Hitchhiker’s, Part 3: Taking Breathers

Got a few more chapters done in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

As always, spoilers ahead.

* * *

So… Vogon poetry.

I’m pretty sure that’s my favorite scene so far. I love the absurdity of it all.

As I suspected, the story is concentrating on Ford and Arthur, having left behind the construction people back on Earth. I like that; it’s a limited number of characters to have to keep track of. I hope it stays this way.

So Ford and Arthur have stowed away on a Vogon ship, endured Vogon poetry, been flushed out an airlock, got rescued by the Heart of Gold,  and are about to meet its captain. And I’m wondering now, how will the meeting with the captain go? Will they get along? Will we learn why Zaphod Beebebrox stole the Heart of Gold?

There’s a great sense of momentum to all this, perhaps because of the book’s radio-play roots; it seems every chapter ends with a great hook that makes you impatient to read the next one.

And, I must admit, I’m impatient to get back on the elliptical and read some more.

Despite that, I don’t get a sense of an over-arching plot that the characters want resolved, and I keep wondering if or when that’s going to happen. Because, while I like episodic fiction, I’d like to see some sort of solid through-line here, something a little more meaty than the action that’s been going on so far. Maybe I’m just not far enough in yet.

* * *

I’m not sure how to organize this really; lots of reading progress here. Have a list.

  • Normal pacing. Thankfully, the book did stop being so phrenetic once they were done blowing up the Earth. Yay!
  • Reading comedy. I’ve read hardly any books that would quality as comedy; this may in fact be my first. I get the impression that book-comedy is kind of a different thing than movie-comedy; book-comedy (in this book at least) seems to be about the stupid things we think and the silly things that motivate us; it’s all very internal. And this stuff would be hard to express on film I guess.
  • Talking heads. I frequently get lost during long stretches of dialogue, having forgotten who was speaking. I have found that it helps to assign each character in a scene a location, like I’m looking at one of those video games where you’ve got a couple of mostly static, hand-drawn characters that slide in on either side of the screen and yammer at  each other. So while I’m reading the dialogue, I’m thinking about the position of this character on this imaginary screen… which helps me more than trying to remember their appearance. It’s like… listening to something in stereo. Which takes me to:
  • Visual details. I tend to stress out about my perceived inability to imagine what a fictional scene looks like, whether I’m reading science fiction or playing a pen & paper rpg… and while this may legitimately be a problem, it was suggested by a friend that it’s not as big an impediment as I think it is, and the more I read of this book, the more I am inclined to agree. What matters more, at least at the moment, seems to be thinking about relationships and an overall sense of mood. So like I mentioned above, thinking about the abstract physical placement of characters helps my reading comprehension more than trying to imagine specific details about them or their environment. Similarly, I didn’t even try to imagine what the Heart of Gold looked like — I just think about the emotions its design elicits in others, and that makes it feel relatively real.
  • Digestion. Betweeen chapters — and, sometimes, when there just happens to be a double line break between paragraphs within a chapter — I’ll stop and review what I’ve read, what new characters I’ve met, what happened in the plot, what I’ve learned about the universe. While I’m reading a story for fun, this is still all about information transfer, and it takes time to digest this stuff. Reviewing it every now and then helps.

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