First of all, don't panic.
I'll start by saying - I enjoyed this reading experience, and you can all go about your business, secure in the knowledge that I will not be disrupting your very fond memories of what is now considered a modern classic.
Like all of you, I read the book when I was in middle school, and I believe I got through three of the four books before I forgot to buy the fourth, and here we are, 27 years later. Oddly, I do think I read this one more than once, but I couldn't reconstruct the plot in my head at all. Just details. 42. Something about a sperm whale. Mice. Zaphod. Laying in front of bulldozers. Babel fish. Earth as a computer. Improbability.
But, again... no idea what the book actually did.
Certainly the movie that came out about ten years ago didn't help. I remember being just extraordinarily bored during the film, and had it not had a post-Elf Zooey Deschanel and a pretty good design for Marvin the Depressed Robot, I don't think I'd remember having seen it. I just remember being terribly dissatisfied with the movie. And even then... no memory of it.
That's weird, right?
Well, as it turns out I might feel this way because the book does not actually have a story. Things occur, certainly. There are many, many, many asides which may or may not have spawned the entire comedic concept which now makes up most of my generation's idea of comedy*, but there's practically no actual story. It's all set-up. There's literally no character development (Trillian is thin to the point of being nearly offensive), Arthur never figures anything out, and the book just ends as they decide to go get lunch (the third W of a galactic empire).
But seen as a chapter in a larger book...
Well, it's pretty good. I do remember how it ties together with the books I did read back in the day.
Frankly, I was remembering so much and so little was happening, I started to get concerned. I started thinking "I'm not sure I like this anymore. What then? Who am I if I can no longer enjoy this book? It was the height of comedy for me in my life at one time." But I am happy to report that, I don't know... somewhere about 3/5th of the way through, the book and I hit our stride together and I was right back to enjoying it like crazy.
I don't feel it's worth describing the book because I am absolutely positive that everyone out there reading this blog has read the book. But I will say - they got Stephen Fry to do the recording, and he is absolutely f'ing brilliant. I can deal with a flat read of a book, or an unnuanced read, but Stephen Fry has very firm ideas about all of the characters, and he nails every single one of them. It's absolutely remarkable. His Zaphod, in particular, I found to be excellent and more or less exactly what 13-year-old me had always imagined.
What to say about Adams' absolutely, perfectly convoluted story telling style and comedic sensibility? It's phenomenal, and while oft-imitated now, it's hard to beat the original. Even the parts I wasn't ever particularly in love with then or now really get overshadowed by the whole style of the thing.
Anyway. It was fun to return to the book, and I'll likely revisit and finally complete the series.
*it's a hacky device, and should never be used