Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Reread at the End of the Universe

Preeti Chhibber

Staff Writer

Preeti Chhibber is a marketing manager for HarperCollins Children's Books. She usually spends her time reading a ridiculous amount of Young Adult (for work, she swears!), but is also ready to jump into most fandoms at a moment’s notice. Her woefully neglected blog: Hurling Words Twitter: @runwithskizzers

In the name of Towel Day and general hilarity, Rioters Preeti and Jenn are rereading the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.

ultimate hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

When did you first pick up Hitchhiker’s? Why?  

JN: As a girl with an older brother who was into sci-fi (and who ruined his eyesight as a teenager by staying up late reading with a flashlight) and a mother who introduced her children to Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the earliest possible opportunity, it was inevitable that H2G2 would be part of my early fandom life. We must have found them in a used bookstore because the editions we had were the older covers, and I remember tearing through them as quickly as I could. It didn’t stop at Hitchhiker’s, either — I went through the whole Douglas Adams catalog. Dirk Gently! Last Chance to See! I think I maybe even thought at some point that I would dig up the radio plays and get through those, but I probably got distracted by something else before I could get quite that far.

In any case, I could practically recite the opening paragraphs of Hitchhiker’s (yellow!) and spent many hours daydreaming of being Trillian when I grew up.

PC: I honestly can’t remember my exact reasoning for picking up Hitchhiker’s when I did. I was 16, I think, and just browsing at B&N, probably coming off of a Harry Potter high, when I found The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was mildly familiar with it only because I went to a nerdy high school and a friend of mine would tell this story about sophomore year English.

His class was tasked with doing an oral report on an American author. He chose Douglas Adams, who as we all know, is not American. But Adams was Will’s favorite author and he would be damned if he didn’t get to do a report on him at some point in his academic career. So he did it, and managed to not mention Adams’ nationality at all.

… I’m pretty sure he got an A.

This was enough to spark an interest for me, so when I came across the massive four book trilogy, I figured, why not? And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

What’s so great about these books, anyway?

JN: Let me tell you a story. No really, it’s a good one. It’s about a girl who grew up reading a lot of fantasy, and wasn’t particularly bad at math and science but wasn’t particularly good either, and thought magic was far more interesting than the laws of physics or prime numbers. Enter Douglas Adams. Enter the Improbability Drive, and bistromathics, and a brilliant astrophysicist named Trillian who went planet-hopping with a dude with two heads. Enter quantum theory and a psychic detective who gets hired to solve Schrodinger’s Cat. Suddenly, math and science and technology were not only cool but hilarious, and worthy of every bit as much interest as magic — no wait, more, because these things were wildly improbable but based on real-life things that were actually pretty cool in their own right. Douglas Adams brought me to Michio Kaku and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

PC: Imagine the funniest thing you’ve ever heard / seen / read. Are you imagining it? Are you chuckling at it?

Well, quit. Because it’s not that funny. At least compared to the hilarity of Douglas Adams. I read this book over a decade ago and it is still hands down the funniest, like laugh-out-loud-in-embarrassing-places-just-by-remembering-a-line-funniest, book I have ever had the pleasure of reading in my life.

Why the reread? Why now?

JN: Well, Towel Day! And also, I have residual guilt from 2005, when the movie came out. I meant to reread all the books over again, so that if the movie sucked (which it did not! Triumph!) it wouldn’t taint my memory of the books. Because that’s what you do, right? Like with Lord of the Rings? (Shut up, you know you do that.) But for whatever reason (probably mostly having to do with having a real job and paying bills and whatnot for the first time that year) I never did get around to that reread. Every other year or so, I look at that Ultimate collection and think, it’s time! And then not do it. So, my friends, I will procrastinate no more! It is time to find out: Are they as funny as I remember them being? Will they stand up against the test of time and professional reader-brain? God I hope so.

PC: Like Jenn said: Towel day! Also, I haven’t reread the entire series since in forever. Probably since just before the movie came out. I’m ready for some good ole fashioned dry, British humor, also for some nonsensical humor, also for some lies, and also for a whale to fall out of the sky.

So, we’ll see you in round one of The Reread at the End of the Universe when we discuss The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!


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