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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Posted by Big Boo on January 29th, 2009

hitchhikers guide to the galaxyThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a special book for me as it is the first non-childrens book I ever read.  I remember finding a copy in the school library at primary school (which still amazes me today) and lapped it up.  The image accompanying this post is the front cover of that book, although if you buy it today it’s completely different artwork.

I mention the book first as this was my first encounter with Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s universe, but as you can tell by the number of category icons this post has assigned the story has been adapted for many types of media.  Indeed, there really should be another icon up there for “Radio” as that was where it all started!

Douglas Adams, once script editor for Doctor Who (when Tom Baker was the Doctor) originally created The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 1978 as a radio play for the BBC.  In the story every day Earth man Arthur Dent awakes to find that his house is about to be demolished to build a bypass.  Whilst attempting to stop this by lying in front of the bulldozers his friend Ford Prefect turns up, and tells him there are bigger problems and that he should go to the pub with him.

Ford reveals he is actually an alien (and not from Guildford after all) and is a researcher for a travel guide called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an electronic book with Don’t Panic helpfully emblazoned on the front.  It turns out that the demolition of Arthur’s house isn’t such a big deal after all, since the Vogon Constructor Fleet are currently about to destroy the entire Earth to make way for an Interstellar Bypass.

Arthur grudgingly goes with Ford and eventually meets Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two headed, three armed president of the galaxy, who has just stolen an experimental ship called the Heart of Gold that is powered by an improbability drive.  Along for the ride is Trillian, an Earth woman who Arthur once met at a party, and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Douglas Adams went on to convert the story into a “trilogy” of novels.  The second book was entitled The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and the third Life, the Universe, and Everything.  However, the trilogy has since been expanded into a quintology, with So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish in 1984, and Mostly Harmless in 1992.  The latter title is in reference to the updated description of Earth in the guide, and will be recognisable as one of the rankings in the videogame Elite.

Apparently there is a sixth book in the works, but given that Douglas Adams died in 2001 this one is to be penned by Eoin Colfer, writer of the Artemis Fowl books.  Apparently it is to be called And Another Thing… which seems like a fitting title if nothing else.

The BBC made a very popular television series of Hitchhiker’s in 1981and in 1984 Adams collaborated with American adventure game company to make a computer game of the story.  This game was one of those old text adventures where you entered things such as “go north”, “suck pangalactic gargleblaster” and “insert babel fish into ear”.

More recently there was the film released in 2005.  A movie version of Hitchhiker’s had been talked about for many years, but it wasn’t until after Adams death that one finally got made.  It was reasonably successful, but tweaked the storyline a bit adding a few new bits here and there.

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