Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
by Douglas Adams


Time travel, a detective agency, Dodo birds, ghosts, Electric monks; this book is a hodgepodge of sci-fi elements and the bizarre, which is to say it’s a novel by Douglas Adams.

I’m a huge fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and so I’ve been looking forward to this one for years. To tell the truth I was a bit disappointed, although the book is hilarious it’s also a bit convoluted and hard to follow. It still has Adam’s trademark humor and pokes fun at the absurd, but it lacks the heart that you’ll find in Hitchhiker. I think that a big part of the reason why can be attributed to Arthur Dent’s absence. His bumbling humanness is what grounds the craziness of Hitchhiker. The main character in Dirk, Richard MacDuff, is similar to Arthur but he’s never quite as endearing.

It’s almost impossible to explain the premise of the book, but this line from it is as close as I can get …

“Sherlock Holmes observed that once you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.” - Dirk Gently (also known as Svlad Cjelli).

One element that I loved was the idea of the Electric monks. People have created machines to do almost all of their menial tasks. We have dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, etc. This novel takes it once step further, they’ve created robots called Electric monks to do their believing for them. It’s just one example of Adam’s brilliance.

“Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see?”

“If you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else.”

“The phone rang and Janice answered it. ‘Good afternoon,’ she said, ‘Wainwright’s Fruit Emporium. Mr. Wainwright is not able to take calls at this time since he is not right in the head and thinks he is a cucumber.’”

he Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the best place to start with Adam’s work. If you already love that series then definitely check this one out! It’s not quite up to the same standard, but nothing of Adam’s should be missed.

p.s. I have to mention one fantastic line that nods to Hitchhiker, “Do you always carry a towel around in your briefcase?”


Jeanne said...

The thing I always remember from this one (at odd times, in traffic) is Dirk's method of finding something by choosing a particular car and following it.

Adams did good things with meta-fiction.

Alyce said...

I can't believe I didn't know about these! I love the Hitchhiker books, so I will definitely be adding these to the wish list!

Ana S. said...

Jeanne is so right. I also like Hitchhiker’s better, but this is well worth reading.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jeanne - He really did. I wish we'd had a chance to see what else he had up his sleeve. We lost him way too soon.

Alyce - They're different from the Hitchhiker books, but you can tell in a second that they're written by Adams.

Ana - Agreed, not the best place to start with his work, but if you already love him like I do it's essential.

Nikki Steele said...

I think the quotes you chose for this one explained the book perfectly. Difficult to put Adams' zaniness into words not his own.

Jenners said...

I saw this at the library book store but wasn't 100% sure about it. It seems aggressively weird and I wasn't quite sure.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - It really is! When I started to write the review I realized just how tough it is.

Jenners - It is a strange one. Unless you really love Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy I wouldn't consider picking it up.