It seems like every sci-fi work nowadays shows a dystopian future overflowing with violence, corruption and destruction. Humans have either managed to annihilate themselves or are in the process of being annihilated by some unflinching alien race.

From “The Hunger Games” to “Prometheus,” we find ourselves time and time again wading through the sludge of our human flaws. It just seems like there is so much hopelessness: How can we get to the light at the end of the tunnel if it’s blocked by an all-powerful dictator or an evil army of aliens?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the sci-fi genre. Imaginative depictions of world-building and new technology provide me with continuous entertainment. However, most of the books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen cling to this tedious pattern of collapse, war and destruction. With this stereotype in mind, I started searching for a book that broke the mold. I wanted something that gave the hard truth about the future but still managed to maintain some measure of our hope and dignity. After a very perilous quest through the aisles of Barnes and Nobles, I finally stumbled upon “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

Maybe some of you remember this title from the terrible movie version that was released in 2005. For those of you who don’t recognize it, spare yourself from those two hours of boredom. However, while the movie was a disappointment, the book is quite the opposite. First released as a radio series in 1978 and then transformed into a novel shortly after, it is truly one-of-a-kind.

For starters, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is probably the funniest sci-fi classic that you’ll ever encounter. Author Douglas Adams paints a world where human comedic moments span the entire cosmos. There are times where galactic combat is interrupted by a quest for a cup of tea and when whole worlds are demolished in the blink of an eye to make way for an interspace bypass by an alien species that produces the universe’s worst poetry. Destruction goes hand in hand with such absurd events and coincidences that all you can do is widen your eyes and laugh.

We should at once be humbled and inspired by this humorous tale. Fueled by an “improbability drive” and an infinite reach through the universe, this book truly has no bounds. Adams shows us a world turned upside-down by sheer size and possibility, yet it never loses its touch of human ambitions and emotions. With its exaggerated comedy and oblivious characters, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” avoids the age-old plotlines that constrict its peers. Instead, Adams takes us on a journey where our greatest feats and most terrible flaws become a single negligent dust mote in the midst of time and space.

Arthur Dent, a human who inadvertently gets thrust into this hitchhiking adventure, travels out into the vast reaches of the galaxy with his peers on a quest to find the meaning of life. Without his familiar home planet to guide him, Dent’s idea of scale is completely reimagined. Rock band venues cover entire planets, whole suns become thrill attractions for the rich and the vast universe is ruled by one man in one fairly small hut. Size is a thing of the past, and time goes along with the change.

Even with this great comical world exposed to us, Adams constantly reminds us that it too is just a pinprick in an infinitely larger universe. He addresses problems that arise from this limitlessness with equally humorous solutions. One character, Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, deals with the gift of immortality by making it his goal to insult everyone in the universe in alphabetical order. It makes you wonder what Edward Cullen will end up doing in a couple of millennia.

Sci-fi shouldn’t always just be about emphasizing the things we’ve done wrong. Adams acknowledges our faults but shows us a universe where nobody else comes close to perfection either. From humans and Vogons to the supercomputer named Deep Thought, we share in a collective experience of mess-ups and experimentation. Every alien species is struggling just as much as us to make sense of where they fit in the universe, and they all must come to terms with just how small that space actually is.

Though his book is embedded with turmoil, Adams’s lighthearted humor is that light at the end of the tunnel that we all crave. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” reminds us that sometimes our mistakes are simply just silly, and it’s better not to sweat the little stuff. We have been given a destiny of randomness and chance that bombards us with the unknown while gifting us with the power to react. This is what sci-fi too often forgets to mention, and it’s what makes Adam’s book a truly lasting guide to the galaxy.

Hannah Kaufman is a rising sophomore in the College. Back to Futures Past appears every other Monday at

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