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Written by Timothy Sexton
“`Space,' it says, `is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.'”
The guide that gives The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is very much a character in the book. This no ordinary guide, but an e-guide. In fact, if you think about the Hitchhiker’s Guide as the unacknowledged birth father of Wikipedia, you get a fairly accurate read on how it is written as well as how it is used by the character. This description of space is, for instance, just one of the many brilliantly dry and ironic descriptions to be found throughout the book. To get the full effect, of course, it helps to imagine Stephen Fry reading all passages from the Guide.
"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."
This is the opening line of the novel, situated in an introductory segment preceding Chapter 1. The dry, ironic wit of the narrative is suspiciously similar to the overall tone of passages in the Guide itself.
"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t."
"If there is a better way to describe how ships hang in the sky, it has yet to be written. Adams is particularly gifted at making his basic expository declarative prose crackle with as much humor and inventiveness as his dialogue or the passages written as entries from the Guide".
"A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have."
Not only does this passage from the Guide prove to be a useful bit of foreshadowing, its significance even deeper. This novel is, in one respect, a satire of science fiction and space travel fiction and so this quote works to establish the parodic tone which permeates throughout the series. Most science fiction stories feature futuristic devices as the most massively useful thing the characters can have. Here it’s a towel. That Adams then goes on to prove that this contention is not mere hyperbole is proof that the novel also has a strong presence outside the realm of satire.
Deep Thought is a vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big computer built especially to calculate the answer to life, the universe and everything. After more than seven million years of working on this one problem, the answer turns out to be 42.
"Science has achieved some wonderful things of course, but I'd far rather be happy than right any day."
"And are you?"
"No. That's where it all falls down of course."
Ah, Slartibartfast…that mysterious, philosophical terraforming architect of cosmic dimensions. For the purposes of exposition necessary to forward the plot of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy through a series of subsequent sequels, he has all the answers. As a sentient being not terribly far removed from the species of human being, he’s just as lost for an answer to the really big question as everybody else. Even in his failure to gain wisdom, he reveals a wealth of knowledge, however.
Advice directly from the Guide to those hitchhiking through the galaxy. Good advice, too, because as it turns out the galaxy is an extraordinary random, unpredictable and scary place that is very good at inducing panic.
"My capacity for happiness you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first.”
There is a persistent fear that when android become a natural part of our everyday existence, they will eventually rise up in revolt against their illogical, overly emotional masters and annihilate the human race from the face of the planet. Since androids are, by definition, a product of that illogical mind, a more likely scenario is that they will evolve to resemble their masters more and more. The ultimate example of that theory is the severely depressed Marvin.
"I'm so amazingly cool you could keep a side of meat inside me for a month. I am so hip I have difficulty seeing over my pelvis."
Zaphod has two heads and is President of the Galaxy. And this quote by him about him lets you know pretty much all you need to know.
"So long and thanks for all the fish."
So, anyway, it turns out that all this time it was the dolphins who were really the smartest mammals on the planet and they were studying us rather than the other way around. All those funny tricks the dolphins seemed to be doing like somersaulting and moonwalking on their tail…well, turns out that was how the alien being were trying to communicate with us. Their final message before leaving the planet Rapture style was misinterpreted by us as an attempt to try pulling off a sophisticated double backwards somersault—through a hoop, mind you—when in fact they were just leaving earth with a very pleasant goodbye message.
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