Number of pages: 624
I have previously read the full Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, but felt like reading this again. This is an old publication, from before the fifth part, Mostly Harmless, but includes the first four books.
The plot to the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is quite well-known with the story of Earth being demolished to make was for an international hyperspace bypass, so I won't say much about it except that it's an absolute classic, with hilarious moments that make me want to read it again and again. I love Douglas Adams' surreal sense of humour that is on display here.
The second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has a title that makes you want to read it. It refers to the restaurant Milliways that somehow operates in a time bubble overlooking the destruction of the universe; as the book itself says, it is best not thinking too much about the logics of it, and just admire Adams' imagination on display.
Curiously, the restaurant takes up only a small part of the book, sandwiched between a story involving Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin that is easy to forget about as the 1981 BBC adapation of the first two books skipped the whole segment, and a story involving unwanted people from a distant planet coming to populate earth. I remember being disappointed by the last few chapters when I first read it, but now I love everything in the book.
The next two instalments are not quite as good as the previous, but are still decent books. Life, the Universe and Everything continues the wackiness from the previous book, opening with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect using a sofa to teleport to Earth where the ashes are being played. This is interrupted by a race of aliens who start massacring everyone in sight.
This sets off a slightly complex tale involving the residents of Krikket, and brings back the character Slartibartfast from the original book (the architect of many countries, including Norway). I remember enjoying this story better than I did the first time and noticed that this older version was somewhat less profane than the version I read in a more recent version of the book, which made me wonder if Douglas Adams edited some of his own books at some point.
The bit I noticed was that the book makes reference to the award for "The most gratuitous use of 'Belgium' in a serious screenplay", which I found hilarious and which sums up Adams' quirky humour. In the more recent version "Belgium" was replaced by the f word, and I was disappointed at seeing the books were now including gratuitous profanities, since the humour of the first two books always avoided ridiculous levels of crassness (although I have seen very strong language in other of Adams' books - The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, for example).
The only gratuitous f-word comes in the fourth book, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, and it's only used once (which is funny, as my recollection was that the book was littered with them).
This fourth book changes the tone a bit, and brings things down to Earth - literally. The story revolves largely around Arthur Dent finding Earth is reinstated and no one believes it was destroyed, and gives him a romantic plot with a character called Fenchurch (a parody of Paddington Bear - she was found in Fenchurch Street Station). The story involves them learning to levitate, for reasons I didn't quite understand, but I still found it charming and full of the typical wit found in the previous books. It then reaches a climax with Arthur, Fenchurch, Ford and Marvin going in search of God's final message to humanity.
This book also includes a short story, Young Zaphod Plays it Safe, which doesn't have much connection with the other stories, except that it forms a prequel with Zaphod Beeblebrox on a mission of his own. I was nonplussed by this one, although certain bits were very funny - I may have to read it again.
Next book: Doctor Sleep (Stephen King).