A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Just before the Earth is demolished to make room for a new hyperspace bypass, very ordinary Earthman Arthur Dent is taken offworld by his friend, Ford Prefect. Ford, it turns out, comes "from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse," and is "a roving researcher for that wholly remarkable book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." They hitch a ride on one of the Vogon constructor ships that demolished the earth, are ejected into space, and picked up by The Heart of Gold, a new spaceship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive, which has just been stolen by two-headed, three-armed Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy. They journey with him to Magrathea, the planet where, millions of years earlier, the Earth was constructed as part of a giant, organic computer designed to come up with the question to the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything. Get it?
Is it any good?
Originally written for adults, this witty, entertaining book has become very popular with bright middle schoolers and high schoolers who enjoy the snarky British humor. Some passages will go right over the heads of many readers, but for those who get it this pioneering classic introduction to the genre of British sci-fi humor can become an obsession, leading to Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, and others. The cliffhanger ending will drive them crazy, of course, but fortunately the whole series is available, so they can quickly satisfy their need to continue.
Despite the drinking and innuendo, many parents like to see their kids enjoying this because the humor is intellectual and verbal, rather than the usual American pratfalls and potty jokes. Many lines have become catch phrases to the initiated, a quick way to find those of like mind and interests: saying "42!", "Life, don't talk to me about life," or Don't panic!" to a roomful of young adolescents is one way to sort them out quickly.