I just finished The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The copy I have is a version that was sold to promote the 2005 film adaptation starring Mos Def, Martin Freeman, and Zooey Deschanel. With that in mind, the book is 309 pages long, but 93 pages deals with the production of the film. I didn’t know this until I was on page 216 of the book and the story suddenly stopped.
Now I’m all for cliffhangers. I’m all for a series of books or movies that continues the story. But, man, talk about leaving you hanging – there was zero resolution to this book. Even the Lord of the Rings saga, which was not originally intended to be broken into a trilogy, but was meant to be read as one, long story, had more natural breaks between books than HHG left us with. Maybe it plays differently on the radio, where this story was first produced, but on the page I was left feeling very disappointed with our heroes’ escape from…something.
Then again, maybe this is intentional. Maybe Adams was playing with the storytelling status quo, wherein a story has three specific acts and closes with a satisfying dénouement. Maybe he wanted to mess with us; to throw us off our balance. The rest of the book is so haphazard and random that perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us when he stops before we know why anything is happening.
I guess what I’m saying is, for me, HHG was more a jumble of really funny pieces, but the overall story left me very disappointed. What’s most frustrating is that I appreciate a movie that’s structured like this. In fact, I love Will Ferrell’s Anchorman, primarily because it’s little more than sketch comedy scenes strung together with a threadbare plot. But for whatever reason, this absurdist storytelling doesn’t work for me in a book. And what’s most frustrating about that is I really thought some of it was hilarious.
I loved the concept of what mice on planet Earth really were. I loved Marvin, “the Paranoid Android.” The inner monologue of a missile that was suddenly turned into a whale cracked me up! But put it all together and you don’t really have much coherence. It’s almost like someone turned the improbability drive on at around the midway point of the book.
I know I’m going to get crucified for this in the geek community. To some people, not liking HHG is akin to not liking air. But aside from a few laughs, there was nothing here that helped me understand why this book has become such the cult phenomenon that it is. Maybe I have to read the rest of the 5-part trilogy to see how it all fits together, but, honestly, based upon the first book, I’m not sure I really care.