10 Most Crucial British Science Fiction Novels 7

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

By Douglas Adams

Today, when post-Pythonesque humour permeates popular culture at all levels, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always thus. In 1978, when Douglas Adams unleashed Hitchhiker’s on the world as a late-night radio series, the idea of a knowing, very English and comedic take on SF seemed utterly new and fresh.

Nevertheless, the adventures of Arthur Dent and co might now be remembered fondly as a cult series if it weren’t for the first Hitchhiker’s novel, which sold 250,000 copies in its first three months. In part, Adams got lucky. As Terry Pratchett has noted, Hitchhiker’s appeared at a time when SF had been around long enough for people to understand the gags. But Adams earned his luck. Plenty have subsequently tried their hands at funny SF, yet few have come close to matching his ability to mix the laugh-out-loud funny with deeper, near-melancholy humour.

If you like this, why not try?
Strata by Terry Pratchett (1981)
Because it’s fascinating to find a pre-Discworld Pratchett also trying his hand at comic SF.

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