It’s been two decades since I first read this, and I think I enjoyed it even more the second time. I thought I’d listen to the audiobook despite having the hard copy on my shelf, just because it was narrated by Stephen Fry. Anything Fry narrates is fantastic, and since he was such good friends with Adams, you can feel a little of the love in his performance. The Random House production does have some quirks, with weirdly abrupt chapter transitions, but I still really enjoyed listening to this.
Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.
This is a story where the humour and ideas are king rather than the overall plot, which is serviceable but really just there to get to the next joke or satirical situation. The characters are also quite static throughout the novel, with very little development, and I can’t remember if that changes in the later books. I actually think I only ever read the first two. His humour completely overshadows any weaknesses that came up in the plot, thankfully.
Douglas Adams was an environmentalist, dedicating much of his time towards campaigning for endangered species, and this is apparent even in his first novel. It begins with essentially an entire species being wiped out as an afterthought of a more advanced species’ expansion. He also turned the tables on our superiority over the animal kingdom by giving lab-tested animals power. It’s nice to see his success as a writer let him pursue that cause, although his case for the Black rhinoceros seemed to go largely unheard.
Marvin was humming ironically because he hated humans so much.
This novel permeated popular culture like few things ever do. I knew what a Babel fish was before I knew of the Tower of Babel. This has to be one of the most reference novels ever written, at least in geek culture. I’d forgotten how many classics came from this first book of the series, and it’s still just as clever and funny now, even after years of people constantly making Thursday and towel jokes. I’d forgotten a lot of the details, and even some of the major scenes – the sperm whale had completely slipped my mind, for example – so it was a real pleasure to return to this after so many years.
If you haven’t read this, obviously read it. If you haven’t read it in a while, trying picking it up again. It won’t be another 20 years before I come back to this.