I started reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tonight, for the first time… wait for it… ever. Shocked? Appalled? Yeah, well, I was too. I mean, I was shocked and appalled at how much I liked it. I’ve never been interested in science fiction writing of any kind (though, I did develop a very strong love for A Wrinkle in Time when I read that, when I was 9), and I never even saw the movie, or wanted to see it.
It all started when I was using StumbleUpon (the modern day Guide, really, if you don’t count Wikipedia…) and landed on this anecdote written by the same author, Douglas Adams. It was about how he got a cup of coffee, a newspaper, and a bag of cookies at a train station and sat down at a table next to a guy to enjoy it all. Suddenly, the other guy at the table opens the package of cookies and eats one. Adams talks about how, since he was English, he couldn’t very well say anything to the man, because it just wasn’t proper form. This wasn’t L.A., you couldn’t just start yelling and smashing shit, so he just ate one of the cookies himself and went on reading the paper.
Well, there is a punchline, I promise. Click here to see it.
So anyway, I fell in love with that writing. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the author was the same as Guide, so I went to GoogleBooks and got the pads of my cold fingers on a copy of it. I was surprised. I guess I assumed that science fiction writing would be dull, punctuated by capitalized words no one knew and descriptions of violent aliens. Or in the case of this book, I pictured an actual bulleted handbook, useful for hypothetical space travel. Can you say “neerrrrdddyyyyyy”?! I was also slightly put off by the introduction, because I really don’t like it when books talk about themselves (think Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traaveler), so when the narrator spoke of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being the best book ever written, I was peeved.
So I got over 50 pages knocked out in an hour, which for my slow pace is incredibly rare, and I’m actually pretty excited to go back for more. I still can’t understand the appeal of all those proper nouns, and I have to roll my eyes at the description of some of the aliens, but I’ve fallen in love with Ford Prefect, and I think that right now, he just might be the perfect non-humanoid for me.