Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the first book of the five-volume series (which Adams humorously called a “trilogy”) based on Adams’s successful radio series of the same name. An immediate best seller, it has remained popular for more than a quarter century.
In a quiet suburb of London, Arthur Dent is minding his own business when his morning is interrupted by bulldozers and wrecking machines coming to destroy his house. The home, which blocks the path of a new bypass, is slated to be torn down. Things go from bad to worse when Arthur’s friend, Ford Prefect, who has drunk too much at the nearest bar, enlightens Arthur about the imminent destruction of Earth. Ships from the Vogon Constructor Fleet surround the planet, commissioned to destroy it to make way for the new hyperspace express bypass, whose path Earth is blocking. Soon Arthur’s house, along with the rest of the planet, is drifting through space in tiny particles of recently vaporized matter.
Fortunately for Arthur, Ford turns out to be an experienced intergalactic hitchhiker who manages to smuggle the two of them aboard a Vogon craft moments before the end of the Earth. As punishment for their hitchhiking, the Vogons submit the stowaways to the torture of listening to poetry—Vogon poetry is widely regarded as the universe’s worst. When the hitchhikers miraculously survive this death sentence, the Vogons eject them into outer space to a more certain...
(The entire section is 649 words.)
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Moments before the earth is demolished to make way for a "hyperspacial express route," Arthur Dent is rescued by Ford Prefect, an alien who is disguised as an out-of-work actor. Prefect, who has become Dent's friend of several years, has been stranded on Earth while researching the planet for the revised version of the electronic book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The pair's misadventures as they ricochet from a Vogon spaceship, to the Heart of Gold state-of-the-art spaceship, to the planet factory, Magrathea, form the book's prime focus: satire.
(The entire section is 90 words.)
As The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opens, Arthur Dent wakes to discover bulldozers ready to tear his house down in order to build a freeway bypass. He goes out and lies in front of the bulldozers. The foreman cannot convince Arthur to move. The foreman insists that the plans have been on display for months and that Arthur could have filed a complaint if he wanted to, but Arthur says he knew nothing about the plans until the day before, and when he did learn of them, he found them "displayed" in a locked file cabinet in the dark basement of the local planning office.
Ford Prefect is a friend of Arthur's. Arthur doesn't realize that his friend is an alien who has been stranded on Earth for fifteen years. He is a researcher for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a book explaining how to travel the galaxy on less than thirty Altairian dollars a day. Ford drops by Arthur's house and asks Arthur to join him for a drink. Ford manages to convince the foreman to take Arthur's place lying in the mud so that the house will not be torn down. Once in the bar, Ford explains to the disbelieving Arthur that the world is about to end.
Overhead, huge yellow spacecrafts are hovering, but no one on Earth notices, except for Ford Prefect. The ships are Vogon spacecrafts, and the Vogons announce to Earth that they are there to demolish the planet in order to build a hyperspatial express route, as stated in...
(The entire section is 1309 words.)