The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written on here, busy as I was (am) educating the youth of America (ie: trying to make them be quiet for forty-five minutes at a stretch and failing) so it seems fitting that this review would be for a book I first read over half my lifetime ago. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979) is a science fiction humor classic and I was lent the entire five book “trilogy” when I was deeply ill my Junior year in High School. Recently I contemplated teaching it to my Literature in the Media class, but there’s an issue: the book is too smart.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is, in it’s own words, “a wholly remarkable book” that manages to blend the driest British humor with a very large dash of Monty Python. The first book follows Arthur Dent the day his home is destroyed, first by a bulldozer, then by a large spaceship. He ends up homeless in many senses of the word and hitchhiking through space with his friend Ford Prefect, an alien. After the pair escape the Vogons (who bulldozed Earth) they join up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy; and Tricia McMillan aka Trillian, who Arthur once failed to pick up at a fancy dress party. Zaphod has stolen a very lovely space ship, the Heart of Gold, which is equipped with an Infinite Improbability Drive, which pretty much makes the most unlikely thing possible happen. All of this is done with a ton of self-referential tongue-in-cheek humor and I absolutely love it, though my boyfriend kept asking “Is this part supposed to be funny?” and then put it down, for good, after about one chapter.

There’s the rub. You have to find this specific type of humor hilarious to really get into the book, or else you won’t realize that it’s funny at all. It’s the silliness bordering almost on nonsense kind of humor, the They Might Be Giants type of fun (a band who he also doesn’t get). I don’t think my students, even my Seniors who are in an Honors English elective, are capable of really getting into the text because I think almost all of the jokes will go right over their heads. Still, I’m considering assigning it as homework reading next year, in part because my classroom came with a class set of novels so I can assign it with no expense on anyone’s part, aside from emotional, of course.

The other charm of the book is that I love the ideas in it: the Vogons are a race of aliens whose poetry is so bad that one of them was killed by his own intestines to save the universe from hearing it; the Babelfish (an online translation service now) which feeds off people’s brainwaves, poops out being able to understand anything said in any language, so you can (and should) keep one in your ear; that in the book mice are hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who are experimenting on us to get “the ultimate question” whose answer is 42. These ideas are just so enjoyable to be immersed in that Hitchhikers is one of those books that I just sit back and drift though, delighted.

The ending drops off a bit of a cliff with them suddenly wanting dinner, but Adams had wanted it to be a multi-book story from the beginning. Sadly he died before the sixth and final book was completed, and it was written by someone else. I’m working my was back through the original five books now, so we’ll see how I feel as I go. For now I’m happy to have re-read book one, since it’s always nice when nostalgia holds up to reality.

Marvel’s Pride and Prejudice by Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus

Marvel's Pride and Prejudice by Nancy Butler and Hugo PetrusSince I’m teaching Jane Austen’s mega-classic Pride and Prejudice this coming school year I decided to pick up the Marvel version (a collection of the five editions above) to see if it would work for the kids. The illustrations above are stunning aren’t they? Too bad that the work inside looks nothing like it. Hugo Petrus’ illustrations are so hideous that it’s embarrassing. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, known for their handsomeness, look like a couple of wet noodles, as does Jane, the famed beauty (he just made her blonde). Elizabeth is made to grimace her way through the story, making so many nasty faces she ends up seeming like a total b-, and something of a bad guy. There is no way she would be so impertinent as to openly scowl at people or allow Mr. Darcy to pick her up when they are still unmarried.

Hugo Petrus thinks this is a good drawing.

Hugo Petrus thinks this is a good drawing.

Nancy Butler does a competent job with the script, but the adaptation feels really rushed in the end. I think she needed one or two more issues to really being to do the novel justice. She is responsible for all of Marvel’s Jane Austen adaptations, so I’m a little concerned. In the end though it’s the illustrations that can’t be moved past, they are an act of violence. Yes, they are that bad, it’s a slap in the face to everyone who loves Austen.

Pride and Herp Derp

Pride and Herp Derp

Honestly, what the hell Hugo? Okay, I’m done, please go read this review now, it’s way funnier than mine (I can’t be funny when I’m this irritated) and it’s where I got the scans. Seriously, go read it.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells is one of those rare authors that you encounter where the more you read by him the more you want to read. I read The Time Machine for the first time a few weeks ago and I was not disappointed … in the writing quality. The racism kind of bummed me out.

The premise of the novel is an unnamed main character, the Time Traveler, relates his tale to a group of riveted gents, one of which tells us the story through recollection. The Time Traveler has, indeed, traveled forward in time to a period after mankind split into two species: the peaceful Eloi and the carnivorous Morlocks. He describes the Morlocks more like cannibals, but the fact of the matter is that the Eloi are like cattle, and the Morlocks don’t consume one another. While sentient, the Eloi do not feel empathy, and almost let Weena drown before the Time Traveler saves her. Weena dies anyway because of the Time Traveler’s actions (or inaction), don’t worry though, he doesn’t blame himself. She is small, innocent, and childlike, and the Time Traveler loves her in this oddly distant, distinctly 1800s way (the novel was published in 1895). Finally the Time Traveler leaves to travel into the future and describes the “sunset” of life on Earth in some of the most disturbing (and intentionally hellish) language I have ever read – it’s stunning actually. He then goes back to his own time, relates his tale, and leaves, never to return again.

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The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

I had been meaning to read The Zombie Survival Guide (2003) by Max Brooks before I read World War Z (WWZ), but it just so happens that offers to let me borrow them came in the opposite order. Incidentally, I try to borrow as much of my leisure reading as I can because I spend so much on books for the classroom and lesson planning that my book budget is pretty taxed (nearly $200 in the last two weeks, though admittedly that’s not average). I will say straight away that if you can only read one WWZ is the superior book, but if it’s not enough for you, the survival guide is a good companion.

I was told that the survival guide would fill some of my perceived holes in the WWZ world building, but I can’t say that it does. The questions I had before are still unanswered, even after reading the first section: “The Undead: Myths and Realities.”

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