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One of the Funniest Series Ever!
on May 13, 2004
When you've just finished a book that's as thick & heavy as a dictionary, it is all too tempting to write pages and pages in review of it. However, I will spare you as much as I can.
The basic premise of the novels is that Ford Prefect is a hitchhiker and writer for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." He hitches rides all around space, writes up his experiences and sends them in to his editors. As the novel opens up, it's roughly 1980 in England, and he's been stuck on Earth for 15 years because Earth (as we know) has not really made contact with other planets and so he can't find a ride out of there (here). In that time, he has made friends with Arthur Dent, one of the absolutely most endearing characters I've ever come across in literature (even more than a Hobbit).
When we first meet Dent, he thinks his greatest battle for the day will be to lie in front of the bulldozers which want to knock down his house. Little does he know that Earth is also about to be knocked over (obliterated really) for a hyper-space by-pass. Prefect, however, catches on and rescues Dent at the very last minute...Whether or not this was a good thing is up to the reader to decide.
While Adams shows his literal genius for comedic timing and absurd humor within the bounds of Earth at the beginning, once he is freed of all constraints his writing style blazes with unique talent. Every page is so filled with parody, dry wit, perfect timing, and mind-boggling fictitious science that it leaves you laughing aloud and reeling at the same time. I realize that his humor is not for everyone...but for anyone who enjoys satire and for anyone who is frustrated with the insanity of life, this book brings the proverbial comic relief.
From what I've read from hard-core Douglas Adams fans (and there seem to be quite a few of those), books #1, 2, and 4 in this series are Adam's purest works. #3 and 5 are a bit heavier in tone. #6 (Young Zaphod Plays It Safe) is simply baffling.
For those who don't like science fiction, I would say that that shouldn't really be a problem here. While Adams does invent some very funny alien races (like the race with 50 arms that was the only one to invent deodorant before the wheel), his focus clearly isn't imagining how different life can be. Everything in his novels is a satire of humanity - from the bureaucracy to the androids to the laws of physics.
Of all the wonderful things I could dwell on in Adam's work, the last thing I would like to mention is that of all action/adventure stories I have ever read, I think Adams has created a few of the most realistic heroes. Dent, Prefect, and Zaphod - though somewhat resourceful - aren't particularly strong, bold, courageous, intelligent or smooth. They bungle any number of situations, and only Trillian has a real moment of brilliance. And yet, no matter how much they might want to simply run and save their own hides, a sense of duty to man/life nags at their conscience and keeps bringing them to help save somebody. Ultimately, I think this balances out so much of Adams ironic humor about how stupid life can be. Yes, life is absurd at so many levels, but Adams never abandons our Western Civilization ideals of the value of life and our duty to help each other.
Oh, and the dialogue is priceless!