THE HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY Written by Douglas Adams and read by Stephen Moore. 2hours 40mins approx. First released on tape cassette 1982
So this blog has been running for a month now – that’s a whole month without so much as mentioning the king of radio shows. The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stands proud next to Desert Island Discs, The Archers and the shipping forecast as one of the most iconic, representatives of British radio and just as timeless. But the fact is, the audio book is even better.
Gulp! Did you really just read that? How can anything be better than those landmark six radio episodes? Even the television series only managed to be as good as the original, so how can this audio book ( which you’ve probably never heard of) possibly be better?
Well, firstly Douglas Adams manages to be even more hilarious than usual in prose and because this abridgment (which must be sacrilegious in certain quarters) filters some of the bits from the radio play to alter them slightly or re-work them work better. Of course this was done in the service of presenting an adaptation suitable for the printed page, but what we essentially get is something with of spit and polish.
Stephen Moore, voice of Marvin the depressed android, reads this audio book. He’s got a warm, pleasant voice that suits the off the wall humor. The jokes all hit the right beat and he has a surprising range. Moore manages to give a different voice to almost every character, instantly evoking the radio versions, but at the same time giving us something fresh. I think having one of the original cast members on board was a really smart idea and gives these readings a kind of official status. And though it might be blasphemous to say this, he’s almost better than Peter Jones at being the voice of the Guide. High praise indeed!
Douglas Adams was famous for being one of the most undisciplined writers ever to sit in front of a typewriter, and sadly that is in evidence here as this audio book suffers in the same way as the printed version. Adams was forced to finish writing the book (based on the original full-cast radio series) because he had gone so far past his deadline the publisher had to send everything he’d written to the printers. With just three quarters of the story committed to the page, Adams tacked on an ending and began work on a second book. This audio book features that underwhelming, tacked on ending but it does succeed in being mildly amusing, and helps to make this audio, read by one of the original cast members more than a mere curio.
Adams picks up the story in the sequel book, Restaurant at the End of the Universe, bringing the page count up with material that would appear in the second radio series. This is where Hitch-Hiker’s convoluted and confusing diversions and disparities between the books and the radio series begin, so it is nice to enjoy this inaugural installment completely unchained from that maddening myriad, on it’s own terms.
Stephen Moore narrated abridgments of the first four Hitch-Hiker’s books, and as time went on each production got better and a bit glossier, but this first installments is quite a raw affair. It is absolutely none the worse for it, however. We can concentrate on Moore’s voice and the story with no sound effects or synthesized voices to distract us.
Sometimes the audio books manage to compliment the printed originals, but in this case this audio book actually manages to improve upon it. Considering Hitch-Hiker’s was written over forty years has won and been nominated for some extremely prestigious literary awards go ever since, saying that it can be improved upon opens me up for criticism and derision, but I firmly believe Moore doesn’t just do justice to the original text, he actually manages to lift it even higher. Adams had wrote almost rhythmic prose but could easily become unwieldy when read aloud. Stephen Moore rises to the challenge, and seems to be having an absolute ball as he does so.
Perhaps I’m heaping praise on this audio book because it was one of the first ‘grown up’ audio books I borrowed from my local community library, twenty-odd years ago. I was a Doctor Who fan so of course I had heard of Hitch-Hiker’s and my dad had mentioned it a few times, telling me I would like it, so when I saw it there on the shelf in the library, it was an absolute no-brainer. And it was a game changer for me. I found something new that I could explore and revisit. And when I want to revisit The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I don’t go for the TV series, the movie, the radio series or the book. I go straight for this audio book read by Stephen Moore because even the abridgment can’t deny the fact that they’re faultlessly fantastic
This audio book goes against the intention of this blog – to provide review and recommendations on easy to find audios – because The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy read by Stephen Moore has until recently proved very difficult to find. But I have done my homework for you, loyal reader. Feel free to shower me with thanks in the comments section. Enjoy! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dPbr0v_V-cI
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