The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1-5)The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the 1970s, a BBC radio serial was a surprise hit with a combination of humor and science fiction, eventually this spawned more radio serials, a TV show, even a Hollywood produced film, but also a series of books by creator Douglas Adams. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contains the first five novels and a short story written by Adams for fans both old and new, but unfortunately it seems that the novels might be more hype and substance.

The five novels contained in this anthology book are all flawed in various and similar ways, which seem to appear and disappear through the series. As a series of stories that were meant to be rooted in humor and science fiction, only the latter seemed to be constantly topnotch while the humor was a lot of hits-and-misses as in some stories seemed to have them and others didn’t. Another issues was narrative flow in each story or general lack thereof, as the majority of the stories are just a series of things happen before ending while others were narratively solid stories that got the reader looking forward to how it would end only for said ending to just appear out of nowhere leaving the reader cheated. Sadly the best story in the entire book that essentially got all the above flaws correct was the short story about young Zaphod.

Having looked forward to reading this collection of stories, I feel ultimately cheated after finishing the book. Overall I found everything in the book average and okay, but this will not be a book I go back to read again and has put in my mind to search out the original radio series or the old TV series to see if either or both are better than The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2.5/5)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (3.5/5)
Life, the Universe, and Everything (3.5/5)
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (2.5/5)
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (4/5)
Mostly Harmless (2.5/5)

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker #5)

HitchhikersMostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fifth and penultimate installment of the Hitchhiker‘s series had an interesting premise and sadly poor execution, which almost seems to sum up my overall thoughts on the entire series.

The story begins and ends on Earth, not the first one nor the second but another one, with reporter Tricia McMillan wishing she had joined Zaphod seventeen years before. Meanwhile Arthur Dent is hitchhiking around the Universe looking for an Earth to settle down on, if he can get the dimension right, while finding out that Trillian is a reporter for an inter-dimension & multi-time period news channel. And Ford Prefect goes to the Guide’s headquarters and finds out it’s been taken over by a corporate giant that has developed a frighteningly new version of the Guide and mails it to Arthur just before his escape. Ultimately all these treads end on Tricia’s Earth through strange twist that might appear to be Random, but are a result of a bureaucratic need to check a box.

Throughout the entire story, Adams creates great situations and locations that seem to be the start of a story in themselves only to then quickly end them in an attempt to link them to another or each other like in the end of the book. However, this just resulted in making the reader think “this story could be great if…” for over half the story and wish some characters had been around longer or even appear. So much promise, but nothing to show for it.

Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (Hitchhiker #4.5)

HitchhikersYoung Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In short story featuring Zaphod Beeblebrox, Douglas Adams brings both quick story with some funny dialogue. Two bureaucrats hire Zaphod to dive down to a crashed spaceship to explore the cargo, though Zaphod wonders why they keep on calling it the “safest” ship ever when it’s a crashed wreck. Yet as they go through the interior the bureaucrats get anxious about the really dangerous cargo that Zaphod starts wondering what it is after they pass rooms containing really harmful material including chemical weapons. Its only until Zaphod learns what the most dangerous cargo on the ship is that he learns why the bureaucrats insist on calling everything “safe”. Overall, the shortness of the story and tight plot make this a very good read with some nice jokes.

So Long, and Thanks for the Fish (Hitchhiker #4)

HitchhikersSo Long, and Thanks for the Fish by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fourth installment of Adams’ Hitchhiker series finds characters and reader returning to a planet that shouldn’t exist and figuring out why. Yet like the original installment this one has series problems in plot and humor, incoherent for one and flat for the other.

Earth is back out of no where and Arthur Dent has hitchhiked his way to his home planet that he thought gone forever 8 years before, only for everyone else it’s only be about 8 months. While hitchhiking to his house, Arthur meets Fenchurch and just has to meet her again even though she technically didn’t meet him. Once they do meet up things just start happening as if it’s mean to be, including Fen reminding him all the dolphins disappeared which leads them to California to find the answer to that. Meanwhile Ford finds that his very long entry on Earth has suddenly popped up on the Guide and hurries to Earth to get Arthur. Then the three of them travel to view God’s last message to the Universe where they meet up with Marvin.

Honestly, this story had a lot of things going for it that never materialized in both plot and humor. The joke about Fenchurch’s name is apparently is obviously just English based that anyone from elsewhere on the planet just has to assume it’s an English in-joke and that it’s suppose to be funny. The main plot, if there even is one, is Arthur just getting back into the flow of Earth after traveling the Universe and then falling instantly in love before solving a mystery.

Overall, So Long, and Thanks for the Fish has it’s moments both for story and humor but nothing is really connected or coherent. It’s ho-hum fine, but nothing I’d go back to read.

Life, the Universe, and Everything (Hitchhiker #3)

HitchhikersLife, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The third installment in the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series continued the very good storytelling of the previous installment, but unfortunately regressed in humor to that of the original installment. Bringing into the story more time travel to go along with space travel, Adams brings back characters and old familiar location back to create an entertaining story.

Beginning with Arthur Dent on 2 million B.C. Earth reconnecting with Ford after several years apart, the two compare notes before seeing a sofa slowly moving across a field. After catching it, they’re transported to Lord’s just before England wins The Ashes and meeting up with Slartibartfast then watch as a spaceship lands and white robots that look like cricket players charge into the celebrating crowd and take The Ashes. Arthur and Ford then learn about the Krikkit, the great Krikkit War, and the Wikkit Gate to keep them locked away in time until the universe ended. Suddenly racing around the galaxy, always too late, to stop the Krikkit’s robot army from getting component of the Wikkit Key. After one failed attempt, they meet up with Trillian who’s left a lethargic Zaphod only to be reunited when the robots steal the drive of the Heart of Gold. They desperately travel to the planet Krikkit in which Trillian figures things out and saves the Universe from destruction, only for Arthur to almost destroy it when he lives out his dream to bowl at Lords.

Life, the Universe, and Everything has a lot of action and interesting adventures for Arthur and Ford with only minimal participation by Trillian, Zaphod, and Marvin. Even though Trillian is the character that connects the dots even though she came into the adventure late, Adams gives the reader all the clues to bring about a fantastic ending. The only downside to this story is that the humor doesn’t measure up to Restaurant and is more in line with Hitchhiker.

While I am giving Life, the Universe, and Everything the same rating as Restaurant, right now this is my second favorite installment of Adams’ series given the the humor for the former is better than this one. If the humor had been on the same level then this story would have easily been 4 stars.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker #2)

HitchhikersThe Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Picking up right after the completion of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe continues the story of the mash-up crew of the Heart of Gold. But in this sequel, both the story and the humor are brought up a notch making for a story than the first.

The majority of the story revolves around former President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebox attempting to find out for what reason he stole the Heart of Gold. The a series of misadventures which nearly kills him all the while very hungry, Zaphod learns that it is to find the actually ruler of the Universe. Meanwhile Arthur, Ford, and Trillian just attempt to survive and find out where Zaphod is until he returns to the ship. When the characters arrive at the titular restaurant for Zaphod’s long awaited meal, the humor only gets better then suddenly the story is in it’s endgame and suddenly the crew is split up with Zaphod & Trillian going in one direction and Arthur & Ford in another.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the story was it’s ending as Zaphod & Trillian just disappear while Arthur & Ford are stranded on a planet in a long sequence that just ended with a bad joke, or just might have been one, it’s hard to say. But apart from the ending, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe was better than it’s predecessor.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker #1)

HitchhikersThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The story of the last morning of the Earth, over England anyways, and how with the help of a stranded alien (Ford Prefect) he was friends with the last man (Arthur Dent) survived the planet’s end begins the first story of the Hitchhiker’s series.  But the story quickly introduces the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his confederate Trillian, who happens to now be the last female from Earth, along with their depressed android Marvin aboard the Heart of Gold (which Zaphod stole at the launching ceremony).

After attempting to save his house from demolition for a new bypass, Arthur just gets off the planet when the alien Vogon demolition the Earth to make way for a new interstellar bypass.  Learning on the fly and in the depths of an alien, one of the Vogon, he learns his friend is actually an alien who has been stranded on Earth then quickly finds himself jettison from airlock and improbably saved by the passing Heart of Gold.  Then Arthur finds him on a mysterious planet inhabited by a race that actually constructed Earth as a massive computer to find “The Question” to “The Answer” to the “Life, the Universe, and Everything”, commissioned by mice 10 million years ago.

The whip around style of the adventure and funny entries of the titular guide are the highlights of this first story of the series.  Unfortunately, we hardly get to know any of the characters very much and besides the guide entries, the humor is somewhat bland with only a few times were smiles crossed my face.  Overall it’s an okay story, but if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m reading an omnibus edition and the big fandom on the ‘net I wonder if I would even be interested in seeking out other stories.