Don't Panic: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I Guess I’m Late to the Intergalactic Party…

One day a thought randomly occurred to me, and I’m truly not sure how it arrived in my brain: Isn’t The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy supposed to be, like, the ultimate sci-fi novel? Why have I not read this? I believe this arrived on the heels of the realization that I hadn’t actually read a book in an embarrassing amount of time. Sure, I had started a bunch of books, but had yet to bring them to their conclusion. What was one more to add to the mix? I bought it and started it right away.

I read it in fits and bursts, in between naps and snacks and poems from Carrie Fisher’s posthumous The Princess Diarist. That tends to be my M.O. – juggling several texts at a time until one gets finished up. Anyway, I’ve finally finished up The Hitchhiker’s Guide, and I’m not fully sold on it. Despite what was referred to as a “cliffhanger ending,” it felt like it just ended without any real conclusion or enough drama to force me into buying the next one in the series. That being said… It was fun, for sure, and an interesting story, but it left me feeling unfulfilled in the end.

I guess that makes sense – after all, when seeking the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, would we really be so quickly sated?

I found myself checking the front few pages to see what the original date of publication was – 1979. I am officially very late to the party. I wondered if a few things were nods to Star Wars, or perhaps just nods to science I didn’t really know about. (Binary sunsets, parsecs – though in Hitchhiker, parsecs was correctly used as a measure of distance, not time…) I wondered what it must have felt like to read the story “back in the day” as compared to nowadays.

I did enjoy the gender roles in this story. I loved that a science degree-holding Trillian was being hit on at some party, ditched the guy, and wound up in space flying a spaceship. I also rather enjoyed that the computer on the Heart of Gold was a male insomuch as a computer can be. It took me by surprised when I first read “he…” All goes to show how ingrained gender roles can be! After years of my life hearing computer voices as female, I expected the same here.

One last thought that struck me – this novel seemed to predict the future. As I read, descriptions of Zaphod Beeblebrox, visions of Trump swam in my head. “His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.” Apparently, I’m not the only one to draw this conclusion. At once, I feel both relieved and scared that someone knew this would happen someday. What’s the ultimate commentary here? Humans are predictable, politics is just another manner of showmanship, or something I haven’t yet figured out the answer to? (Perhaps, she typed slyly, she just did not have the question to the answer.) Or maybe the answer will reveal itself in 7.5 million years. I don’t know.

I think this is one instance where I am going to enjoy the movie much more than the book, though I’ll be interested to see how Arthur’s naivete of the Galaxy is communicated – narration? is he just going to ask questions every four seconds? Ultimately, though it was a little confusing at times, the story still felt inventive to me so many years after its publication, and I do want to find out what happens to the gang next. I’d recommend it if you like sci-fi stories and short reads.

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