This week, I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was some very… British… humor. Regardless, I enjoyed it, and definitely enjoyed all the satire.
In each place Ford and Arthur journeyed, there was some kind of (not-so-) veiled satire of current issues here on Earth. For example, the president of the entire galaxy did not “wield power” but rather “attracted attention away from it.” And of course, only six people in the galaxy know this. Another example is when a student who discovers the solution to the Improbability Drive problem is lynched for being a “smartass.” Yet another example is Marvin the depressed robot, who is supposed to have a “Genuine People Personality.” And finally the planet Magrathea, which took all the Galaxy’s money and didn’t put any back into the galactic economy, causing a huge galaxy-wide depression. There are many others besides these, but I remember these examples specifically being pretty clever satire. This satire obviously serves as commentary of life on Earth, and sometimes as a criticism. In some cases the satire in the book is political, but is just as often a criticism or joke on personality types. It is interesting how a book about travelling the galaxy and meeting aliens can have so much to say about the human experience.
One thing I wish at least one space sci-fi story would do is to break down planets into smaller units. By that I mean: on earth, there are humans, but human culture differs by continent, by country, even by city. I always find it hard to believe when a space sci-fi story has planets where all the inhabitants of the planet are basically the same culturally. I wasn’t really expecting this kind of detail from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, since this is supposed to be a comedy/satire, and that kind of extra detail would naturally be overlooked if it didn’t add humor in some way. However, I wish a more varied alien culture could have been present in some of the earlier science fiction I read, and since it was never present, I’m mentioning it now in my last post.