Towels. Wristwatches. Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. These are just a few of the iconic images introduced in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, the first of five books spanning time, space, and goldfish bowls.
A novel both deliciously weird and strangely moving, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy charts the adventures of one Arthur Dent, a foppish every-man who just wants to get home for a nice, English cup of tea. After his home – and subsequently, his planet – are demolished, he gets thrown into a universe beyond imagination. The cast of characters includes an alien masquerading as human, a lackadaisical president, and a clinically depressed robot whose destiny is more epic than anyone could expect. Holding it all together is Adams’s outrageous writing style. Quirky, cutesy, and maybe a bit tipsy, Adams spins words like no one else, rendering objects as ordinary as a bathrobe into something fascinating. He sees the world, and thus the universe, as a giant puzzle of extraordinary banality, and describes it with compassionate hilarity.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy is one of the most adapted science fiction books of all time. Originally adapted from a BBC radio show, the 1979 novel has spawned everything from audio-books to comics to stage shows. Adams’s extraordinarily English sense of humor and its application in interplanetary situations has influenced everything from Red Dwarf to Men in Black and continues to be reborn into new forms. As any avid bookworm knows, however, it’s hard to beat the crinkle of a good old-fashioned paperback, and the novel on its own stands up to infinite re-reads. Hitchhiker’s may not have the science of Hal Clement or the intense politics of George Orwell, but it’s nothing if not a wild ride.