The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book Summary - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book explained in key points
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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy summary

Douglas Adams

A Novel

4.3 (191 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is a humorous science fiction novel that follows the misadventures of an Earthman named Arthur Dent as he travels through space with his eccentric alien friend.

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    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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    A total loss; a big score

    As Ford Prefect reveals to long-time friend, Arthur Dent, that he isn’t actually from Guilford, but a star system close to what humans call Betelgeuse, he also imparts some good news. Fortunately for Arthur, vis-a-vis the impending destruction of both his house and planet, since Prefect is an intergalactic hitchhiker he can hitch them a ride aboard the alien fleet that has arrived to destroy Earth.

    The fleet is piloted by Vogons, an ancient race that, immediately upon discovering the means of space travel, took up positions in the Imperial Galactic Government managing the civil service. As such, while the total destruction of a heavily populated planet would normally provoke in most species a response of horror and shame, to the bureaucratic Vogons it simply makes them a bit more irritable than usual.

    Sadly for Arthur, a Vogon ship is far from ideal for hitchhikers – the interstellar bureaucrats tend to eject hitchhikers into deep space immediately. This is due to the Vogons' intense distaste for providing any free service to anyone. But given the circumstances that have brought the duo on board, almost certain doom is better than a certain one.

    Upon boarding the ship, Arthur is supplied with several critical things by his friend. The first is a Babel fish, a tiny translating alien that will inhabit his head and happily translate all alien tongues to his own: indispensable for the galactic traveler. The second is a copy of a small digital device inscribed with the words “Don’t Panic” on the front – the exhaustive index to everything, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    They’re transported on board by the disaffected kitchen staff of the fleet to annoy the Vogons but are detected and hauled to the bridge almost immediately. There, Ford and Arthur face two terrible new realities. The first is that the Vogons will flush them out of an airlock into space without the benefit of space suits. The second, far worse reality, is that the Vogons will treat them to a poetry reading beforehand.

    Meanwhile, 500,000 lightyears away on the opposite side of the galaxy, a small boat speeds across the waters of a remote ocean planet. The craft is piloted by Zaphod Beeblebrox, renowned bad-boy, ex-hippie, shameless self-promoter, and currently the democratically elected president of the galaxy. Many took his election as a sign of the impending doom of government.

    Zaphod’s two heads and three arms steer the small craft onward toward a super-secret destination: the public reveal of the latest in hyperspace technology, in the form of a ship that moves through space via an infinite improbability engine. The ship, the Heart of Gold, has been built on this remote ocean planet precisely for its remoteness, as a one-of-a-kind prototype.

    Zaphod’s official duties are to deliver an inspiring speech written for him and to nod approvingly as the new ship was ogled by billions in a live broadcast. Instead, as the sleek new spaceship is enjoying its first few moments of public adoration, Zaphod’s two heads whoop out a major third and he detonates the small, paralyzing bomb he’s been carrying in his pocket. He then steals the Heart of Gold.

    ANALYSIS

    With an eye toward human fallibility and a flair for the comedic, Adams carefully constructs a universe in these opening chapters that’s as ridiculous as it is cold and uncaring. That alone was astonishingly new at the time The Hitchhiker’s Guide was published. Science fiction had long been thought of as dramatic in novels, films, and television. The idea of a comedic approach was thought impossible simply because it had never been done.

    But what resulted was an overnight sensation. The novel fully embraced a philosophy of absurdism, as individual characters all struggle against indifferent systems. Each character has, in response to this struggle, gone rogue in some way. Arthur has seen his house and planet destroyed and hitched aboard a UFO. Ford Prefect has been stranded on an alien planet for more than a decade. Zaphod Beeblebrox appears to have gone mad in the effort to be elected galactic leader for the sole purpose of stealing the Heart of Gold.

    Along the way, heartless bureaucracy has driven the action. Paperwork and council boards have brought on meaningless destruction on all fronts. In an absurd twist, both Arthur and the entire population of Earth are blamed for their own ignorance about the upcoming demolitions. Planning documents of the destruction of Earth were apparently available on Alpha Centauri for decades. If earthlings couldn’t figure out space travel fast enough to go look at them, it was their own fault.

    At the very heart of the opening, punnily enough, is the introduction of the Heart of Gold which has particular significance for Adams and his universe. For the author, focusing on the advances in technology and how they could build brighter futures for mankind is both the figurative and literal heart of the tale. The idea of an engine made of pure gold that could harness improbability physics to propel a ship simultaneously through every point in the universe, past or present, is a potent one. It will take several additional novels to explore.

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    What is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about?

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) is the first book in a series of science fiction novels that follows Arthur Dent, the only human to escape the destruction of Earth. Following his rescue by an alien researcher for the eponymous guide, Arthur’s reluctant adventure across space and time leads to an array of surreal and humorous escapades across the universe.

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Review

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) is a hilarious and thought-provoking science fiction novel that is worth reading because of its unique blend of humor, wit, and philosophical musings. Here are three reasons why this book stands out:

    • The book is filled with quirky characters and absurd situations that will keep you entertained from start to finish.
    • With its satirical take on the human condition and profound insights masked beneath the humor, this book offers a refreshing and original perspective.
    • The author's ability to explore existential questions with wit and intelligence ensures that this book is anything but boring.

    Who should read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    • Those interested in learning what the classic science fiction franchise is all about
    • First-time intergalactic travelers looking to brush up on alien etiquette
    • Anyone curious about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything

    About the Author

    Douglas Adams was an English screenwriter and author of many novels which take on satirical and whimsical approaches to exploring philosophical and existential themes. Particularly well known for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which began as a series of radio plays of the same name, and went on to include four additional books. Several of his novels, including The Hitchhiker’s Guide and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, have been adapted for television and film. Additionally, he wrote for other popular series including Doctor Who, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

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    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    The main message of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is to embrace the absurdity of life and not take anything too seriously.

    How long does it take to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    The reading time for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a humorous and witty book that is definitely worth reading. It offers a unique and entertaining perspective on life and the universe.

    Who is the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    The author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is Douglas Adams.

    How many chapters are in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    There are 35 chapters in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    How many pages are in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy contains 193 pages.

    When was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy published?

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was published in 1979.

    What to read after The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Ulysses by James Joyce
    • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
    • The Poetry and Music of Science by Tom McLeish
    • Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
    • Spoon-Fed by Tim Spector
    • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
    • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    • ADHD an A-Z by Leanne Maskell
    • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells