The Hitchhiker’s Guide taught me about satire, Vogons and even economics

Ha-Joon Chang in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_1296 Aug. 08 12.47There are books that you know before reading them will change you. There are books you read precisely because you want to change yourself. But The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy belonged to neither category. In fact, H2G2 (as a tribe of Douglas Adams fandom calls it) is special because I didn’t expect it to have any effect on me, let alone one so enduring. I don’t even remember exactly when I read it, except that it was in the first few years of my arrival in Britain as a graduate student in 1986. The only thing I remember is being intrigued by the description of it as a piece of comedy science fiction (SF).

I had been a fan of SF since I was 10 or 11, when I started devouring what I could from the rather meagre selection (often in simplified children’s editions) available in Korea in the 1970s and 80s. SF was serious stuff then: intergalactic wars and imperialism (Skylark), technological dystopia (Brave New World), post-apocalyptic worlds (On the Beach, The Day of the Triffids). It wasn’t supposed to be comical.

But H2G2 was the funniest thing I had ever read. It wasn’t just hilarious, it was beyond my then mental universe: a depressed robot that saves the lives of the novel’s protagonists by striking up a casual conversation with the enemy spaceship’s computer and unintentionally talking it into depression and then suicide; the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council surviving a recitation of bad poetry by gnawing one of his legs off; the title of the third book in the God-bashing trilogy by Oolon Colluphid, Who is this God Person Anyway?

More here.