Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Classics Club: 7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

When you talk about reading the classics many people imagine long, serious novels with small print, written in the nineteenth century if not earlier. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is none of those. It is short - my version a mere 140 pages in medium to large font -  and first published in 1979. And the story could hardly be described as serious - ridiculous, far-fetched, ludicrous, absurd, and unbelievable maybe but never serious.

However, this work of comedic science fiction has much to say about serious themes such as politics, science, exploration and human folly.  And what it has to say is as relevant today as it was when it was first published, and is likely to remain so into the foreseeable future, making it a modern classic, at least in my opinion. As I read I frequently found myself nodding and relating what was happening in the book to current happenings in my world. For instance Arthur Dent discovered that the public notification of council plans to demolish his home to build a bypass consisted of the plans being "on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'." I was, unfortunately, able to draw parallels with the less-than-perfect public notification processes of my own local council.

If you are looking for a change of pace from your more usual classic fare then I recommend you join Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and the others on their journey through space, ending (for this volume at least) with  their visit to  Magrathea, the planet that made planets for others. Not only will you enjoy a rollicking sci-fi yarn, but you're likely to think more closely about your own society as well.

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