|Series||The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|
|Genre||Comic science fiction|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|Followed by||The Restaurant at the End of the Universe|
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the first of six books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction "trilogy" by Douglas Adams. The novel is an adaptation of the first four parts of Adams' radio series of the same name. The novel was first published in London on 12 October 1979. It sold 250,000 copies in the first three months.
Earthman Arthur Dent is rescued by his friend, Ford Prefect—an alien researcher for the titular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, an enormous work providing information about every planet in the universe—from the Earth just before it is destroyed by the alien Vogons. After being tossed out of the Vogon ship that they hitched a ride on, Arthur and Ford are rescued by the Heart of Gold, a spaceship driven by Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford's semi-cousin and the President of the Galaxy. The ship's crew—Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, a depressed robot named Marvin, and a human woman by the name of Trillian—embark on a journey to find the legendary planet known as Magrathea, known for selling luxury planets.
On Magrathea, the five are taken into the planet's centre by a man named Slartibartfast. There, they learn that in the distant past a race of "hyperintelligent, pan-dimensional beings" created a supercomputer named Deep Thought to determine the answer to the "Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything", which Deep Thought determined to be the number 42. Deep Thought tells its creators that the answer makes no sense to them because they didn't know what the "Ultimate Question" had been in the first place, and offers to design an even greater computer to determine what the Ultimate Question was. This computer is revealed to have been the planet Earth, which was constructed by the Magratheans, and was five minutes away from finishing its task and yielding the Ultimate Question when the Vogons destroyed it. Trillian's mice, actually part of the group of hyper-intelligent superbeings, reject the idea of building a second Earth to redo the process, and offer to buy Arthur's brain in the hope that it contains the question, leading to a fight when he declines. Zaphod saves Arthur from having his brain removed, the fivesome escape Magrathea, and the group decides to go to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
The Illustrated Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a specially designed book made in 1994. It was first printed in the United Kingdom by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and in the United States by Harmony Books (who sold it for $42.00). It is an oversized book, and came in silver-foil "holographic" covers in both the UK and US markets. It features the first appearance of the 42 Puzzle, designed by Adams himself, a photograph of Adams and his literary agent Ed Victor as the two space cops, and many other designs by Kevin Davies, who has participated in many Hitchhiker's related projects since the stage productions in the late 1970s. Davies himself appears as Prosser. This edition is out of print – Adams bought up many remainder copies and sold them, autographed, on his website.
There have been three audiobook recordings of the novel. The first was an abridged edition (ISBN 0-671-62964-6), recorded in the mid-1980s by Stephen Moore, best known for playing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the radio series, LP adaptations and in the TV series. In 1990, Adams himself recorded an unabridged edition for Dove Audiobooks (ISBN 1-55800-273-1), later re-released by New Millennium Audio (ISBN 1-59007-257-X) in the United States and available from BBC Audiobooks in the United Kingdom. Also by arrangement with Dove, ISIS Publishing Ltd produced a numbered exclusive edition signed by Douglas Adams (ISBN 1-85695-028-X) in 1994. To tie-in with the 2005 film, actor Stephen Fry, the film's voice of the Guide, recorded a second unabridged edition (ISBN 0-7393-2220-6).
The popularity of the radio series gave rise to a six-episode television series, directed and produced by Alan J. W. Bell, which first aired on BBC 2 in January and February 1981. It employed many of the actors from the radio series and was based mainly on the radio versions of Fits the First through Sixth. A second series was at one point planned, with a storyline, according to Alan Bell and Mark Wing-Davey that would have come from Adams's abandoned Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen project (instead of simply making a TV version of the second radio series). However, Adams got into disputes with the BBC (accounts differ: problems with budget, scripts, and having Alan Bell involved are all offered as causes), and the second series was never made. Elements of Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen were instead used in the third novel, Life, the Universe and Everything.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was adapted into a science fiction comedy film directed by Garth Jennings and released on 28 April 2005 in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and on the following day in the United States and Canada. It was rolled out to cinemas worldwide during May, June, July, August and September.
The deliberately misnamed Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Trilogy" consists of six books, five written by Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979), The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), Life, the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984) and Mostly Harmless (1992). On 16 September 2008 it was announced that Irish author Eoin Colfer was to pen a sixth book. The book, entitled And Another Thing..., was published in October 2009, on the 30th anniversary of the publication of the original novel.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was never titled "trilogy." It was called that by readers, but the word "trilogy" doesn't appear on the cover of the first three books and was not used until the publication of the fourth book.
Greg Costikyan reviewed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in Ares Magazine #6 and commented that "The Hitchhiker's Guide is written with superb English wit, far more humorous than any American sitcom."
The "Babel fish", a creature used in the novel that feeds on brainwaves and can instantly translate alien languages, inspired the name of Babel Fish, the first free online language translator, which launched in 1997.
When Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster was launched into space on the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018, it had the words DON'T PANIC on the dashboard display and carried amongst other items a copy of the novel and a towel.