The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
My journey to and from work each day involves a trip across the river Thames on a ferry. Sometimes this journey takes no more than five minutes but often I'm waiting for anything up to an hour. This time I have set aside for reading. Though I have tried reading books on Sendmail and Lotus Notes I find it very difficult to read technical books without having a machine by my side to practice what I'm learning. The time is therefore used to escape into fictional literature.
My first experience of Douglas Adams was seeing 'The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy' on television. It's taken me twenty years to actually pick up any of the books.
The story is based on the assumption that the Universe is infinite. Since the Universe is infinite then the amount of stars, planets, moons and life forms are also infinite. With such an unimaginable amount of life out there it also raises the issue that they would live in an infinitely different number of ways. If you accept that the Universe is infinite then you must also accept that there is a planet 'Bob' where all the humanoid inhabitants are called 'Bob' and all they eat is sandwiches. Given such a basis, things like 'improbability drive', spatial anomalies and manic depressive robots lead to a very interesting story.
At several points during the books I found myself crying with laughter. Most of these points which made me cry involve Marvin the paranoid android. Marvin is a prototype android with true 'people personality' which actually makes him a manic depressive. 'Manic' conjures up the wrong image in my mind since it suggests a rapid maniac kind of reaction, this could not be further from a good description of Marvin.
Marvin has a brain the size of a planet, though in an infinite Universe we would have to accept that there are many planets which are not too dissimilar in size to an average human brain. He is relentlessly abused by the rest of the cast of the books, he is sent to confront a heavily armored military robot when he is armed with nothing but his whit, he spends many million years working in a space port parking the various space craft, he flies a space craft into a sun, all in the aid of a small group of people who really don't appreciate him at all.
If you are a fan of Terry Pratchett and haven't read any Douglas Adams then this should be your next trilogy to read. Having five books rather than the usual three the trilogy also lasts longer than most.