The novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams was published for the first time in 1979. It’s the first novel of a so-called trilogy of five books.
Arthur Dent discovers that his house is about to be demolished. He tries in every way to stop the work but a few hours later discovers that the Earth is to be demolished by the Vogons to make room for a hyperspace bypass. Arthur is saved by his friend Ford Prefect, who is actually an alien who came to Earth to add new information to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, a tourist guide very popular at interstellar level.
Arthur and Ford manage to hitchhike a lift on a Vogon starship but the captain isn’t happy at all when he discovers them and first he tortures them with Vogon poetry then he throws them into space. Thanks to an infinitely improbable coincidence, the two of them are saved by the starship “Heart of Gold” because it’s powered bu an infinite improbability drive. Its commander is Zaphod Beeblebrox, who’s Ford’s old friend. Together, they go on the legendary planet Magrathea, where they will discover many secrets, including the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
The “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was initially produced as a radio play by the BBC in 1978 with seven episodes followed by five more in 1980. Douglas Adams adapted the first four episodes of the radio series into a novel. The two versions are a little different.
Douglas Adams had the basic idea for this story a few years earlier, while he was traveling in Europe hitchhiking. In Innsbruck, while lying drunk in a field with a copy of the book “Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe”, he thought about a similar guide at galactic level. It was only some years later that Adams was able to translate that concept into the radio version of the story.
In view of its origin, it’s inevitable that “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” contains elements somewhat demented yet at the same time it manages to be subtle, satirical and philosophical at the same time. It’s best known for its characters, its witty jokes and the expressions that have become part of common language for those who have enjoyed the story but it contains a global vision of humanity that’s not particularly glorious.
In fact, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” contains a total deconstruction of humanity. At the beginning of the novel, the Vogons come to destroy the Earth after giving notice as required by galactic laws. Humans know nothing about it but in the course of the story we discover that other inhabitants of the Earth were prepared for the event and that in the history of the planet there’s much more than humans knew about it.
In his strange adventure, Arthur Dent discovers some of the many aliens that inhabit the Milky Way, starting with his friend Ford Prefect, who for years had pretended to be an Earthling. At the same time, he discovers many things about the Earth that no human beings had ever imagined.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and its sequels have been adapted for a television series, a movie and even a videogame to become a true cultural phenomenon. Over time, it’s become an important part of geek culture, so much that today we have a translation software called Babelfish, a supercomputer called Deep Thought and an instant messaging program called Trillian, all names inspired to the Guide.
In 1999, Douglas Adams also founded the h2g2 online community dedicated to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in order to compile an unconventional guide to life, the universe and everything. The community site has gone through various “incarnations” but maintained its original purpose.
Whether or not they’re part of that community, fans of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” can be easily recognized when they talk about the importance of towels, because they use the number 42 as a good answer to any questions and for other expressions such as “Don’t panic!”. This jargon shows even more the importance of the Guide.
The “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has a sudden end because it’s an adaptation of a part of the radio series. Inevitably, the literary version was also conceived from the beginning as a series and the best choice is to read it all. It’s in fact a masterpiece of humorous science fiction whose fame extends well beyond any genre. Absolutely recommended!