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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Posted by RB Kollannur on March 30, 2014


Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 13/01/2013

Publisher – Pan Macmillan; Year of Publication – 1979; Pages – 319

42. The number 42 is one of the most widely recognized numbers among netizens and avid readers for it is “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything”. If you are not sure, you can try googling it. The only problem with this answer is that nobody knows what the Ultimate Question is. The answer presented itself in the wackiest of all novels that you will ever come across, Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (and so did means to get to the question but it gets destroyed in the beginning).

The novel opens with the destruction of Earth, comically, to make way for an inter-galactic super highway. Only a lone man, Arthur Dent, escapes the destruction (sort of) thanks to the help of Ford Prefect who, unbeknownst to Dent, happens to be an alien researching Earth for the titular “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. From there on they have to hitchhike across the universe, for want of air to breathe. They are accompanied at times by the double headed Galactic President, Zaphod Beeblebrox, in search of a galactic El Dorado and Trillian, also a human (female). On their trail are the much hated Vogons, the bureaucracy of the galactic regime who bear an alarming resemblance to many Earth bound bureaucrats.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a fictional travel guide filled with needless trivia and, if the reader is extremely lucky (like Felix Felicis lucky), some actually valuable information that may be of use to someone lost in the dark matter of the universe. However, the Douglas Adams’s novel is quite the opposite, designed to get the reader lost with a confusing plot that has a tendency to develop off shoots and parallel storylines into the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, it is quite a hilarious work of gobbledygook that is guaranteed to entertain the reader for an uncertain period of time, with some intermittent periods of head banging on the desk.

Historically, the number 42 has some curious significance. The ancient Egyptians followed the code of Ma’at for moral guidance in daily life. It had 42 confessions to guide the people of Egypt and is one of the oldest set of ethics known to humanity, long before the Ten Commandments where declared on Sinai. On an unrelated note, this is my forty second review in this newspaper.

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One Response to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams”

  1. […] on 22/12/2012 41)  Who Let the Dork Out? by Sidin Vadukut – Published on 02/01/2013 42)  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Published on 13/01/2013 43)  The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie – Published on 20/01/2013 […]

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