This is a fun, quirky, sci-fi comedy bit of silliness. It focuses on Arthur Dent, a 30yo also-ran kind of guy just plugging away day to day. His West Country home is going to be bulldozed in order to make room for an expressway. As he is lying in the mud in front of the dozers, all while still in his bathrobe, his best friend, Ford Prefect, rushes him up and away to the neighborhood pub before insisting that the world is going to end in twelve minutes.
There are funny little bits thrown in such as Ford is able to convince the councilman in charge of the demolition (Mr. Prosser) to lie in the mud in place of Arthur to hold off the demo with the agreement that they will switch positions later so that Prosser can take a break and go off to the pub himself.
Ford had formed a theory (regarding the inanity of humans)… If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
Arthur has to make a quick adjustment to absorb the fact that his best friend of several years is actually from outer space, near Betelgeuse, and has been stranded on Earth for 15 years pretending to be an out-of-work actor. In actuality, Ford Prefect is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a huge compendium of information in book form (as it was written and described in 1979, it mirrors how our modern day ebook readers function), written for interstellar hitchhikers, giving them information about different planets, the life-forms which inhabit them, etc., in order to safely traverse the infinite reaches of space.
Unfortunately, yes, the planet Earth is destroyed, with the ironic twist that it needed to be cleared away to make room for an interplanetary expressway. Ford and Arthur barely make their escape and find themselves on a Vogon transport, which isn’t a huge advancement in their favor. They find themselves at the mercy and peril of the Vogon, who are described as ugly critters who haven’t really evolved and are now the “fill out Form A in triplicate” drones of the Galactic Civil Service. They are eventually tossed out of the ship to meet their demise.
“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s 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.”
Luckily, they are rescued within the 30 seconds they are able to hold their breath while floating in the airless and freezing vacuum of space (just go with it) by Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Imperial Galactic Government, and his humanoid girlfriend, Trillian. Zaphod is egocentric, flighty, self-absorbed, and slightly stupid. Somehow he has stolen the airship they are on (the Heart of Gold) and is old friends with Ford Prefect. Arthur is also surprised to learn that he knows Trillian from Earth. The two of them had met at a party several months earlier (she was Tricia McMillan then) and were starting to hit it off when Zaphod stole her away with the line, “Do you want to see my spaceship?”
The four of them, along with a depressed robot named Marvin, adventure along together, avoiding hostile planets, missiles, various dangers and oddities.
They hazard along searching for the legendary planet Magrathea, thought to be mythical to most, similar to Atlantis on Earth. The legends say the Magratheans used to manufacture planets. Zaphod is not exactly sure why he is searching for it, but everyone is used to him doing things on a whim, so it is not much questioned until the end of the book when they believe they have found it and Arthur is given a second chance to take back his life the way it was on Earth.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams