Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever written a review and put “Review” in the title. This is an historic moment.
Okay. Moment over. On with the review.
I finished the first book in the Eclectic Reader Challenge (more information under the “The Challenge” tab) in a shockingly short amount of time. Granted, this is the first full book I’ve read since the Great LOTR Debacle (Omnitopia Dawn doesn’t count, as I had already gotten started on it beforehand), so it’ll probably take some time for me to get used to Normal Reading Speed once more.
Then again, it was a pretty short book, all told. Only about 143 pages. Those pages were pretty small type and pretty big pages, but still.
Don’t think this meant the book was lacking in anything, because it wasn’t. I was expecting it to be funny, but I wasn’t expecting this quality of humor. It got to the point where I was making a friend read certain passages because they were just too darn hilarious to pass up. Highlights included Marvin the Paranoid Android (although I didn’t really get the Paranoid part, as he’s more clinically depressed than anything else) and Eddie the computer. Although, really, the whole thing was great fun to read.
Aside from the humor, though, I didn’t expect the book to be so satirical. Irony and sheer wit pervaded the book from the very first page. It contained a surprising amount of commentary on human nature (mostly the more absurd things we do) and society. The book also sometimes breaks from the main narrative to reveal an interesting tidbit or other from the actual Guide.
One of the novel’s main themes (if I can call it that) is the phenomenon of extraordinary (and meaningless, according to the author) coincidences happening when they are extremely improbable. Improbability actually factors a lot into the humor and the plot of the story, and here’s where the science-fiction portion of it all comes in. There’s one scene in particular where the power of improbability is causing all sorts of strange and wonderful things to happen to our main characters, and the reader just has to go along with it. There’s no making sense of it all, but somehow I could still follow along, and that, to me, is a mark of extremely good writing.
Speaking of the main characters, just one thing I wanted to point out here: there are four (not counting Marvin) main passengers on the Heart of Gold (which is their spaceship): the humans Trillian and Arthur Dent, and the residents of Betelgeuse Five, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Ford Prefect. I simply wanted to point out that aside from Zaphod being in possession of two heads and three arms, both of these otherworldly individuals are humanoid. Now, I realize that Ford had to blend in with the humans, and that from a writing standpoint Adams probably wanted us as readers to be able to relate to these characters better than if they were, say, Hoovooloos (which are superintelligent shades of the color blue), but it just seems a little strange to me that two aliens should be so human in appearance, when the author literally had an entire galaxy’s worth of imagined species to choose from. This also happens, presumably, with the old man on Magrathea, because the narrator doesn’t note anything strange about his own appearance.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it does help to relate to the characters and lends more to the action if I don’t have to keep worrying about how a certain character’s movements and whatnot “look” in my head. I simply thought it was interesting.
And another thing: the plot was spectacularly paced. One subplot led straight into another seamlessly. Even the different books of the trilogy read straight into each other. When I finished the last page, I was ready to just dive immediately into the first page of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Brilliantly plotted, overall.
And, well, I suppose those are my thoughts on this particular novel. If we’re rating this…3.5 out of 5 stars. It would be a four, but I did think the characters were a bit flat. Either they had oversimplified personalities or really they had no distinct personality at all, and the fact that this was written mostly just to be funny can’t change my opinion that something is lacking. Maybe Adams flushes them out a little in subsequent books, but I feel this should have been done within the first novel.
This concludes this month’s review. Next month I will be reviewing a different book, of a different genre, with different pictures. In the interim, I just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and just started on Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath this weekend.
Side note: John Green’s novel was incredible.