I have never read science fiction before; I’m not familiar with the genre except for the odd super-hero movie now and then.
List of characters -
Arthur Dent. The unwitting earthman saved by Ford Prefect when Planet Earth is destroyed to make way for a new hyperspace bypass expressway.
Ford Prefect. One of Arthur’s closest friends. He is a researcher from a faraway planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and he is aware of the impending disaster to planet Earth. He was commissioned to Planet Earth to research material for the book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.
Marvin, the paranoid android. An uncontrollably depressed robot, he can make ferocious machines commit suicide simply by making them listen to his woes.
Zaphod Beeblebrox. The two-headed President of the Galaxy, inventor of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (a drink), thief of the spaceship Heart of Gold, only known survivor of the Total Perspective Vortex, and what else… yes, seven time winner of “Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe”. Try beating that.
Trillian. Ex-Earthling. Arthur tried picking her up at a party once, but lost her to a cool dude. He is later revealed to be Zaphod Beeblebrox, and that Trillian had decided to pack stuff and go away with him because she found Earth really boring.
Slartibartfast. An architect on the planet Magrathea who designs planets for rich space-people. Kind of like a landscape artist, you might say. Oh, and he designed the Earth. Even received an award for the stunning coastline of Norway. Yes, the Earth was tailored to suit certain requirements.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. A fictional electronic book that features prominently in the actual novel of the same name. Provides quirky insights into various situations. For example, when Arthur and Ford hitch a ride in the Vogon ship, the entry on Vogons reads, “Here’s what to do if you want to get a lift from a Vogon: forget it.”
The story is pretty much simple and straightforward. Earth has just been demolished into nothingness and Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect are forced to hike a ride with the Vogon airship that was the cause of said destruction. People whose only job in life is blowing up planets cannot be sweetness and light; our hitchhikers are unceremoniously thrown into space by the Vogon captain, but not before giving them a dose of Vogon poetry (considered the third worst in the world; people have died just listening to it.)
I cannot resist sharing Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz’s heart wrenching poem with y’all – read, and weep/laugh/pull hair.
- “Oh freddled gruntbuggly/thy micturations are to me/As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
- Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes. And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
- Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!”
Ford and Arthur are tied and made to listen to this goose-bump inducing verse; while Ford writhes in agony, Arthur is sufficiently in charge of his senses to praise Jeltz once he is done in the bleak hope that they might be spared. No such luck.
Elsewhere in the Galaxy, the two-headed President Zaphod is on his way to a spaceship unveiling. Right there, on the spot, he decides to steal it. The ship is the Heart of Gold, and due to its improbability drive lands at the exact spot where Arthur and Ford are stranded, thus saving their lives. This is where we’re introduced to Marvin – the chronically depressed robot.
All of them then continue their journey through space, and finally land on a desolate planet, Magrathea. The people of Magrathea once upon a time (millions of years ago) were engaged in designing customized planets for the rich uns of the galaxy; then the recession came, and they just decided to sleep through it. Here we learn quite a handful from their architect Slartibartfast about what the Earth actually was, why two tiny rats want Arthur’s brain, and yes, why exactly the Earth was destroyed.
Amidst all the hullabaloo the four of them – Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian manage to make it back to the ship after being unwittingly saved by Marvin’s depression (the battleship committed suicide after listening to Marvin’s woes).
They then decide to go somewhere for lunch. The Restaurant at The End of The Universe.
You often come across books that drag for the first 50-odd pages – make you so sleepy you want to fling them against the wall, and just when you’re about to give up, suddenly pick up pace. We have an exception of sorts here. The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a feisty little bonanza that hooks you from the foreword itself. The book is wittiness at its best. Not the snicker-once-and-you’re-done sorts, this is the ROFL kind of humor, the one that makes your tummy ache.
I used to read this in the local train, and I admit I got a lot of disconcerted stares – people probably thought I was loony or something, the way I snorted so many times. And get this – Douglas Adams wrote this book in his twenties! Makes the rest of us twenty-somethings go green, doesn’t it!
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