Arthur Dent is an unremarkable man living in an unremarkable if rather uglyhouse in a wholly unremarkable corner of England. Most of his friends work in advertising. One morning, shortly after he has discovered that the local council want to demolish his house, hemakes the additional discoverythat one of his friends who doesn't work in advertising is in fact an extra-terrestrial from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. As surprising as this undoubtedly is for Arthur, it is immediately trumped by the almost simultaneous discovery that the entire planet Earth is about to be demolished by the Vogon Construction Corporation to make way for a hyperspace bypass. In order to escape obliteration, Arthur's alien friend thumbs them a lift on one of the Vogon ships, and they set off across the galaxy without even enough time for Arthur to change out of his dressing gown.
Arthur's friend, it transpires, is a reporter for a kind of galactic Lonely Planet, the eponymous Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and has been researching the Earth as an excuse to hang out and party under the unfortunate alias Ford Prefect. No sooner are he and Arthur safely aboard the Vogon vessel than they are discovered, tortured through the gratuitous use of very bad poetry, and expelled into outer space. Improbably, they are rescued by another passing spaceship, the improbability of this second rescue being its most vital feature, since their rescuers are piloting a ship powered by the revolutionary Infinite Improbability Drive which allows them to arrive anywhere in the universe by passing through every conceivable location, the more improbable the better. Unfortunately, their rescuers have also stolen the Drive, and the ship it powers (the wondrous Heart of Gold), and are on the run from the galactic authorities, in spite of one of them,the two-headedZaphod Beeblebrox, having until recently been none other than the president of the galaxy himself.
Now in the company of his girlfriend Trillian, whom by (improbable) coincidence Arthur had once met andfailed to impressat a party in Islington, and a chronically depressed android called Marvin, Zaphod takes Ford and Arthur to the fabled planet of Magrathea, where they are attacked with guided nuclear missiles (which the Improbability Drive turns into a bowl of petunias and a very bemused sperm whale). On arrival on the planet's surface they arepolitely kidnapped by an ancient Magrathean called Slartibartfast andinformed that the entire Earth had been constructed as a living computer. This construction had beenundertakenon behalf of a race of pan-dimensional beings who manifest themselves in our dimension as white mice and who had been trying to discover theUltimate Question to the Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe, And Everything (said answer being 42). Since the Vogons had destroyed theEarth five minutes before the completion of the program, the mice's only chance now is to extract the information still encoded in one of the subjects of the experiment, by removing Arthur's brain.Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian escape, only to run straight into a pair of galactic cops sent to track down Zaphod, who open fire. Abruptly, the volleys of laser fire cease, and the four friends discover that the cops' life support suits have malfunctioned, owing to the computer controlling them having committed suicide rather than continue its conversation with Marvin the android, who had plugged himself into it. In the final chapter, and in need of some relaxation, Arthur and company set a course for the legendary Restaurant At The End of the Universe.
Adams wrote the book as an adaption from his successful BBC radio series, as the first installment of five charting the adventures of the hitch-hiking Arthur Dent,the sequel being The Restaurant At The End of the Universe. It went on to become one of the most successful works of comic fiction in the English language, selling millions of copies abrought to the small and big screen, and attracting die-hard fans around the globe. Although superficially a sci-fi spoof, it is fundamentally a very witty, very funny satire on the human condition and the absurdities of life, and as such should appeal to anyone who has experienced them: in other words, everybody.