Week 6 of our Summer of Sci-Fi Challenge proved to be hands-down the most fun so far, thanks to the raucously funny and off-the-wall Hitchhiker's Guide.
As I've made clear from the beginning of this Challenge, I'm not a seasoned sci-fi reader. Thus my mind refused to absorb the plot--it just let the fine points bead up and run off like a windshield treated with Rain-X. I also retained only sketchy details about the characters--the main Earthling, Arthur Dent, is a delightful bumbler, Zaphod Beeblebrox may be a two-headed alien but doesn't seem to benefit from having two brains, and Marvin is by far the grouchiest robot ever conceived by science.
If it wasn't the plot or characters that sold me on this book, what exactly was it? To state it simply, this is one of the wackiest books I've ever read. The goofy, British-tinged humor hit me right in the funny bone.
Adam and I spent a few days out at the farm this past week, mainly so Cooper wouldn't have to spend the holiday trembling under our bed in a fireworks-induced terror. At one point during our stay, Adam plucked Hitchhiker's Guide out of my bag and read the first page and a half out loud. By the time he read the line about a man who “had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change,” I was chortling into my shandy and 100% sold.
And the rest of the book does not disappoint. The humor reminds me a little of Christopher Guest's, like the darkly funny mockumentary Best in Show. A little dry, sort of subtle, blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but devilishly good: "He gestured Arthur toward a chair that looked as if it had been made out of the rib cage of a stegosaurus. 'It was made out of the rib cage of a stegosaurus,' explained the old man as he pottered about fishing bits of wire out from under tottering piles of paper and drawing instruments."
(If that doesn't at least make you smile wryly from one corner of your mouth, this may not be your brand of humor.)
Favorite character honors go to Marvin, the highly-advanced robot who is so lifelike, he's massively depressed. He's the metallic emo preteen of the group, chugging about pretending to be lame and remarking on how much he generally hates everything: “Can't bear oceans.”
My new top priority is to check out the film version. As I read, I had no trouble picturing Martin Freeman as the clueless Earthling Dent. It's basically the same role he plays as Watson in the BBC series Sherlock alongside Benedict Cumberbatch. “Where are we going? What's happening? Isn't there any tea?” (For that matter, it's also remarkably similar to his interpretation of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who'd prefer to stay at home eating second breakfast and avoid any kind of adventuring. Not that I will ever admit to reading The Hobbit, much less watching any portion of the movie(s).)
As always, I welcome your comments here or on Goodreads or Facebook. How did you like Hitchhiker's Guide? I'm especially interested to hear opinions on the film version, and how it compares to the book.
We're now halfway through the Summer of Sci-Fi Challenge! Join us next week for a discussion of Neuromancer by William Gibson. I hear the Wachowski brothers totally ripped him off when they made The Matrix movies. Should be a plagiarizingly good time!
For the complete list of Summer of Sci-Fi titles, click here.