Arthur Dent is having a really bad day. His house has been zoned for demolition to make way for a highway bypass and he is not happy about it. Arthur does what any reasonable homeowner would do and lays down in front of the bulldozer. Meanwhile his friend Ford Prefect comes along and convinces Arthur to have a quick mid day drink with him. What Arthur is soon to find out is that Ford is actually a very human looking alien who has been chilling on Earth to work on the new edition of the titular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur finds all of this out when Ford informs him that the planet Earth is slated for destruction to make way for an intergalactic bypass. The two hitch a ride on an unsuspecting Vogon ship...which is not really a pleasant place to be. Ford pops a translation fish into Arthur's ear and the language of the galaxy is now accessible to him...just in time for him and Ford to be blown out of an airlock by a very shout happy Vogon. Against all odds (two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against to be exact.) the duo are picked up by an impossibly amazing ship called The Heart of Gold, which had been conveniently stolen by the galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox of the two heads and three arms and his current girlfriend, the Earth girl Trillian. Arthur and Ford are escorted by the depressed robot Marvin to the bridge and the four embark on a mission to find the lost planet of Magrathea, where an advanced race used to make custom planets for the insanely rich. Upon arrival to the mysterious planet all kinds of craziness ensues...as it does in these types of books and Arthur is separated from the group. Eventually he finds out that his planet and people were actually custom made to be the ultimate computer in which trans-dimensional beings would use to find the question to the answer 42. Unfortunately the planet Earth was blown up right before the computing was to be completed, bummer. The beings (who appear to humans in the shape of mice) try to convince Arthur to donate his brain so that they don't have to start all over again. Arthur understandably refuses and the four make their escape with the help of the eternally depressed Marvin. The four hop back on their ship and head off into the universe for more adventures.
World Building - The book is set in various ships, planets and places through out the galaxy. It is a bit sci fi, a bit humor, and a bit tongue-in-cheek. Each environment is unique and painted clearly enough to give us some flavor without boring us with unending detail. The little bits and pieces of the Guide interspersed through out the book also add to the world building of this book in a consistently humorous way. The way the book is written, a completed world building is not needed as the humor is the over arching structure for the book. It is just the right amount for the story.
Story - This book is less about the story and more about idea's and humor. There is an overarching story line that gives the book a sort of beginning middle and end, but I think it is the overall flavor of the book that really shines. It is silly, irreverent, meandering and just plain fun. It is the type of story you want when you just want to relax and enjoy what you are reading with out too much effort. It is a story of inside jokes and anybody who reads it and enjoys it is instantly admitted to a club where the members can have whole conversations just from various quotes from this book.
Characters - The characters in this book are super fun, and really pretty much every person, alien, ship, robot, computer and animal have some sort of distinct personality. The various interactions, asides and outrageousness of them all are really what make this book so special. I also really appreciate that as light hearted and chaotic as this book is, all of the main characters are remarkably consistent in their portrayal.
Editing - This book is all over the place...in a good way. The main story itself is pretty straight forward and simple, but it is the asides and sidetracks and interruptions that give this book it's humor and charm. The chaos is intentional and well thought out. I have read books that try and use this style and fail because they get to muddled, this book however worked well in that even with the craziness it still flowed pretty well.
The Guide - My favorite part of this book is the excerpts from the Guide through out the book. It is fun to see the various descriptions, opinions and just plain weirdness that these little snippets provide. Many times they relate directly to the story, giving us an extra bit of world building and info, but sometimes it's just random stuff for fun.
The Movie - There is a movie based on this book and I have to say I don't hate it. It's not perfect, as a book to movie rarely is, but I thought they did a decent job. What I liked best was the casting, I felt that each character was more or less cast fittingly. I especially like Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin and now every time I read the book I here his voice...I miss that guy.
The Camaraderie - This is one of those books that instantly makes you part of something. It is a book that people read and love and quote and pretty much once you have read it you become a part of it. I love that a book, especially a weird little book like this, can bring the most random of people together. This just continues to prove the power of the written word and how people from all walks of life can read it and instantly bond over it, makes this little bookworm happy.
Overall Impression - This book is just fun. That pretty much sums it up for me, it is a book I read when my brain needs a break and I just want to turn pages of a good book. Oddly enough for as easy a read as it is, there are definitely some thought provoking ideas within the pages if that's what your in the mood for, so pretty much this book works all ways. I would recommend this book to anybody with a sense of humor, likes writing with a twist, or just wants to be part of the club. I give it 8 out of 10 Improbability Drives.
Happy Reading Everybody!