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The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide is the collection of five books in one novel. A combination of clever wits and hilarity, this book is sure to let you laugh out loud. This book brings simple things into extraordinary packages (like making a fuss about a digital watch and a bath towel). The book, although written in a sharp and notable style is also full of humor.
The story is a parody, which is a form of writing that uses the conventions and rules of one form and uses them for hilarity or comic effect.
It can be distinguished from satire form because satire just points out human folly and reforms them, while parody is in the style of writing itself.
One of the most noticeable themes in The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide is the absurdity of the story. Things in the story happen randomly without meaning or cause. Although absurdity is one of the major themes of the story, most of the random meaningless things that occur in the story actually have meanings – they are the product of the Infinite Improbability Drive on the Starship Heart of Gold.
The absurdity of the themes allows the author to introduce oddities in the story.
Douglas Noel Adams, also known as Bop Ad and DNA, was an author, a radio dramatist and a musician all rolled into one. He is well known for his work, The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is a series that began on the radio, and was later on developed into a trilogy of five books, a television series, a towel, a comic book series, a computer game, and a feature film.
Adams also wrote Doctor Who, Dirk Gently, Liff, and Last Chance to See. The idea of the computer game Starship Titanic also originated from Douglas Adams. (Douglas Adams)
Furthermore, he was also known as an environmental activist, actively participating in the campaign for the preservation and the restoration of the environment. He was also a self-described “radical atheist”, and a certified techie (he loves cars, cameras, Macintosh computers, and other gizmos). He even uses the electronic mail and the Usenet long before it was widely known. (Douglas Adams)
He died at the age of 49 and has been an institution in the field of fantasy fandom circles and science fiction. (Douglas Adams)
The story begins when Arthur Dent wakes up just to discover a bulldozer about to tear down his house because someone is planning to build a galactic freeway. He went out and lies in front of the bulldozer saying that he doesn’t know of the plans until the day before.
Moments before a cosmic construction team demolish the Earth to build a galactic freeway; Arthur Dent is dragged off the planet by his daring friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As they journey through the endless and unknowable space, they literally wreak hilarious havoc.
Ford always carries with him the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a book which contains the so-called ‘guide’ to one’s travel in the universe. In it are the words “don’t panic”, written in a “large and friendly letters”. Ford, following what is written on the book, also carries with him a large bath towel believing that it is the “most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” In this part of the story, we can see that the nature of things on Earth is very much universal.
Meanwhile, Marvin, Zaphod Beeblebrox and his girlfriend Trillian are traveling inside a new traveling ship (Heart of Gold), stolen by Zaphod. They bumped with Arthur and Ford Prefect in the universe vacuum. Together, they journey towards a mythical planet known as Magrathea. This planet is known to construct other planets and for some reasons unknown to all of them, Zaphod wanted to visit this planet. (Zaphod forgets some things because he conditioned his two brains to do such).
Finally, the Heart of Gold landed to the planet they all want to go – Magrathea. They decided to explore the place first and when they notice that the impact created by their space ship resulted to open the planet’s crust to reveal underground networks of tunnels. They decided to go inside the tunnel while leaving Arthur and Marvin behind. While inside the tunnel, they suddenly realized that the door behind them were shut and the place they are in are beginning to be filled with gas.
On the other hand, while Arthur waits for the others to return, he reads the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, particularly a part where it discusses what happens to a lost biro (a ball-point pen). An elderly man named Slartibartfast suddenly appeared into the view introducing himself to Arthur. He then asked Arthur to come with him in his air car. Slartibartfast took Arthur into the place were they make luxury planets.
He also told Arthur that they are now rebuilding a planet called Earth and that Earth is a custom-made luxury planet. Slartibartfast works in Norway and so he was very upset to hear that the planet was destroyed. Moreover, he was told that the original Earth was actually commissioned, and was supposedly to be run entirely by mice. But the most unacceptable fact of all is that human beings are just part of a research program.
Slartibartfast then started to tell Arthur the Earth’s tale. He told him that the millions of years ago, a particular race of very intelligent creatures were all set to determine the very meaning of life. Because of this, they created an extremely intelligent computer called ‘The Deep Thought’. Two of its programmers, Lunkwill and Fook ask Deep Thought to tell them the answer to the real meaning of everything. Deep Thought then told them that in seven and a half million years, the Question will be answered.
Arthur was very much awed by the story but he tells him that he really have no idea what the connection is between the Earth, the computer and the mice. Slartibartfast then invited Arthur to his study and showed him the day of the Great Answer – seven and a half million years later.
Arthur was plunged into the Sens-O Tape, a kind of tape that would take you to your requested time. A lot of people were waiting for the answer when Deep Thought then revealed that the answer to their Ultimate Question of Life is the Number Forty Two. Arthur then notices that the people doesn’t like Deep Thought’s answer, and the intelligent computer, justifying himself, told them that the problem is actually not with the answer, but with the question. If the people only find out what the real question is, they would be able to understand the answer. Unfortunately for the people, Deep Thought cannot provide them with the answer, but it offered help by saying that the he will design a very intelligent computer which can give them the answer. And that computer will be called The Earth.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the story, Trillian and Ford listen to Zaphod as he tries to remember what happened to his brain. He then remembered that before Yooden Vranx, the former President of the Universe died, he visit Zaphod and asked him to run for the Presidency and steal the Heart of Gold. He also told Zaphod to modify his own brain so that he will pass the Presidential Brain Screening Test (this test will show all the things the candidates are thinking). At that moment, a Magrathean man tells them that the mice are now willing to see them.
Arthur and Slartibartfast, on the other hand, are contemplating about the Earth’s destruction, as well as the fact that it happened five minutes juts before the computer program was completed. A man then appeared on the view and asked Arthur to meet the mice. The mice wanted to meet him because he was on Earth the night before the destruction happened and maybe he can tell him something really important.
Arthur and Slartibartfast then met up with Trillian, Ford and Zaphod at the design room. Two mice, Benjy mouse and Frankie mouse, were the mice present at the meting. The mice decided that since Arthur was on Earth five minutes before the destruction, the structure of his brain can tell them the Ultimate Question.
They offer to surgically remove it for him but Arthur doesn’t want to cooperate so the mice, together with the other Margatheans went down to get Arthur’s brain. The situation was almost hopeless for Arthur and his friends when an ear splitting alarm distracts all of them. Because of this, the four travelers use the distraction to get out. But the cops from the space ship with the ear splitting sound then cornered the four travelers but they soon found themselves again so lucky when they once again escaped.
After the hard-won escape, they all then decided to take a bite at a restaurant located at the very end of the universe.
The whole story almost revolves on looking for the Ultimate Question, which is the real meaning of life. It is an inescapable fact that whatever happens, and whatever time or era or place in space it is, the question of the real meaning of life never fails to haunts us all.
The story may be simple, even comical, but that doesn’t stop it from bringing us closer to the Ultimate Question about life. Why we live, the reason why we are here, the purpose of our existence, these are just some of the questions where we will find time to look for the answer.
It was also mentioned in the story how important the great question is. Notice that the First Earth was destroyed but they still want to build another Earth for them to know what the real meaning of life is.
Notice that the story never mentioned the real answer to this question. This is because it is really close to impossible for us to know what life really is all about. It is up to each and every one of us to find the answer for ourselves.
The absurd simplicity of the answer (number 42) to the question also makes the story interesting. Just imagine if Deep Thought gave a much serious answer, it wouldn’t be as interesting as it was.
It is also safe to note that the author actually uses mice as the creatures which, according to the story can control all human beings. It is an ultimate change because it is very rare, and that more often than not, human beings are always in control. Maybe it is just a representation how important every creation on Earth is.
“Bureaucracy and incompetence continue to show up as a central theme alongside random, improbable coincidence. It is beginning to sound a bit like Chaos theory, which holds that order can be found in seemingly random data. One aspect of chaos theory is a phenomenon called sensitive dependence on existing conditions. The thought is that small changes in initial conditions can have drastic effects on the outcome. Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hiker series could be considered in some ways a humorous study of Chaos theory.”(Adams, 2005)
Zaphod’s character can also remind us of today’s world leaders – leaders who do not tell their real motive of running for the position. Although his character is really kind, it is an indication that outside forces (like the former president) can turn a good leader to someone he is not.
It is also interesting to note how Ford appreciates the way human beings speak of the obvious. Saying “It’s a nice day” when the weather is perfect, just says how we want to state what we often see. It also states that a need to communicate with others is necessary because taken from what Ford said, human beings should have someone to talk to. Where they can tell what they are thinking, to show appreciation and affirmation.
Furthermore, Marvin’s character (the robot) also tells us how human beings are fascinated with creating something that can help us make our lives easier. Take for example the case of the robot. Just imagine something that doesn’t sleep and doesn’t eat but can be able to do physical things an average human beings cannot do. But just like Marvin, it also tells us that robots can also make a lot of mistakes and that human beings are the ones who can really think for themselves.
There is something called the Infinite Improbability Drive which is considered as the “engine” of the starship Heart of Gold. This is a representation that a lot of things in this world are improbable and we need a lot of experiences to discover the probable side of all these improbability.
Another interesting part of the book is the part where it was mentioned that the loss of biro or ball-point pen brought problems in the world. Notice the comical effect of this part because instead of the starvation, hunger, or political killings, the author focused on a comical problem to create a hilarious effect on the story.
It is also evident in the story how incompetence, bureaucracy and selfishness sometimes became the theme of the story. It should be noted how those who care much about finding the answer to life (the philosophers), are actually the ones who are also preventing it from coming to life. They are the ones who seem to be the happiest regarding the seven and a half million years because they will be very much benefited from this ignorance.
The extraterrestrials and the aliens are also a big part of the story. The story tells us that aliens really exist and they are actually much more advance than us. It is now a question of whether we are going to believe it what the story tells us or not.
According to studies, extraterrestrials are life that originated fro outside the planet earth – which is the only place in the entire universe known to support life. The existence of such life is currently hypothetical because there is not enough evidence to say that there really is life outside the earth. All in all, the story is a masterpiece, one that can touch both end of the spectrum because of its comical absurdity and hidden metaphorical meanings. Definitely a must read.
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