The Short Version: Arthur Dent had a bad Thursday. His best friend is an alien and the Earth is destroyed. The President of the Galaxy just stole an Improbability Drive ship and his girlfriend is someone Arthur tried to pick up at a party. Gallivanting and hilariousness ensue.
The Review: I found myself actually a bit surprised that (horror of horrors…) I didn’t love this book like I remember loving it. Like Russell T. Davies’ introduction implies that everybody loves it. Certainly, I enjoyed it – it’s impossible not to have a good time reading Douglas Adams – but I wasn’t bowled over by it. It was Terry Jones’ introduction of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe that put it into perspective for me: no one reads these books for the characters or the plot. They read it for the entertainment and the ideas. Now, I’m not sure I completely agree – the characters grow on you – but with this first book, I think it’s mostly accurate. The book is hilarious because of the non-sequiturs, the droll asides, and the way that big ideas are played with on an almost childlike level. What doesn’t happen is any real meaningful character development. You can barely scope out an image in your head of the characters (and try to keep the dreadful film out of your minds, okay? – although Alan Rickman’s voice for Marvin is perfect) and the plot of this first book is relatively non-existent. And non-sensical. This book is, I believe, the perfect example of the setup. We’re introduced to everyone and everything and the rules of the Universe as Adams sees it are laid out for us. This way, he doesn’t have to spend any time worrying about that nonsense in later books and he can just go for it, 100%.
This is not to say that you should ever not-touch this book. On humor alone, the book gets a Rating: 4 out of 5. You can never quite look at Thursdays the same way – or mice, for that matter. Still, there is a certain sense that this book… well, that it lacks just a little bit of heft that could’ve made it an entirely different 4 (or even higher). You know?