Book Love: Thoughts on a cult classic

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (novel)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Soooooo… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Audiobook number 2.  Read by Stephen Fry.  Everyone’s favourite book.  Got to be a hit, right?

Um, not really.  And I’m sorry!  I wanted to love it, really I did.  But it just didn’t grip me like I expected it to, even combined with the sheer magnificence of Stephen Fry.

All the indicators were pointing to me adoring this book – I share its random sense of humour and it gets you thinking in a light, fun way.  But I found it a bit boring.  I found myself tuning out in parts that seemed pretty long-winded and irrelevent.

Now I’m worried I sound as though I disliked it, which I didn’t at all.  There were lots of bits that I enjoyed a lot and I completely get why it is so infinitely quotable.  This line, for example, I enjoyed immensely:

‘The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.’

I was also a big fan of Marvin the depressed robot, the poor falling sperm whale, Deep Thought and the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, the mice and plenty of other ideas.  I’m always jealous of people with wonderfully random minds that appear to pull entirely unique ideas out of thin air, and this is Douglas Adams’ speciality.  The man’s mind is incredible.  So perhaps I would go back to reread pieces of the book, skipping over anything that didn’t quite do it for me.

As a side note, I tried watching the film that by some twist of fate appeared on BBC iPlayer just as I finished the book.  I got about 45 minutes in and gave up – it seemed to me that they had got rid of all the parts I genuinely enjoyed, leaving the boring bits!  Bad job, Hollywood…

I’m glad I listened to this book (that sounds so wrong!), it has such a cult following and is so widely referenced, everyone probably should read it, simply to share in the jokes if nothing else.  And many more people seem to adore it than be bored by it, so odds are you’ll enjoy it!  I had a go at reading this book about 5 years ago and didn’t make it to the end, so unfortuntely I don’t think I can blame my opinions on the audiobook.  I shall persevere with my audiobook education, in pursuit of one I enjoy!

Since I enjoyed The God Delusion so much, I’m going to finish off with a pretty long extract from Hitchhickers about the Babel Fish.  I reckon it sums up a big part of what Dawkins was talking about and was one of the parts of this book that I really did love and found funny.  Enjoy!

“The Babel fish,” said The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quietly, “is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe.  It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.”

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’

‘But,’ says Man, ‘the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’

‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

‘Oh, that was easy,’ says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next pedestrian crossing.

Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but that didn’t stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his bestselling book, Well That about Wraps It Up for God.