommendation!

  3. While I may have suggested the rest of the series, I, uh, may note have read the fifth one yet. Oops.
    Yay, Zella! You're going to be doing the Messenger! Yay!
    Also, I started my university orientation today! (Sort of). It's not very well organised here, but I moved into college and got my ID card and everything. Awesome.
    I'm going to miss you while you're on your hiatus.

  4. Aw, I'll definitely miss your blog for the next few weeks Zella! Maybe it will give me a chance to catch up on my reading list to make spots open for new books. :D

    I've now been recommended the Hitchhiker's Guide by 4.33 people (the .33 being indirect recommendations), so I suppose I might enjoy it. :)

  5. HHGTTG is actually an adaptation of a set of radio plays that Douglas Adams wrote while in the bath, several baths in fact, and which featured some superb casting in the various roles, not least the voice of the book.

    So this is one of the occasions where I'd say if you really want to experience Hitchhiker's magic then invest in the audiobook.

    And good luck with college! :)

  6. I recently read an article on HowStuffWorks about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was fairly interesting.

    I don't think I will be reading this anytime soon. I have several other long books on my list to read.

  7. Hooray! I am glad you enjoyed it. I am reading The Poisoner's Handbook right now, and I simply adore it :)

  8. @Penguins: Yep, I just finished it. I loved it! I think I'll go ahead and write that one up, so it will be my return blog. :) Yayayayayay! I am so happy for you with starting college! Good luck. :) I am going to miss you, too!

    @Feathery: I am going to miss you, too! *cries* I hope you get to read lots of good books! I am schleping some to college with me, even if I must cram them in some corner to keep them in my dorm. I think you'd enjoy The Hitchhiker's Guide, especially if you enjoyed Pratchett. :)

    @James: I didn't know that! Thanks for telling me! I definitely will see if I can find one because that sounds like fun. Thanks for the well wishes! :)

    @SweetTart_Girl: Yayayay! I am so glad you got an account! :) It's a really good book, so I'd love to hear what you think about it when you do get to it. What other books do you plan on reading? :)

    @Serena: Oooh, goodie! I loved that book so much I ordered my own copy. I also ordered another true crime book--based on the Malloy killing that's discussed in there. If I get a chance, I'll try to blog on that one, too.

    Thanks so much to all of you for reading and commenting. I am going to miss all of you so much! :)

  9. Well I plan on reading the Poisoner's Handbook, The Historian, Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrel, How the States Got Thier Shapes, and books for school.

    I want to eventually read it; it's just not a high prority now.

  10. Ooooh, awesome list! :)

    Hehe I know what you mean about prioritizing books. If I don't do that, I often end up reading stuff not even on the list and neglecting what I had intended to read!

  11. I almost went so far as to put myself on a schedule. Like The Historian and The Immortal Realm one week and another tough/easy book combo the next week. But then I thought that took away from the joy of reading and made it feel like a chore.

    I checked out Shmoop. It was great! I especially like the song section and, of course, the List-o-mania section.