Arthur Dent lives a perfectly ordinary life on Earth, until one day he finds out that not only is his house going to be knocked down, but so is his planet. His friend Ford Prefect reveals himself to be an alien, and together, by a series of extradinary coincidences and low probabilities, they end up on the Heart of Gold and Arthur learns the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything.
This is basically the well-known story from the radio and TV series, except for the ending. They escape from the cops Shooty and Bang-Bang, but in a completely different way, and find themselves back on the Heart of Gold again. Apart from its abrupt ending, its probably the best Hitch-Hiker's book, and certainly the easiest to understand.
Zaphod spends time trying to escape from people trying to kill him, taking in such experiences as the Total Perspective Vortex and meeting people like Gragravarr, who is simply a disembodied mind. They all end up at Milliways, and from there go on to escape in a black ship belonging to Disaster Area. At which point Arthur and Ford manage to crash land on the Earth of two million years ago and Zaphod meets the ruler of the galaxy.
This book is similar to the second radio series at the end and the beginning, but differs wildy in the middle. The content is just as good as the previous book in the series, and the extra bits make it more readable.
Slartibartfast, with a new Bistromatic ship needs to stop the Krikkit robots from destrying the entire universe. However, Arthur doesn't understand what is going on, and is too pre-occupied learning that he is die on Stavromuller Beta. Ford learns of a flying party and so he wants to go to to drink and dance with girls. Trillian has left Zaphod alone on the Heart of Gold, an action which he is not best pleased about. And so Slartibartfast's only hope is unlikely in the form of Trillian and Marvin.
The story is originally a Doctor Who one, and it shows. The characters are much better lurching from one life-threatening crisis to another, than saving the world. There is some good stuff in there, such as the Campaign for Real Time, Ford and Arthur chasing a Chesterfield sofa around a field, and Marvin's song. The story's alright, but its not typical Hitch-hiker's.
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams Arthur Dent is back on Earth, but its not the same. For a start, all the dolphins have left. Ford Prefect is enjoying himself playing with the speaking clock, when he discovers the existence of the Earth, and decides to rescue Arthur, who meanwhile has spent time flying with his new girlfriend Fenchurch.
The book is very strange. For a start, it involves the Earth. Its not the original, and so is supposed to be a little strange, but it is too strange. And the story with Ford Prefect is even worse. Its almost not really science ficti! at all. And only involves the same few characters until they meet up with Marvin at the site of God's Final Message to His Creation. There are some good bits, including Ford's description to Arthur of his adventures, and the Rain God.