Sunday, November 06, 2005

Book Review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

I first read this book donkey's years ago – back when I was far to young to understand most of it, to be honest. But now I am older and wiser and I understand all about quantum physics and computers and that, so I thought I'd give it another try. I have to admit not much of it was very familiar, must have been skimming it first time in an attempt to appear well read. Kids, eh?

The Dirk Gently of the title is a private detective who specialises in seeing the bigger picture, to the extent that he doesn't really care about the thing he's supposed to be investigating. Not that it really matters as it's all really just an excuse for Douglas Adams to fit whatever was on his mind at the time into a completely ridiculous set of coincidences (not unlike a certain plot device in his earlier stories) in his characteristically entertaining Cambridge-educated Englishman who is a rather witty and observant writer kind of fashion.

You get the feeling Adams was describing his own interests here – not only are we treated to descriptions of his beloved Apple Macintoshes, but also a magazine essay about music and nature and, relatedly, a rather lovingly rendered list of samplers, synthesisers and sound modules. This not only boring if you're not interested in the history of electronic musical instruments, it also dates a book which could otherwise be set yesterday. This writing from knowledge continues with the appalling Islingtonism of the central characters - these are the people we've come to know and love from all those Richard Curtis films (not to mention the uber-Islingtonite we call Prime Minister). The men are bumbling and scatty and/or motor mouthed and the women are supernaturally witty even in the heat of an argument. You can almost hear Emma Thompson speaking some of the lines and let's face it, that's never good.

That aside, there's an enjoyable fantasy-cum-sci-fi-cum-comedy story here. Really clever stuff encompassing ghosts, time travel, computer software, generative music, alien civilisations and, well, pretty much everything the author could think of. So we hurtle through many twists and turns to an ending which sort of makes sense. I say sort of. So feeling a bit dim, but certain I hadn't missed anything, I looked it up on Google. This is where things gets eerie: I found this forum post from the 25th July 2000. Yup, that's the man himself putting his hands up and saying “I don't get it, either”. Then eleven months later, he was no more. Clearly, there are forces abroad of which we have all too little understanding.

In summary: Not bad, but could do without the smug middle-class-isms and Apple advertisments. 7/10.


At 1:59 pm, Blogger hungbunny said...

I liked Douglas Adams until I found out he went to the gym. Still, at least it killed him.

At 1:34 pm, Blogger surly girl said...

the only thing i liked about that story was the horse.

At 9:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:38 pm, Anonymous foreigner said...

I want to read this book..
because I love Douglas Adams(hitchhiker series)
So i buy Dirk gently's holistic detective Agency English version
This book not licenced in my country.
but I can't English...


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