21 December 2007

Absurd. Clever. Satirical. Quirky. And, sadly, just not as funny 17 years later.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition)
Douglas Adams
Harmony Books, 2004

There are books that you should read, re-read, and re-re-read. This, unfortunately, turned out not to be one of those books, at least for me.

When I first read this as a teenager, the whimsical English humor, sudden digressions, metafictional interruptions, and probing satirical questions kept me in stitches. This novel (such as it is), held together by a singular smart-assery, profoundly appealed to my own new found sense of adolescent rebellion. Coincidences, meaningful and otherwise, non sequiturs, and bureaucratic balderdash leavened the side-splitting dialogue and made it impossible to put down.

Alas, upon re-reading the novel at the conclusion of 2006, I was struck by how much of the writing didn't strike me anymore. To say that the plot of the book is thin would be a compliment, and to call the characters, well, characters, would be a stretch. Most of the jokes just weren't as funny this time around, and the few that did crack me up were tinged with the bittersweet recognition that they would never be groundbreaking again.

Because I read the 25th anniversary edition, perhaps it is fitting that it conjured up such mixed emotions. The author, Douglas Adams, had died three years before this edition was published, and so many of the extras in this volume involve tributes from luminaries like Terry Jones and Neil Gaiman. The introductory chapters are also chocked full of reproductions of flyers, book covers, and other such emphemera that will only be important to die-hard fans of the book, radio show, and/or movie.

Remember, though, that this review is just my opinion. Whatever you do, Don't Panic.

(This review was originally written on January 1, 2007.)

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