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It’s Bad Poetry Day. And when I think about bad poetry, I think about my teenage years and a black notebook that was burned so no one could ever read what was written in it. After that, I think about Vogons. And when I think about Vogons, I think about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
For me, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a seminal seminal classic in the canon of novels that shaped my identity. Even though I saw the film adaptation first, this was the first book I had read that seriously defied literary conventions.
The book was the first true example of the absurdist genre I had ever read. Expressions like “the ships hung in the sky in much the same manner that bricks don’t” were used. A lot of people use it to illustrate how awful descriptions may be, but I disagree. It was all so perfectly bizarre, from the circumstances to the characters to the plot twists. All well, that works for me. Also, how about a five-volume series? The answer is yes, of course. Even though Zaphod Beeblebrox’s second head is obviously a mannequin head, I still enjoy the BBC TV show. Even better, the Guide’s animations were top-notch. The latest film was everything I wanted it to be, even after reading the book series.
The comparison to Hitchhiker’s makes me curious to read the novel in question. Here is a short collection of books that I think capture the craziness and inventiveness of Douglas Adams.
BY MARC-UWE KLING
This novel, originally written in German, imagines a future in which algorithms govern every aspect of human existence. It’s not just your profession that determines your score, but also 41 other subcategories that affect anything from getting a ride in a cab to whether or not your girlfriend will dump you to whether or not you can even take pictures of famous people. You won’t ever have to place an order again; whatever you can imagine will magically appear at your doorstep.
Instead of burning them like he’s meant to, Peter Jobless enjoys taking in damaged robots and treating them like pets. When Peter receives a gift he doesn’t want, he embarks on a mission to find a way to send it back. And yet, how can a flawless system go wrong? This book is the offspring of Brave New World and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
BY TERRY PRATCHETT
Of all Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, this is the one that originally captured my imagination. This is the first book in the City Watch series, however it is also the seventh book in the series overall. Captain Vimes, a man of few words, leads a Night Watch that isn’t exactly filled with the brightest and best. However, the Night Watch is thrown into disarray by the arrival of Carrot Ironfoundersson, who possesses an exhaustive understanding of the law and a near-mortal commitment to doing good. The Night Watch already has a lot on its plate without adding a dragon and a conspiracy to overthrow the government. The commentary is excellent, and the worldbuilding is fantastic.
LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS
BY RYKA AOKI
One of the best novels I read in 2021 was this one. Katrina, a young trans woman who enjoys playing the violin and who has fled her harsh home, is the story’s main character. However, that’s only the beginning. She crosses paths with Shizuka Satomi, a genius violin instructor who has made a deal with the devil to send the souls of seven of her most talented students to the afterlife. Unfortunately for Satomi, she wanders into a donut store staffed by aliens who have fled their failing planet. The story’s premise, which includes a soul-damaging violin teacher and extraterrestrial donut bakers from outer space, is absurd, but it succeeds. Although its ridiculous plot reminds me of Hitchhiker’s, this book is not as humorous as the others on this list. It’s still recommended that you read it.
ALCATRAZ VERSUS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS
BY BRANDON SANDERSON
A foster home was never a permanent place for Alcatraz. It would break down. A lot. A bag of sand was all he got from the father he never met when he turned 13. Because of this, a group of malicious librarians has set their sights on him. Indeed, librarians. He is rescued by an unlikely group and learns that his parents were involved in far larger communities than he had previously realized. This is the first book of a series of six total volumes, the sixth of which will be published at some point in the future. Clearly, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was an inspiration on the overall tone and worldbuilding.
BY VALERIE VALDES
I was intrigued the instant I read there was a crime group called the Fridge that freezes individuals. Moreover, there are cats with telepathic abilities. I mean, really! Chilling Effect follows Captain Eva Innocente, who commands a starship that delivers deliveries across the galaxy, and is inspired by both the animated series Futurama and the live-action show Firefly. After leaving her father and his shady business operations, she is finding it difficult to make ends meet. After the Fridge kidnap her sister, she is forced to conduct more dangerous and questionable occupations to raise the enormous sum of money needed to free her. But as she delves deeper, she uncovers sinister truths that cause her to doubt everything. In 2022, readers can expect to see the release of book three in the series.
TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG
BY CONNIE WILLIS
Image a future where historians have access to time travel to research their fields of interest, but the system is designed so that they can’t alter major events. Although it is the sequel to the first book in the Oxford Time Travel series, it may be read independently of the others. After being sent back in time to retrieve “The Bishop’s Bird-Stump,” a monstrosity from Victorian times, Ned Henry becomes embroiled in a wild excursion to the era to correct another time traveler’s error. It’s a fantastic homage to the hilarious Three Men on a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (which is also worth a read).
BY SARAH KUHN
In a word, yes. Give me all the deadly cupcakes. Being a female superhero is challenging. It’s considerably more difficult to work solo. In addition to caring for her teenage sister, Evie Tanaka works as Aveda Jupiter’s assistant in San Francisco. However, when she dresses up as Aveda one night, her true superpowers emerge. With her love life interfering, Evie wonders how she would ever save the planet.
BY HEIDE GOODY & IAIN GRANT
What if you’re so bad at your job that you’re banished from the kingdom? What if, as Satan, you manage to get expelled from Hell? Even though Satan now resides in a British suburb under the alias Jeremy Clovenhoof, his fame has not yet spread to his new neighborhood. There are eight books in this completely outlandish series.
So, there you have them. Some books that take you to the stranger side. Have you read any of these? Let me know what you think.