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Customer Review

85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no such word as "impossible" in my dictionary!, March 9, 2005
This review is from: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Mass Market Paperback)
"In fact," says Dirk Gently, "everything between 'herring' and 'marmalade' seems to be missing."

Dirk Gently is an example of a breakthrough work: An attempt at something quite artistically new, which is all the more amazing because it actually succeeds. In short, this novel is: a Science Fiction Mystery Comedy.

* DG is a quite good Science Fiction book, with elements such as strange alien technology ("The Electric Monk"), time travel, and an immortal -- if VERY absentminded -- being
* DG is a quite good (and, to borrow another reviewer's term, "self-consistent") mystery/detective novel, even if the detective in question IS rather unorthodox!
* DG is a very funny comedy novel, which parodies not only the detective genre, but also makes not-so-subtle jabs at ivory-tower academics, business executives, British Telecom, and computers (and the geeks that use and program them)

Dirk Gently as a character in particular is a truly original creation. It is both very fortunate that we have him in two novels, and cruel and tragic that Douglas Adams did not live to develop him any further. For one example, many of Dirk's college friends think he is psychic, and are always trying to get him to dream-speak upcoming exam questions. Dirk sets out to prove them wrong by creating a complete copy of an upcoming exam, purely by researching past exams in the same course, studying the syllabus, etc., figuring that he will be only about half right on average, and everyone will see that he is just an ordinary guy and leave him alone. Except that the exam he so produces turns out to be identical to the real one. Oops. (Later, in the present day, he tells a client, who is wanted for murder: "Remember that you are talking to someone who has spent time in prison for something he didn't do.") Dirk's detective methods rely on studying "the vectors of interconnectedness of all things", which, plus the fact that he is perpetually broke, makes him look to casual observers rather more than less like a cheap con artist.

"Meet me at the pizza parlor in half an hour. And bring money."
"What -- Dirk, are you trying to blackmail me?"
"No, you fool, for the pizzas!"

I am reminded of a character named Gallagher who appeared in several short stories by the science fiction author Lewis Padgett. Gallagher is a brilliant inventor, but can only do inspired work when blind drunk. He wakes up to find that he has created astonishing gadgets, but has no idea how they work or even what they do. This is a similar to Dirk Gently, who also has a gift bordering on the supernatural, but is more its victim than anything else because his talent is not at ALL within his control.

One theme not mentioned so much in other reviews is computers and related humor. One of the main characters, Richard MacDuff, is a Macintosh programmer. (Douglas Adams himself was a fanatical Mac user in real life.) Among Richard's "creations" are a program that turns numerical, i.e. company financial, data into music; and a decision-making program that allows you to justify practically any outcome by back-tracing from the desired result (and which is promptly confiscated by the US Government!) Unfortunately, Richard has a problem: A sofa stuck halfway up his apartment stairs that can NOT be moved -- up OR down. So most of his computing cycles these days are spent on 3D modeling of the sofa, trying to extricate it, much to the annoyance of the boss of his software company. "People who want their company accounts to sing to them are not interested in buying a revolving sofa!"

And I haven't even mentioned the missing cat, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Johann Sebastian Bach, or the end of life on Earth yet! It is really hopeless to try to capture this complex, brilliant, wacky book in any kind of short review. My suggestion is: Just try it. Warning: Like the good mystery novel it is, it starts out nearly incomprehensible, and makes more and more sense as you go on, so be patient with it.

But, this book IS strange enough that it is probably not for everyone. How to tell? I would say that if you enjoy one or more of: Monty Python, Dr. Who, Woody Allen's "Zelig", computer geekdom in general, and/or the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (but be warned: Dirk Gently's characters are much deeper and more complex persons than Hitchhiker's are) then Dirk Gently is definitely something you should consider reading.

I will leave you with another favorite quotation, which comes very early on. In the dedication, in fact: "To my mother, who liked the bit about the horse."
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 14, 2014 7:38:04 AM PDT
It's even better than that - as I recall, Dirk started the rumours about him being psychic, precisely so that he attempt to predict the exam, in order to open a book on himself and make money from people gambling on his psychic ability. Lovely self-contained logic. The fact that his predicted exam matched the actual one perfectly was ... unfortunate.
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