This compendium of masterpieces consists of five novels and one short story recounting the glorious and not so glorious adventures of Arthur Dent and his interstellar friends, Ford Prefect, Marvin the paranoid android, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Trillian (or sometimes, Tricia McMillan). After narrowly escaping Earth mere milliseconds before its destruction (to clear the route for a hyperspatial bypass), Arthur and co. set about traversing time, space, and alternate dimensions to explore the great mysteries of the universe. These mysteries include such matters as why Zaphod Beeblebrox has a thing about the color green, what the real intentions of The Ruler of the Universe (and his cat, The Lord) actually are, how to make a perfect sandwich with meat from a Perfectly Normal Beast, and, of course, how to see the marvels of the galaxy on less than 30 Altarian dollars a day. Throughout their various highly important and highly unimportant exploits, Arthur Dent remains infallibly the Earth man, showing that the roots connecting us to home (and a good cup of tea) still exert a strong pull even amid a universe full of wonders.
“The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a raucous and wild collection of written works by the tall (and brilliant) Douglas Adams. It includes (in order): “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” “Life, the Universe and Everything,” “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish,” “Young Zaphod Plays it Safe (short story),” and “Mostly Harmless.” Adams writes with sarcastic insight that eschews cynicism in favor of waggishness, resulting in narratives full of light-hearted snark. He creates worlds, characters and scenarios full of fantasy and so entirely outside of conventional notions that his imagination must transcend the known universe. Although he favors the unique and absurd in his stories, he is not above giving detailed descriptions of the thoroughly mundane aspects of daily existence. Indeed, by juxtaposing the ordinary with the extraordinary, Adams emphasizes the importance of both. These stories (and everything described in them) are unexpected, random, illogical, and beautifully constructed.
In case you couldn’t tell, I absolutely love everything about the Hitchhiker’s Guide. These books not only have me rolling with laughter, but they also provoke thoughtful reflection on why things are the way they are. The way Adams describes both routine and unusual events explicitly shows that there is more than one way of looking at things. Moreover, his bizarre descriptions and comparisons make for eminently quotable material. I love these books, cannot recommend them highly enough, and absolutely insist that you read them all. Then do it again.