Friday, August 5, 2016

Book Review - Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Published by: Pocket
Publication Date: 1987
Format: Paperback, 306 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Richard MacDuff is overworked. He's a computer geek for the genius Gordon Way. He has so much work in fact that instead of doing it he spends all his time trying to figure out how his new couch got wedged in his stairwell. It's a physical impossibility. Another side affect of being overworked is forgetting to pick up his girlfriend, Susan, Gordon's sister, for their dinner engagement with Richard's old professor, Reg Chronotis. Reg's dinner is far from relaxing, seeing as there's a horse in Reg's bathroom after dinner and on his way home Richard sees the ghost of his boss, whom was killed in a freak accident just a short while earlier. Upon getting home Richard freaks out and breaks into Susan's apartment to steal her answering machine's tape which might incriminate him by scaling the outside of her building. In other words, he totally overreacts. He is caught out in this by a very odd old classmate of his, now going by the name of Dirk Gently.

The fact is, everything has gone to hell in a hand basket and Richard turns to the basket case Dirk to help him out. Yet Dirk doesn't investigate things in a normal manner. He's a holistic detective, meaning, he'll follow up on things that strike his interest that may seem totally unrelated to the job at hand. But Dirk is convinced that because of everything's interconnectivity, it will all work out, he's very new age is Dirk. By working with the old adage of Sherlock Holmes; "once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth," leads the duo to a time machine, ghosts of long dead aliens inhabiting people, and the answer as to how Richard's couch ended up defying the laws of physics. There might have been a temporary door where there shouldn't have been. But that's the least of their worries.

The first time I read this I was on a train. This was my first big trip from home without the family and I was going to California with my two best friends. I was in the midst of Douglas Adams worship. I had always known who he was but I was never much of a pleasure reader when in High School. That all changed once I left High School. I devoured the who Hitchhiker's Trilogy, all five books, as fast as I could. I thought, traveling away from home without the parents was a new adventure and I'd re-read the first Hitchhiker's book. It was this whole journey theme I thought was appropriate at the time. I can at least confirm that trying to bathe in a train sink does make you abundantly aware of needing to know where your towel is. Yet I never got around to re-reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, instead I picked up a new to me Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. From LA to Chicago, for 57 hours I just devoured the book, blind to the dusty winter landscape outside the windows.

Re-reading the book years later I realize I remembered next to nothing of the plot. Really, if someone where to ask me, before now, what happened in the book I would have said it has something to do with Dodos, I think, and Dirk doesn't show up till half-way into the book. Shameful that I could remember so little. Though there's this weird problem I seem to have that anything I read on a train I can't retain. Yes, I'm totally blaming Amtrak for my failing faculties. Yet I could have rattled on and on about the history of the book and how it was originally a Doctor Who episode that was only partially filmed and those scenes were later used in another episode but the original conceit then became this book and now there is a book about the Doctor Who episode, it is all very wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, and I'm sure Douglas would love that. Even my book, which I bought way before his death, says "The Dazzling Bestseller by the Author of The Salmon of Doubt." The Salmon of Doubt came out in 2002 and this paperback is from 1988... so could someone please explain that to me?

Anyway, out of the time vortex, the reason I picked this up again was because there is, or was, a tv show based on the books. It was awesome but, now since the idiots at Channel 4 have cancelled it, it's now past tense referenced, but isn't Channel 4 only online now anyway? So Channel 4 is kind of past tense itself. There where three episodes including the pilot. All about an hour with Steve Managan as Dirk, who most people will probably know from the Matt LeBlanc show Episodes. The show was so marvelous and loony and perfect, the pilot with the cat made me cry and cry, that, obviously, before I knew it was cancelled. Of course, in the way of the world of Douglas Adams where his work is constantly being re-interpreted we are on the cusp of an American version of Dirk produced by IDW staring the lovely Samuel Barnett. But who knows how that will turn out. Eight episode and then cancelled? The new series points to the fact that the world, and in particular me, need more Dirk immediately. Also I never did get around to reading the sequel (still haven't) and as I've said, I remembered nothing of the book,

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is everything that is wonderful about Adams, blending absurd aliens with classical poetry. Past, present, and future all commingling with an element of the supernatural while still being hilariously funny. In other words, if there was one writer whose work embodied the essence of Doctor Who it would be Douglas Adams. It wasn't just that he wrote for the show, he had a comedic understanding of the pitfalls of time travel wherein a missing cat case that Dirk was working on ends up being irrelevant because in the new timeline they've created the cat never went walkabout. I wish they hadn't cancelled the show and I wish Adams was still alive to write more about Dirk and his adventures... but at least I still have the next book to look forward too... it's time for The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Though perhaps I'll go back and re-read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency again... I seem to have a recurring problem of never quite remembering the whole plot. Could this be some wibbly wobbly, timey wimey of Adams's own making wherein I will forever be re-reading his books? I won't object if it is.


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