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Friday 25 May 2012

Attention Grabber: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Happy Towel Day 2012)

Attention Grabber is my almost-weekly feature where I post what I think is a great opening paragraph to a book, the sort of opening that pulls young readers in and hooks them from the start.

Today is a day to be celebrated for a number of reasons as it is:

Geek Pride Day (the date chosen as it was the release date for Star Wars back in 1977)

The Glorious 25th May (this one for Discworld fans)

Towel Day (for fans of the late, great Douglas Adams).

I felt it only appropriate that I should celebrate one of these on The Book Zone, and decided that showcasing the opening paragraphs of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in my Attention Grabber feature would be the perfect way to do this. This book had a huge effect on me as a young reader, and it is still one of my favourite reads as an adult.


Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. 

This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. 

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. 

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. 

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. 

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever. 

This is not her story. 

But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences. 

It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or heard of by any Earthman. 

Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book. 

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