“[The Improbability Drive] crew of four were ill at ease knowing that they had been brought together not of their own volition or by simple coincidence, but by some curious perversion of physics – as if relationships between people were susceptible to the same laws that governed the relationships between atoms and molecules.” – Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is lunacy at its best. While the word fantasy is overused when writing of genres and books, Adams makes us remember the true definition of fantasy and stretches it until “improbable” or “impossible” can no longer do it justice. This whimsical journey across space was originally a radio comedy broadcast in 1978 and then published as a novel in 1979, and finally brought to life on the big screen in 2005 starring Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel and Mos Def.
While the film is highly entertaining visual eye candy, what’s lacking from the movie is Adams’ artful way with words. Adams twists sentences in unexpected directions, and from the very first pages he takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through syntax and diction. When the main character Arthur sees spaceships for the first time, he notes:
The ships hung in the sky much in the same way that bricks don’t.
Do bricks hang in the sky? Do airplanes hang in the sky? Does anything hang in the sky? Why “hang” and not “fly”? Adams’ word choice turns this simple sentence into poetry for the absurd.
Douglas Adams’ remarkable writing style has enabled Hitchhiker’s jargon to seamlessly find its way into pop culture. Radiohead’s 1997’s classic hit “Paranoid Android” is named after Marvin, the robot with a Genuine People Personality who is clinically depressed. In another instance, when the crew first views the mythic planet of Magrathea, Arthur is skeptic of the planet’s legendary identity but still appreciates its awe inspiring beauty: “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” This famous quote has become a rallying cry for atheists, and is featured on the dedication page to Douglas Adams in Richard Dawkins’ bestselling book The God Delusion. Everything from the meaning of life to the number 42 has been manipulated by Adams’ whimsical pen and is now part of the modern lexicon. According to NPR’s list of 100 Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books, Hitchhiker’s rests comfortably at number two just below J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Image Source: Humour Book