So, in case you missed it, yesterday Matt committed the most heinous act of blasphemy ever by anyone, even tangentially, associated with sci-fi. Although he will be forgiven, the Vogons have been notified.
But I do understand where he’s coming from. He fell victim to one of the classic blunders–Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could never have lived up to what it had become in his mind. We’ve all fallen victim to this, and if we’re being honest we’ve all probably done it to other people.
For me, it’s Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. I hated this book. A visceral, palpable hatred. But I doubt it has much to do with the story or the writing. No, my ex ruined this book. She was both horrified and excited to find out that I’d never read it. Not only did she run right out and buy a copy for me… she hovered. She asked me, at least twice each day, how much I’d read. Did I get to the part where…? Did I like the part where…? Eventually, I finished the book just to get rid of my literary stalker.
In subsequent years I’ve thought about giving the book another try. This book is nearly universally loved by sci-fi types, so it’s probably safe to assume that I’d like it if I gave it a fair shot. But even the thought of reading it again starts my teeth grinding. And even though, in my head I know that my distaste didn’t stem from a weak story, or bad writing, or over-description, or any of my other pet peeves about writing–even though I know that I dislike the book because of the conditions under which I read it–I know I’ll never revisit it because it already has a negative impression.
It would be easy for me to point out to the formerly good guy, Matt, that much of his impression of the book might have been attributed to having inflated preconceptions about Hitchhiker’s. That part of the magic of the book is how it tends to catch readers off-guard with its silly characters and ridiculous plot. It is making fun of serious sci-fi as much as it’s making fun of society. But by the time Evil Overlord Matt read the book, these weren’t a surprise to him. He expected a funny book. In fact, he probably expected a very funny book.
I guess the moral here is to be careful when making recommendations to your friends. You can easily ruin the very thing you’re trying to sell.
That, and Matt should be punished for his heresy.