SF Masterwork of the Week: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

is our SF Masterwork of the Week!


Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.


Thus begins Douglas Adams‘ international bestseller The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a book adapted from a radio show, which went on to spawn a television series, a movie, comics, a video game, a stage show and – to complete the circle – an LP.

So much has been written in appreciation of what many (us included) consider to be the funniest book of all time that it would be almost redundant to attempt to add to the praise. Instead, we thought we’d take a tour through our favourite lines and the words and phrases that have become part of the cultural zeitgeist:

Don’t panic!

He really knows where his towel is


Life, the universe and everything

The best bang since the big one

Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so

Mostly harmless

So long and thanks for all the fish

First up against the wall when the revolution comes

and lastly – not necessarily a cultural meme, but certainly a personal favourite – this lovely bit of dialogue, which perfectly illustrates Douglas Adams‘ extraordinary gift for comedy:

‘So this is it,’ said Arthur, ‘we are going to die.’
‘Yes,’ said Ford, ‘except . . . no! Wait a minute!’ He suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur’s line of vision. ‘What’s this switch?’ he cried.
‘What? Where?’ cried Arthur, twisting round.
‘No, I was only fooling,’ said Ford, ‘we are going to die after all.’
He slumped against the wall again and carried on the tune from where he had left off.
‘You know,’ said Arthur, ‘it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.’
‘Why, what did she tell you?’
‘I don’t know, I didn’t listen.’


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001): writer, gentleman, comic genius.