I don’t often let high expectations get the best of me. For whatever reason though I found myself going into The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy that contained five novels by Douglas Adams expecting to be very impressed. I’d heard people reference the series and had watched the movie adaptation of the first book and was rather curious about it.
Now admittedly, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I thought it was going to be a science fiction adventure filled with humor. I was kind of right, but I felt that I also was wrong in my expectations at the same time.
Let’s start with what I liked about the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. The books are funny. I laughed out loud a number of times, particularly in the first three books. I felt his humor was very satirical and he lampoons a plethora of subjects. Sometimes it is very obvious what he is poking fun at, while at other times I wasn’t entirely sure.
Another positive of the series is that Adam’s has a pretty interesting imagination. From aliens that demolish planets for hyperspace bypasses to concepts like bistromathics, and even the titular guide itself. These make interesting canvases for Adam’s humor and you never quite know what you’ll be coming across next.
Now I think these two things are the strongest points of the series, but there are also a number of weaknesses. The first is that the plot is somewhat lacking. I mean there are goals that are put forth in the books, but they are often never resolved at least in any positive way. Typically there a lot of random twists and turns that leave you spinning after awhile. The humor involved in these often helps, but the strength of these books is in the humor not necessarily the plot.
Second, I found the characters rather unlikable. Maybe they were supposed to be that way, but I really found it hard to relate to any of the characters in the book. Arthur was probably the one I was most able to relate to, but even then he wasn’t particularly likable. The other characters are either jerks or just fairly shallow and really don’t help connect you to the already weak plot.
The next weakness is that the quality of the books are uneven. The first three books in the series are the best. I enjoyed the fourth one, but felt that it was much slower than the other books. The fifth well, it just felt like a mess and that Adams was really tired of the series and was trying to make everyone in the book as miserable as possible.
I’d also say that while humor is a major strong point of the series, sometimes it feels as though it’s trying to lean on it too much. That everything feels like some setup for a sarcastic, satirical turn later. Maybe I just felt that way due to reading all five books back to back.
Now, it may sound like I didn’t like the books. I did like them, just not as much as I thought I would going into them. I was expecting a bit more plot, but I felt that the series delivered on the type of humor I was expecting.
So I was a bit disappointed by these books, but they were an interesting read and I’m glad I went through this series. Just be prepared for a threadbare plot, lots of randomness, and a good amount of sarcastic humor. If you’re expecting that, then maybe you’d be prepared for what you find, at least more prepared than I was.