Saturday, October 11, 2008


Title: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Author: Douglas Adams
Bookmark: Paper telling me where I can donate blood.

Long ago, I read all five books of the Hitchhiker Trilogy. It's a geek prerequisite for graduating high school. Soon after, I discovered that Adams had written other books, and I managed to find The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul in my local library. There was mention in this book of a preceding volume, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and ever since I've been trying to find it. Ironically, although my current library has DGHDA, it does NOT have TLDTTotS, and only books one and four of the H2G2.

Honestly, I was disappointed.

It has all of the charm and sly wit and twisted humor of the other books, and there's more than a little Ford Prefect in Dirk Gently, but it just didn't seem as polished as the others. Maybe it's an effect of memory.

The first weird thing I noticed is that we don't even meet the title character until almost halfway into the book.

We do meet an Electric Monk, a programmer whose couch is impossibly wedged in the stairwell, a professor who might not really be a professor, a technology mogul who is promptly killed off and replaced by the technology mogul's ghost, and the mogul's sister/programmer's somewhat-neglected girlfriend.

Dirk bills himself as a Holsitic Detective, who "believes in the interconnectedness of all things," and although he repeats this many times, he does a much more entertaining (and consistent) job of it in TLDTTotS. Here, he's more con artist than sleuth, and his sleuthing would make Fox Mulder cry "bullshit."

Still, he throws himself in to proving the programmer's innocence in the mogul's murder, even if it's only because he wants to figure out how the ersatz professor performed some sleight-of-hand (interconnectedness of all things, remember), and by the end of the book they manage to not only save all of human existence, but provide Bach with all the music he ever wrote, reveal how the couch got stuck in the stairway, and help scribe Coleridge's most famous work.

Sadly, the ending doesn't quite explain everything you're left wondering, and although I'm sure Adams might have thought he had tied up all those loose ends, most are still pretty frayed.

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posted by reyn at 2:48 PM


Blogger Elizabeth said...

Not as "polished" as the Hitchhiker's series? You make it sound like Hitchhiker's is, like, elegant or something. *grins*

I like that name, Dirk Gently. It just sounds ... cool. Might have to check it out.

10/13/2008 7:45 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I read the first book of the Hitchhiker's series, and I have to say, it was lost on me. I still don't get what all the fuss is about.

10/14/2008 7:44 AM  
Blogger reyn said...

The Hitchhiker series was wacky and bizarre, but it had a direction, some sort of guiding purpose to the wackiness. Granted, that direction was rarely clear until the destination had been reached, but it was still there. The times when it was most confusing came when he played with language or science and created a ship powered by confusing restaurant receipts, but once you accepted that because it was funny and moved on, you were fine.

Here, it's like he's aiming for that same concept, but forgets to really wrap things up.

BTW, if you're going to check out a Dirk Gently, read the second book. It's been several years, so I don't remember how well it comes together, but there are some Norse Gods, and he still saves creation.

10/14/2008 9:45 AM  

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