I have never been much of a science-fiction fan, so when I saw the Try Something New Mini-Challenge, I decided that I should tackle a science fiction book. What was cool about this challenge was that you paired up with another fellow book blogger and when you finish you complete a joint post. My partner was Melissa from Melissa’s Book Reviews. Cruise on over to her blog to check our her recap of our discussion.
I think Melissa sensed my trepidation with this genre because she agreed to my suggestion of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, a book that during our chat Melissa revealed that she wouldn’t really qualify the novel as science-fiction, but more of a “space comedy” as she so aptly put it.
As far as the book went, here are my initial reactions:
me: Hmm… well, I definitely found it funny and caught myself chuckling and laughing on several occasions, but I never felt the burning desire to just keep reading
I actually abandoned it for two weeks
Melissa: You know, me either. I’ve read it before; back when I was in high school, and parts of it have made it into family lore. But, I think it’s much funnier talking about it, than actually reading it.
You know it was originally radio scripts, right?
me: Yes, I did see that and I can see how it probably was really successful in that way. I would listen to it no problem.
As it turned out, Melissa’s husband is apparently a really big Hitchhiker’s fan and has a copy of the original radio script. In the script, Adams offers an explanation of where he came up with one of the best names ever: Slartibartfast:
I thought this character should be a dignified, elderly man, weighed down with the burden of a secret sorrow. I wondered what this sorrow should be, and thought perhaps he might be sad about his name. So I decided to give him a name that anybody would be sad to have. I wanted it to sound as gross as it possibly could, while still being broadcastable. So I started with something that was clearly completely unbroadcastable, which was PHARTIPHUKBORLZ, and simply played around with the syllables until I arrived at something which sounded rude, but was almost, but not quite, entirely inoffensive.
Ha! I love this.
Before our discussion, I was feeling a little indifferent about the novel. However, Melissa did remind me of some of the really funny aspects of the book:
me: I liked the really depressed robot… I can’t think of his name right now
He’s the best part of the movie… Alan Rickman’s his voice, and he does a superb job.
me: yes, I loved poor Marvin
Melissa: I think my favorite scene was in the end when Marvin hooked himself up to the cop’s ship, and it committed suicide. That made me laugh. I liked the idea that even though Marvin was so supremely depressed, he still managed to help them. Even though he didn’t care. I also harbor a soft spot for Zaphod Beeblebrox. If only because his name is so fun to say.
me: The names were a hoot. I also really liked the history of figuring out the meaning of life
Melissa: Yeah. That’s actually one of the things that has made it into family lore. You say to my dad, “I have a question” and he says “42”. Every time.
me: That’s great. I need to use that one with my students.
We did have some differing views on the purpose/theme of the novel:
me: (I had just compared the author to Vonnegut stating the following similarity) he sort of mocks the absurdities of life.
The randomness of it all
Melissa: I can see that. Though I’m not sure Adams was going for any social commentary. I think he was just being silly.,
I could be wrong./
Either that, or he’s poking fun at the superiority people seem to have.
Well, whether it be mocking the absurdities of life or poking fun at the superiority people, one thing is for sure, the book will make you laugh. Its campy and goofy and hey, the answer to the meaning of life can be found within its pages. Actually, if you read closely enough, you will find the answer in this post. Did you find it?