Friday, October 30, 2009
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
When I was younger, I put so much stock into things that I had discovered first. If everybody knew about it, then it was no longer cool.
When I got a little older, I gave up on that preconception though. It's not true. Take Harry Potter for example. I know many people who hate Harry Potter even though they've never spent a minute reading one of the novels, just because of the sensation it caused. They don't know what they're missing. Those books are really good, even though everybody likes them.
Of course, someday, years from now, they'll seem tired. People will experience the whole series by the movies without ever reading a paragraph. And so on. There is that drawback. If everybody knows about it, then it permeates our culture, and becomes one of those things that you know without actually experiencing it. Like the writings of Shakespeare have become. Any idea how many of the common turns of phrase that people use on a daily basis are lifted from the pages of Shakespearean plays? A lot...check out this site for proof.
That's the problem that I ran into with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. It's been around a long time, about as long as I have. Growing up, I've heard more and more about how this book goes. Culminating in the film version from a few years ago, where I learned about most of the little parts I hadn't already heard. So when I finally took up the book, it was too late for anything in it to feel fresh and interesting. I still liked it, but it wasn't the experience I was hoping for.
Usually, when you hear about something for so long, it's amazing to finally experience it for yourself. Like my experience with reading Frank Herbert's Dune for the first time. What I knew of it was widened out and expanded. That wasn't the case with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy though. It wasn't a complement to the movie...it was merely another telling. Which made me sad.
I think the problem might have been the fact that it was comedy. Retelling jokes doesn't tend to make them funnier, instead they get less funny. The punchline can't surprise you any more once you've heard it.
It's too bad. I still recommend the book to anyone, because it's fun, and, hey, it's really short too. And maybe you haven't had the whole thing spoiled for you like I had. It is a good book. And for a comedy to still be gaining fans 30 years later really says something about its quality.
Anyway, next up for me: Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. That's one that I know almost nothing about...