I’m pretty sure the first time I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I was probably in my teens and reading it on my father’s recommendation. Dad seemed to want to introduce his kids to at least basic classic sci-fi, although I still don’t get his appreciation for William Gibson. So I figured since there’s a book club coming up where this is an option, it might be time for a re-read.
My basic impression is that I can see why this is the classic that it’s seen as, but at the same time, there’s so little substance. Think about the plot: not much really happens; it’s mostly some random space travel with people inanely talking about random quasi-philosophical even-they-don’t-seen-to-know-or-care-much about. I don’t necessarily have a problem with absurdism, I really enjoy Tom Stoppard plays, but at the same time, I would appreciate a little plot or character to go along with it.
The stuff that pop culture mostly remembers, like the towel and Deep Thought’s conclusion about the answer the “Everything!”, is clever. I also appreciate the bit about the mice towards the end; I’d forgotten that part completely. But the mindless ennui and pointlessness of everything, and the lack of much happening just bored me. Arthur basically lives through slightly different versions of the same story about three times, and no one has much of any personality beyond a single quality that’s made clear from the first time they are introduced. Slartibartfast’s little assist at the end is probably one of the better bits, and I’d love to know how Douglas Adams came up with that name. This also happens to be the character with the most actual personality and he gets maybe four pages total.
I think it’s best to file this one under, a good thing to actually read at some point, but with the understanding that it is not necessarily the most entertaining thing. I was reminded of Seinfeld at least in general reputation, which I never watched, but it seems to match the same general aesthetic of let’s see how long we can tell stories about this group of people and have nothing really change. It could just be me and my general mood right now or recently, but I just didn’t really enjoy this much, and I honestly don’t remember caring too much the first time either. Not so much time wasted, as a check in the general classics/pop culture knowledge to see the original of, and move on to something hopefully more interesting.