The Time Traveler’s Almanac: Young Zaphod Plays it Safe by Douglas Adams


Young Zaphod Plays it Safe by Douglas Adams

Section: Experiments

Genre: Science Fiction, Humor

Rating: 3.5/5 Rating

One hundred percent perfectly safe!

About the author:

Douglas Adams was an English writer responsible for the phenomenon known as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This humorous series began as a popular BBC radio show that first aired in 1978. Adams was the youngest writer to win Britain’s Golden Pan Award, one of many awards acquired by this multi-talented writer. This story is a prequel to the events in the books, where we meet a young Zaphod Beeblebrox before he became president of the galaxy. It was originally published in 1986 in an anthology coedited by Adams entitles The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book, which raised money for Comic Relief.

Might as well start off this review by saying, embarrassingly, that I have never read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Sorry, folks! I do own the ultimate edition though, and saw the movie! (Which I thought was hilarious!) So anyways, this an extract from a novella, I think? The narrator’s voice is hilarious (which I’ve heard Adams is known for), and so are the characters, too. This is another story where time-travel takes a back seat to the main story, but this was still a fairly fun read.

Zaphod has been hired by two officials from the Safety and Civil Reassurance Administration to find a space craft that had crashed into the ocean of this particular planet – a space craft that would one hundred percent never crash. As they venture deeper into the water, the find the ship – which is perfectly safe – has been it had been cracked open in half.

Zaphod has been trying to figure out what is so “perfect safe” in there, that they won’t tell him about. He jokes around asking if it’s full of epsilonic radiating aorist rods. Turns out, his guess wasn’t far off.

The narrator’s voice is hilarious! He puts his own two-cents into the situations, and give funny little one-liners. It felt more like I was being told a story, someone talking directly to me, rather me simply reading something. The narrator has their own personality. I guess what I’m saying, in the narrator almost felt a characters of the story too.

The actual characters of the story were pretty good themselves. The main protagonist is Zaphod. (Before he has become president of the galaxy). He is a very free-spirited, loud, and energetic; very funny guy, with many good lines. Basically the complete opposite of the two up-tight officials he has sitting with him on the journey. The dynamic of hose three (or four?) was good, I got a lot of chuckles reading this.

For time-travel, this is another story where it was very lacking. Not that that is a bad thing, but it was only as precursor to the story to set up the plot. The time-travel is pretty cool, and draws upon the butterfly effect!!! (My favorite!) The ship is actually hold aorist rods. What are aorist rods? When they are devices that are used to draw upon energy from the past, to feed the energy deficit of the present. Seems like a flawless logic, except when you realize that this means the people of your future are doing it to, which makes you their pasts, and means they are taking your energy. See where things can go wrong?

That is pretty cool, and would be a great set up for a plot, but, like I said, it just background to the story. They are just what is in the ship.

I’m not sure there was anything I didn’t like. I mean, I thought the humor was amazing, but nothing really stood. The one thing that did bother we though was ending. (Read spoiler for that).


Spolierific Speculations: (Highlight to read)


If they official had said the planet would be “perfectly safe”, that would have made sense, since they kept telling Zaphod that the whole time. However, he says the planet must be made “perfectly safe”… What does that mean? Does that mean blow the planet up or something? I just didn’t get it. It didn’t feel like it felt in the story. Once I found out this was an excerpt thought, and not a full story, the lack of closure I felt didn’t feel as weird because I realized I wasn’t getting the full picture.


If your comments contains a spoiler, please type “SPOILER:” at the start of your comment to alert fellow readers and comments. Thanks!


I was quite confused and disappointed with that ending, so I checked up on Goodreads to see if the short story was on there and if there were reviews for it. When I did this, that is when I found out that Young Zaphod Plays it Safe is actually a 146 pages novella! If you go back to the top and read the author bio provided by the anthology, you will notice it is not mentioned there.

With that in mind, the ending (or, lack-of) of the story doesn’t bother me as much, and makes much more sense knowing that it is only a piece of the story – and by piece, I mean 8 pages.

Now that I know this is a novella, I would absolutely read the full version. I wished the time-travel was more of a focus – the paradox those aorist cause would awesome to read about more – but maybe they actually in the full story? Regardless, before I do read this, I think I would read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy first. I think it would make more sense, and I now how funny a writer Douglas Adams is.

And if you have read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I am going to guess that you would like this story.

Be sure to check out my fellow time-travelers’ reviews!

Alesha Escobar
H.M. Jones
Laurel’s Writing Desk
Timothy C. Ward

3.5/5 Rating



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To see a full list of The Time Traveler’s Almanac reviews and reading schedule, visit The Time Traveler’s Almanac Page

Feel free to join in any join time! Just leave a comment down below 🙂

See you next Thursday for Time Travel in Theory and Practice by Stan Love

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12 thoughts on “The Time Traveler’s Almanac: Young Zaphod Plays it Safe by Douglas Adams

  1. aleshaescobar says:

    The humor was enjoyable, but yeah–where exactly was the time travel? And yes, the movie was hilarious 🙂


    • I really don’t know this made it into a time-travel anthology. We’ve had stories where the time-travel is the background or happened before the story, but they were all somehow relevant to the plot. This had basically nothing to do with it. Still did like it though!


  2. Agree with you both regarding the humour, the movie and the lack of time travel. It would have helped to know this was an extract, definitely. I didn’t even know that till looking at your review. Thanks for that pointer (as I need to tell a friend!).


    • I am actually not sure about that novella things now: The Goodreads page ( says it is a novella and is 146 pages… but I noticed some of the the reviews call it a novella, and then others comment on how short it is. I looked in my Hitchhiker book, and this story is in the there, and its the same one we read in the the anthology. I don’t know where people are getting this novella thing from then?


      • My suspicion is that the book length comes from one of the various collections/publications it was included in. I went and read the wiki article on it, and it pretty carefully goes through the whole story (of which we have read the entire thing…). It also explains the whole Reagan thing (totally political commentary, naturally) and why it ends the way it does (because Hitchhikers). Which has warmed me up to it some.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ugh… that kind of bothers me. I mean, the description says that story is a novella – not part of a novella – and it apparently has the page length of the entire collection, which ever one it is, instead of the actual length of this short story :/

          That ending is kind of a bit of bummer now that I know how it is the full ending… but maybe it would make more sense if I had read everything else first?


          • I’m not so sure. I think that the ending refers to a pretty minor part at the start of Hitchhikers, so…. not sure if it’d have made that much sense. I think about the only thing one could take from this much is Zaphod having all his brain available, and his personality.


  3. I haven’t read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy either, so you’re not alone! It’s also on my list to read though. To be honest, I would have been more miffed than you to find out this was just an extract. I skip excerpts/teasers/previews for a reason. When I start a book, I just want to have the whole thing on hand!


  4. Sharry says:

    I own several of the Hitchhiker’s books but sadly have only finished the first two, both of which I enjoyed. I’ve got to get going on reading the rest of the books ….


  5. […] This has the original novel that Adams wrote, plus the 4 sequels, THE RESTAURANT AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE, LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING, SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH, MOSTLY HARMLESS, and a short story called YOUNG ZAPHOD PLAYS IT SAFE. […]


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