Written by Douglas Adams, "The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" was first published in 1979 and is the first instalment of his legendary five-part trilogy. (Adams apparently attributed this to a poor grasp of arithmetic). The series started life as a radio show, before becoming a book, a television series, a play and a bath towel. After years of trying, it was finally adapted for the big screen in 2005. Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge in 1952 and died in May 2001, while working on the film's screenplay.
Arthur Dent wakes up on a Thursday morning with a raging hangover. Having left London about three years before the book opens, he now lives in England's West Country. That, however, is about to change : the local council has decided to knock down his house to make way for a bypass. Although their plans had officially been place for around nine months, they had somehow 'forgotten' to mention it to Arthur until the previous day - hence, the raging hangover. In a very bad start to the day, his hangover is interrupted by a bulldozer trundling up the garden path.
Things aren't about to get any better, either. Arthur's one-man protest is disturbed by Ford Prefect - a very good friend who drags him off to "The Horse and Groom", with the express intention of drinking several pints of bitter. The pair have been friends for around five or six years. So far as Arthur knows, Ford is an out-of-work actor from Guildford. In fact, he comes from a small planet near Betelgeuse, is a roving reporter from "The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" (imagine an interstellar Rough Guide) and has been marooned on Earth for about fifteen years. Unfortunately, it's come to his attention that the world is about to end : the Vogons, on behalf of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council, need to demolish Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Fortunately, Ford has a way out and he plans to bring Arthur with him.
After surviving the demolition and some Vogon poetry, the pair are picked up by Zaphod Beeblebrox - the two-headed, three-armed, renegade President of the Imperial Galactic Government and an old friend of Ford's. Beeblebrox has managed to 'acquire' a very stylish spaceship called 'The Heart of Gold' - a ship with a very improbable fuel source. The ship's crew is completed by Trillian, a human female, and Marvin, a paranoid android.
This is an exceptionally enjoyable, extremely funny and very easily read book - Terry Pratchett fans, in particular, should enjoy this.