The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. Thought many of the concepts are slightly abstract and obscure, the book itself is a truly great work. The basic idea is that the day we meet our adventurous crew is the single worst Thursday of Arthur Dent’s life. Sadly, it is not just Arthur who will be having a bad day.
You see, it is this Thursday when the earth gets destroyed. Of all the billions of people on the planet, there was only one who knew what was to take place, and he himself was not even from earth. Ford Prefect, best friend of Arthur is a smooth talking quick thinking person for the remote planet of Betelgeuse five. As you were probably able to infer, Ford Prefect was not the name given to him by his parents, but instead the name of a car that was never popular, which he chose as his moniker, as to better fit in with the humans of earth. Our story begins with Arthur waking up early at his London ’flat’ (it was a British book). This was just like any other Thursday, except that outside, a demolition crew was beginning to destroy his house so that they will be able to create a highway bypass.
This was news to Arthur. He did not know how they could do this without even warning him first. Upon questioning the foreman of the job, he was informed that the plans had been on record in the planning office for months. Sadly, the plans had been kept in the cellar where there is no nights, or stairs for that matter, in a disused lavatory, in the bottom of a locked file cabinet, with a sign that says “Beware of the leopard.
” Arthur’s decision at this point was to lie in front of the bulldozer, so that, without killing him, it would be impossible to destroy the house. Just at this point, Ford Prefect enters the scene. He tells Arthur that it is imperative that he goes to the bar with him, because after he tells him the news, he will need a stiff drink. Arthur explains the situation, and quickly Ford comes up with a plan.
He makes a deal with the foreman that, since with Arthur there, they would not be able to do anything all day, they have resolved to just stand around and do nothing all day. So, it was not important weather or not Arthur was actually present. So they agreed that they would not knock down his house until he got back. Arthur could not decide whether or not to trust him. Ford assured him he could trust him to the end of the earth… which was about ten minutes. Unknown to Arthur, ford was a writer for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a type of encyclopedia chronicling the high and low points of every planet, and how to get about them for free.
He had been doing research on earth for the last several years. Recently he had received a transmission over his ‘sub-ether radio,’ which told him what was to take place in just a few short minutes. Arthur and Ford hurried off to the bar, and Ford explained what was about to happen. Ironically, the planet was set to be destroyed in order to build an interstellar bypass. And who better to destroy the planet, than a fleet of Vogons.
The Vogons were a race from the outer edges of the spiral arm. They had virtually no conscience, worked for cheep, had hugs ships of mass destruction, and had perfected a type of poetry which was so horrific, when read, the writer’s small intestine has been known to crawl out of their throat and strangle them. Well, the Vogons came, and made short work of our blue/green planet, but before that happened, Arthur and Ford were able to hitch a ride and stow away on one of the Vogon vessels. As you would assume, Arthur is fairly confused at the whole situation. Ford explains to him that he is from the planet of Betelgeuse, which, as anyone would suspect continued to surprise and confuse Arthur. Nothing, however, confused him as much as when Ford asked him to place something called a ‘babbelfish’ in his ear.
Everything that the babbelfish heard, it translates for the person whose head it occupies. So, nearly instantly, Arthur was able to understand all of the grunts that had been coming over the intercom, and then knew that they were being searched for. Once again, Vogon efficiency prevailed, and they quickly located the two hitchhikers. The hitchhikers were subjected to hear the captain of the vessel read his latest sonnet, and were then forced into the blackness of space, despite Ford’s best efforts to sway the guards to letting the live. We learned that when ejected into the vacuum of space, one could only survive 26 seconds. Well, our adventurers were out there for a good 25 before suddenly sucked onto a strange ship, with yet another intercom, uttering more and more strange things.
This time the subject of the babbling was mathematic improbability. They made their way to the bridge of the vessel, and found, with more surprise, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy, and a life long friend of Ford Prefect. The mathematic garble that had been broadcasting was, in fact, why Arthur and Ford had arrived where they did. The Ship, known as the Heart of Gold, worked on an ‘infinite improbability drive. ’ The ship decided how improbable it was that it would end up at a specific place at a specific time for no apparent reason, then generated a field with just that level of improbability. The only problem with that is that everything else that improbable also occurs in that general area.
Zaphod was an adventurous sot, never thinking that rules really applied to him, weather it was rules of physics, or the law in general. Zaphod had a plan, a plan to prove true a myth of his youth. All the young kids on Betelgeuse were told the story of the planet of Magrathea. On this planet, they would custom build other planets to your liking. Like your own private home, except as large as you can afford.
The location of this planet was one of the mysteries about it, but the Infinite Improbability drive was able to figure out exactly where it could be found. Also on this ship was an android, but unlike normal androids, this one was very smart, very strong, and very depressed. His name was Marvin. Marvin was traveling along with the ship to do all the things which Zaphod and Trillian (Zaphod’s girl, who was also on the ship) did not feel like doing, which was pretty much anything. The crew set foreword on their journey, and soon found the mysterious planet.
Magrathea was in fact a real planet, and all the stories had been true. When they arrived there, they were met with a defense mechanism, which promptly fired two missiles at the ship, neither of which impacted them, after they switched on the improbability drive. One missile became a whale, and the other became a bowl of tulips. The whale hit the surface of the planet and created a massive crater, which the team used to get below the surface, where all the work was done. Sadly, when they made it down there, they found that all the inhabitants were sleeping, cryogenically, until their computers decide that the economy of the galaxy was doing well enough for their strange product to be affordable again. With a stroke of luck, the team had arrived at just this time.
Arthur, who had decided to hang out by the ship, was met by a man named Slartibartfast. Slartibartfast took Arthur on a tour of the compound, where they build the planets, and explained how important he was to their clients. Arthur watched a video about a great computer system known as Deep Thought. Deep Thought was programmed to find the answer to ‘Life, the universe, and everything. ’ Not a small task.
The computer worked on the problem for millions of years, until such a time that it said, “The answer to life, the universe, and everything… is 42. ” On which point it was absolutely correct, however it did not know what the question was. It did, however design a computer strong enough to find the question to go with the answer. The people who owned the computer enlisted the Magratheans to create this machine, which was to be known as ‘Earth’. Arthur was informed that he was part of a giant computer program that utilized biological technology to solve problems. The system was five minutes from finishing the eight million year cycle of the program when it was destroyed to make way for the interstellar bypass.
He was the only survivor, and thusly, the most valuable asset they had to present to their clients. Even weirder are the clients themselves. They were two mice. The mice explained how it had been them who had been running the planet during the entire biological cycle, and how upset they were when it all went wrong. The entire crew met up with Arthur and bartered for control of his brain, where the information was probably stored.
During the combination meal and business agreement, all heck broke lose. The police who had been chasing Zaphod finally caught up, and Ford did the honorable thing and decided that no one would have Arthur’s brain but Arthur. They made a break for the ship, but were stopped by two police officers wielding kill-o-zap blasters. The officers chased our adventurers through the complex, eventually cornering them behind some computer equipment.
They tried to bargain for their lives, but to no avail. Just when they thought it was all over, both of the officers keeled over dead. They rushed back to the ship, and found that Marvin the depressed android had been conversing with the police ship, caused it to become suicidal, and it overloaded and shorted out the life support systems of the police officers. Everyone hurried back into the Heart of Gold, and took off. Without much resolution, the story closes with Arthur being asked by Zaphod if he was hungry. The answer was obviously yes, since he hadn’t eaten much all day.
Zaphod responded with the phrase “We’ll take in a quick bite at the Restaurant at the end of the universe. ” This book was actually the first in a series. The next is aptly named The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Book Reports