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Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Paperback – October 7, 2014
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About the Author
Douglas Adams, a legend of imaginative fiction, ushered in the advent of comedic science fiction with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The book developed into a hugely successful series of five novels. The Dirk Gently series—Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul—helped cement Adams as one of the most successful and beloved authors in science fiction.
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This is a complicated novel, and to be able to understand it you really need to read it twice, or listen to it twice (or more) and I also needed to read a few blogs to really get it. It's a puzzle. Yes, you can solve the puzzle from the abridged version, but it will be more fun to have all the details.
There is also a version with several actors reading for BBC radio, that I tried and didn't like. Look for "Read by the author," and "unabridged" or "6 CD set"
Adams is most famous for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [H2G2] series. DGHDA shares the British absurdist humor of H2G2, but is a more genre-bending a work. While H2G2 crosses humor and sci-fi, DGHDA takes those two genres and throws detective and supernatural fiction into the works. The book was billed by the author as a “detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic.” Of these, “horror” is dubious given the fundamental silliness, “epic” is a little grandiose for a work of 300 pages, and the “romantic” and “musical” parts are rather thin.
The title refers to a detective agency owned by Dirk Gently, who believes in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things and is a bit of a con man. Gently is the lead character in a comedic sense, but his straight man--Richard MacDuff--has at least equal claim to being the book’s overall lead. (Just as straight man Arthur Dent leads in the H2G2 books.) Gently gets involve when he discovers Richard engaged in the inexplicable activity of breaking into the window of his (Richard’s) girlfriend’s apartment—a girlfriend with which he has a favorable relationship. This convinces Gently that Richard has either been hypnotized or possessed, either of which makes him a prime customer of Gently’s agency.
The mystery part of the novel revolves around the new owner and editor of a magazine—Gordon Way--who dies, and whose ghost continues to be active in story (even having PoV chapters in this shifting PoV novel.) Richard comes to believe he’s a suspect, although the bungling former editor of the magazine—Michael Wenton-Weakes--is the lead suspect. Of course, the fact that the deceased is the father of Richard’s girlfriend, Susan Way, does encourage the notion that Richard could be involved. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a who-dun-it if it was a straightforward case of one of these men with motives having done it.
As would be expected of a book by Douglas Adams, it has its moments of hilarity, but it wasn’t as funny as the best of the H2G2 books. The best absurdist device introduced into the book is the Electronic Monk. In an era in which no one has time for believing in things, one can purchase or rent a robot to believe things for one—particularly those outlandish notions that are unsupported by evidence and thus are least worthy of the effort of belief.
The main characters are all sufficiently quirky to be memorable, likable, or both. The characters are one of the strengths of this book. The story is a bit disheveled, probably purposefully so, but it doesn’t make for the easiest work to follow--particularly early in the story when one hasn’t yet got a firm grasp of who’s who and who’s doing what. That said, it’s a decent enough plot, all things considered.
I’d recommend this for those who like humorous speculative fiction.
Since this is a box set, the book is divided into two parts, the orginal 'Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency', and it's sequel, 'the Long Dark Tea Time of the soul'. The first features Richard MacDuff, a software engineer, on the run after a murder. Fortunately, Dirk Gentley is a college friend of his and agrees to help him out. For a fee of course. The book incorporates a ridiculous number of sci-fi moments, ridiculous characters, and funny jokes, all of which come back in the end to explain the central mystery. The whole novel is one of the best I've read from Adams.
The second book, however, was a bit of a let down. Like the first, the series starts with Dirk investigating a murder, but unlike the first, most of the books humor is Kafka comedy. Dirk is repeatedly assaulted and humiliated, to the point where it stops being funny. The story also wraps up far too quickly to be satisfying, with Deuteragonist Kate not even getting a proper sendoff. Essentially, it had all the same problems that made the last Hitchhikers book bad.
I give the first book 5 stars, and the second 3.
Most recent customer reviews
An enjoyable mystery with a few fantasy elements.
What happened to Richard?Read more
I am well aware that most book reviews begin with a summary of the plot of the novel without giving too much away.Read more