Arthur Dent had never really got the hang of Thursdays and in his bleary eyed state that morning he notices that there are bulldozers outside his house. It turns out they have come to knock his house down to make a bypass. Lying down in front of one of the bulldozers, his friend Ford Prefect suddenly appears. Arthur Dent thinks he is an out of work actor; it turns out he is a researcher for the most popular book in the universe, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is from a planet called Betelgeuse but has been stuck on the Earth for 15 years. Dragging Arthur to the pub and plonking three pints down in front of him, Ford reveals all of this and the minor issue that the planet is to be demolished to make way for a galactic freeway in about 12 minutes time.
“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is.
Ford and Arthur manage to get on the Vogon ship, moments before the Earth is demolished, but it is not long until they are discovered. Dragged before the captain, they are forced to listen to his poetry before being ejected into space with 30 seconds to live on a lungful of air… Twenty nine seconds later they’re recused by the Heart of Gold, a ship that the current President of the universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox, has stolen. So begins Arthur’s adventures with Ford, Zaphod, Trillian and the life and soul of any party, Marvin the Paranoid Android as they seek the legendary planet, Magrathea, aided by snippets and gems of wisdom from The Hitchhiker’s Guide.
“Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”
Even though it is flawed at times and the characters lack depth, it works because it successfully combines science fiction and dark humour with classic British farce. Its brilliance though is in what Adams did with this book, permeating our culture with expressions that people know and use without necessarily knowing where they originated, such as the answer to the question of life the universe and everything, having the brain the size of a planet and most importantly ‘don’t panic’. It is a book that goes far beyond the science fiction genre that it started in. To say that I love this book would be an understatement, it is such a shame that he was taken from us so early, so I will raise my Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster as a toast to a lost genius.
“In the beginning the Universe was created. This had made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”