(As we know, I have a problem reading series correctly, so I know what I’m talking about)
There is really nothing that will ruin Douglas Adams faster than reading these books out of order or independently. Thou shalt start at the beginning.
Fortunately, when I randomly picked up So Long And Thanks For All The Fish earlier this year, it was a lot like visiting an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years. Even if we hadn’t staying in touch, we picked up exactly where we left off, sharing all-but-forgotten jokes and giggling endlessly.
So Long And Thanks For All The Fish is one of the final books of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – a hilarious science fiction series which sits solidly in classic British humor territory. Originally a radio program, Douglas Adams eventually adapted Hitchhiker’s Guide into stage shows, novels, comics, a horrible TV series, and in 2005 a film.
With so many adaptations along the way, Adams’ work has developed a bit of a (incredibly weird) cult following.
Happily, my entire bizarre family is a part of that weirdo cult following. I don’t know why. I think my older brother brought them into the house. Or maybe my mother? Equally legitimate explanations. I’ll let one of them correct me in the comments.
An important note on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – while each book is labelled as part of a “trilogy”, there are actually five books in the series. So Long And Thanks For All The Fish is the fourth book in the trilogy.
Suffice it to say, you have to have a unique sense of humor to be on board.
Because it’s the fourth book of five, it’s almost impossible to understand who the characters are, what they’ve been doing, or basically any component of the plot without reading the previous books. I feel like many current authors make a valiant effort to make their series understandable to anyone who picks it up at any point – providing a brief backstory and explanation at various points. Adams does not.
In So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, Arthur Dent returns home to Earth (surprising, since it was destroyed in book 1), and attempts to understand why the Dolphins disappeared. He meets up with Ford Prefect to hitchhike to see the ultimate tourist attraction – God’s Final Message to His Creation.
Don’t worry – I won’t spoil the message.
Picking up So Long And Thanks For All The Fish again, I was happy to breeze through the book. It’s simple, weird, and delightfully sarcastic.
More than anything though, for me So Long And Thanks For All The Fish is a reminder that the greatest books aren’t always great because of their literary merit, but rather because of their humor and the memories associated with them.