Surprised Me: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Review

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry

I didn't expect to enjoy this SF comedy as much as a did.


Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.


Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan); and Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot.


Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.

Source: The version I am reviewing here is an older one, narrated by the author. It is no longer available on Audible (at least in the US). The cover & Buy links all go to the newer version narrated by Stephen Fry.



The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, read by the author / Length: 4 hrs 59 min



This is Book #1 of 5 (6 if you count the sequel written by Eoin Colfer) in the "Hitchhikers..." series. All of the books are available on audio (both unabridged and as radio dramatizations).



I received this book for free (many years ago). I had heard of it, of course, but didn't expect to enjoy it much since I am widely believed to be humor impaired, and I really don't like farce. However, I found this unexpectedly enjoyable. (I only made it through about 1.5 of the sequels though.)


It was fun, with occasional thought provoking comments on the human condition.



This is not a book with deep exploration of character. They are all written in very broad strokes, with little backstory & not a lot of insight into their thoughts. And yet they are memorable and iconic in SF culture.


There is only one female character, but she is definitely the most intelligent & level headed one of the bunch.



Strangeness is the name of the game. This is, after all, the book that introduced the "Babel fish" as a living alternative to the Universal Translator (yes, you stick it in your ear).

"The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix."


It begins on earth with Arthur trying to prevent the demolition of his house (so they can build a freeway bypass). He, and the rest of the human race, have no idea that Earth is about to be destroyed to build the galactic equivalent. It concludes not so much with an ending as with a stopping point. And anything goes in-between.



  • The destruction of the Earth was essentially simple:
There was a terribly ghastly silence. There was a terribly ghastly noise. There was a terribly ghastly silence.
  • The stuff on the Vogon ship (especially Arthur's response to the poetry, and their discussion with the guard).


I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Minor swearing / Several sexual comments or innuendos (including some vulgar character names)


OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There is a quite messy animal death. / There are several passages about God and whether or not he exists (no conclusions are offered, but humans are referred to as ape-descended).



Douglas Adams did a lot of public readings & radio versions of these books, so he was very experienced and knew the material from more than just having written it. I think his reading is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.



The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (#1) by Douglas Adams, read by the author / Length: 4 hrs 59 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend any SF comedy that isn't too broad?
  • Have you ever noticed that despite the fact that females are 50% of the population, they have a very small presence in classic SF?


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