The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: The Complete Collection, published by Pan Macmillan, contains all five books of the infamous Douglas Adams trilogy. This special 42nd anniversary edition, (and if you have to ask why 42nd it means you need to rush out and buy the set), also includes material from the author’s archives; outlines for the books, promotional materials, and other scribbling relating to the novels.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started life off as a BBC radio drama, then mutated into a television series before its final evolution into a series of books. Well, that’s not completely true as the last two books of the series, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish and Mostly Harmless, were written as original books and not based on a script of some type or another.
Mostly the stories follow the misadventures of the rather hapless, and out of his depth no matter what situation he finds himself in, Arthur Dent. Whisked off the planet Earth just before its destruction for an intergalactic hyperspace bypass by his friend Ford Prefect, (who turns out not to be from England at all but from a small planet near Betelgeuse), by hitching a ride on the very ships that carried out the destruction of earth, he is given a whirlwind tour of the universe.
The first three books of the trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Life, The Universe, and Everything see Arthur and Ford navigating through time and space with the aid of the most extraordinary book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A compendium of information about places to stay and survival tips for the spaceship hopping hitchhiker its main selling point is the fact it contains the words “Don’t Panic” emblazoned across its cover.
It turns out Ford works for The Guide and had been marooned on Earth for five years after creating his entry summing up his opinion of the planet: Mostly Harmless. Unfortunately even that rather perfunctory evaluation has been rendered obsolete by the earth’s destruction.
However, the destruction of the Earth is even more inconvenient for the race of pandimensional beings who created it to solve the problem of what exactly the answer to the question, What’s The Meaning of Life actually means. They had created a massive super computer who came up with the answer, but they then had to create a new one to understand the answer – and the new computer was Earth and everything that happened on it was a result of a computer program.
Now if that doesn’t justify your paranoia about feeling like somebody is always watching you what will? Although as somebody explains to Arthur when he makes this observation, it’s a pretty universal thing and not unique to earth.
If you haven’t guessed already The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a comic masterpiece. Adams manages to take every absurdity of human behaviour, cram it into five books filled with strange characters and even stranger worlds, and create something truly side splittingly funny. However while there are moments which will make you literally gasp for breath because you’re laughing so hard it is also quite a remarkably intelligent take on the foibles and conceits of being human.
Adams was the master of following the old Monty Python adage of taking something to its most ridiculous logical conclusion. No matter how outrageous or absurd a situation the characters wander into, there always remains a grain of logic for the reader to hang onto and identify with. Perhaps we even recognize a bit of ourselves in Arthur Dent – especially the bits about always feeling slightly out of our depths.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Complete Collection by Douglas Adams is a work of comedic brilliance everyone needs for their peace of mind.