The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Critical Overview
by Douglas Adams

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Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Initially, reviewers praised The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, pleased to have found a book that attempted to be humorous and was, for the most part, successful. "This hilarious and irrepressibly clever book is one of the best pieces of humor to be produced this year," applauded Rosemary Herbert in Library Journal.

Richard Brown, writing in The Times Literary Supplement, characterized Douglas Adams's writing as having "a posh-school, wide-eyed, naive manner related, perhaps, to the primitive manner currently in vogue in high-brow poetry circles." The main point of Brown's review, though, was to explore the relationship between the Hitchhiker books and the media, television and radio, that Adams was writing for when the books came into existence. Most reviewers categorized this book with science fiction novels and, in that context, found much to appreciate.

Because science fiction is a genre that often takes itself too seriously, critics have tended to take The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and its sequels as a breath of fresh air. Lisa Tuttle, writing in the Washington Post, compared the book's relationship to traditional science fiction novels and concluded that "it's extremely funny—a rare and precious conjunction in a field where what usually passes as humor is a bad pun at the end of a dull story."

Like Tuttle, many reviewers saw this first book in the series as a reaction to the claustrophobic world of science fiction writing. Gerald Jonas, in The New York Times Book Review, pointed out that "humorous science fiction novels have notoriously limited audiences; they tend to be full of 'in' jokes understandable only to those who read everything from Jules Verne to Harlan Ellison." Adams' s novel, in contrast, was a "delightful exception." Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer M.K. Chelton felt that The Hitchhiker's Guide was "a bizarre, wildly funny, satiric novel," but did not feel that this made it an exception to mainstream science fiction, explaining that it had "lots of in-jokes SF fans will either love or loathe, and a free-floating irreverence which is irresistible."

As the series of books progressed and came to be known as The Hitchhiker Trilogy (even after the publication of the fourth and fifth novels), reviewers found it more and more...

(The entire section is 566 words.)