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The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (volume 1 in the trilogy of five) by Douglas Adams

01/11/2009. Contributed by Gareth D. Jones

Buy The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in the USA - or Buy The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in the UK

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pub: Pan Macmillan. 180 page small enlarged paperback. Price: 7.99(UK), $14.99 (CAN), $22.99 (AUS). ISBN: 978-0-330-50853-7.

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'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' is one of those books that made such an impact on its release that it has become a movement as much as a book. The new thirtieth anniversary edition continues the quirkiness of the trilogy, featuring a badge, postcards and a DIY cover with a selection of stickers (although these might be reviewers' bumf). For those new to the Hitchhiker phenomenon and now slightly puzzled, yes there are five volumes in the trilogy.

I can hardly write about the book without discussing my own experience of the book, which I ignored in my early teens on the assumption that it was actually a hitchhiker's guide. Of course, the quotes from the Guide contained in the novel are brilliantly hilarious and worth reading by themselves. Once I finally read it, I became hooked, eventually reading the whole series three times and joining groups of friends in quoting vast swathes of quotes from the Guide. That seems to be the case with most people who read it. They either don't like it or become a fan. I don't think there are people who just like it.

The story centres around Arthur Dent who discovers that his best friend Ford Prefect is a field researcher for the Guide, stranded on Earth several years previously. When the Earth is destroyed, Ford manages to hitch a ride for both of them aboard the Vogon Constructor Fleet responsible for Earth's destruction. The details of what happens subsequently are far too complex to explain in a review and would probably not make sense anyway. Many of the situations that develop are linked to the fact that Arthur is still wearing his dressing gown and continues to do so for volume after volume.

If you've seen the old TV series or the newer film without reading the book you probably had no idea what was going on and may have been put off. However, good or bad, either of those adaptations were, they couldn't possibly convey the brilliant wit and sparkling use of language that make the 'Hitchhiker's Guide' a unique experience. At the cinema, watching the film, were a few Hitchhiker newcomers, like the two who came with me. They were utterly bemused. Most of the audience were continually laughing, often at things that didn't happen on screen but that they knew from the book.

By this point you may be worried about reading the book for fear of becoming a raving fan who spends all day quoting Marvin the Paranoid Android - 'Brain the size of planet, and what do they ask me to do? Open the door. It's so depressing.' I'm afraid that fate may be unavoidable. But hey, it's only 180 pages, pretty slim by today's standards. Give it a go. You may yet become a convert. And don't forget your towel.

Gareth D. Jones

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