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Dirk Gently: Totally not Ford Prefect

I must admit that I have spent quite a lot of time reading things written by Douglas Adams in the past couple of months. You know, bits of paper and the like.

Actually, I re-read the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series including the short story about young Zaphod, that is to say, I read my complete and unabridged Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide. Which looks annoyingly like a Bible. I’m quite certain Douglas Adams chose the Bible-esque binding as a bit of a joke and a conversation starter. The clever jerk. Anyway, after finishing that tome, Tophat lent me his copy of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. He had been going on about this book ever since he found out I was a Douglas Adams fan two years ago.

Having finished the little guy in about eight days I now feel compelled to share my thoughts on the book as a whole and its interconnectedness to everything.

I must say it starts off a bit slow and confusing, even for Adams. There’s a bit of gear grinding as we speed shift from chapter one to chapter two and on up into chapter three. Not to worry though, the whole thing accelerates in exactly the same way that a Saturn V rocket doesn’t. The real kicker is the fact that the namesake of the story doesn’t actually make an appearance until about halfway through. He is mentioned in passing a little earlier on, but it’s of little consequence. Reading the book over the course of a week it feels like the entire first half was nothing more than an introductory paragraph. Really the first half is more of an appetizer, or better yet a house salad with a nice balsamic vinaigrette and the kind of Roma tomatoes I almost don’t mind eating. Even if the croûtons are needlessly confusing they do set the palette up nicely for the magnificently prepared steak. The tender meat is succulent and the bottle of Marguax, which has been properly decanted for an hour of course, draws the complexities of everything out nicely and allows them to piece together in the most extraordinary manner.

Adams' book covers seemed to all look about the same

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. As I say, the first half of the book is confusing. Like looking at an office building under construction and trying to make out what sort of milled soaps the executive washroom will have on the sinks. This may be a problem if one is not accustom to the sort of weirdness Douglas Adams fills his books with, but having fully immersed myself in his works for the past two months I merely suspended all need for rationalization until the proper time. Of course one has to be paying attention because the proper time can sneak up on you and slip past while you were off studying the texture of the carpet or something. I found myself realizing several pages after their introduction that the characters with which I was being presented had been referenced in the third chapter.

Adams attempts to confuse the reader or at least stall their understanding successfully builds suspense and drama in a way that could not otherwise be achieved.

If you read the plot portion of the book’s Wikipedia entry, after reading the book of course, the whole thing sounds rather mundane and tedious, but as presented it is full of exciting twists and turns that make it quite enjoyable. This is not a new phenomenon. If you begin reading Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and already know the killer is an ape it does take something away from the story.

Adams’ character development by no means suffers in this series. While there is no pinnacle of literature like Marvin and his prototype genuine people personality, Professor Urban Chronotis, or Reg is quite an odd fellow and of course Dirk is of course a fascinating person. Detective Gently is a bit two-dimensional, even if he is a bit of an enigma. One could make the argument that he’s a walking example of deus ex machima but that would be a bit unfair. His quirky knee jerk assumptions are the basis for the novel after all.

He's a bit Goth, I must admit

Do I amaze you?

Now Michael Wenton-Weakes. He’s a rather minor character, but as read his description I couldn’t help but imagine Noel Fielding as Richmond Avenal. Towards the end he begins to look a little more like Frankenstein, but I think Richmond makes the transition well. Richard MacDuff, who is more reasonably the main character, certainly the man the book follows for much of the time, is a bit too Arthur Dentian for my taste. He clearly has no idea what’s going on and has that same flabbergasted reaction. I suppose it could be that most British men respond to their world view being tossed about in much the same way, and that’s the reason for the similarities. I really wouldn’t know. On my side of the pond most of the men I know try to roll with the punches and come up firing. Those that don’t wind up dead or simply forgotten.

As I say, much of the beginning is confusing but it eventually resolves itself nicely. Unfortunately, the climax is a bit confusing and doesn’t resolve itself in clear and present terms. The answers are there, but you’d best be paying attention. Either that or you’d better find a coffee shop with a bunch of hitchhikers looking for a good Adams discussion. I say it’s unfortunate but being forced to pay attention isn’t such a bad thing. In this world of video games and YouTube it is a bit difficult though.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m suddenly craving a nice cup of tea. A word of advice on that subject, don’t put Splenda in your tea. Aside from utterly ruining the flavor, it leaves you so thirsty that you can’t imagine why you would want to drink it in the first place.


3 Responses

  1. Tophat lent me that book too! I liked it a lot, although Hitchhiker’s Guide is of course much better, if we’re comparing the two.

    • Sure, but really there’s no reason to. It’s a great book that can stand on it’s own. It’s just so hard to separate Douglas Adams from the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I’m looking forward to picking up Salmon of Doubt some day. Also, Tophat only lent me the book as a secret ploy to get me to review it. He thinks he’s sooo clever. lol


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