Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

I'll be honest, I've not read much Adams, I've never read the Hitchhiker's series (I saw the movie when it came out). Still, when I heard about this book the premise intrigued me. Since I've been on a mystery kick lately a sci-fi mystery seemed like fun.
This time there would be no witnesses.
This time there was just the dead earth, a rumble of thunder, and the onset of that interminable light drizzle from the northeast by which so many of the world's most momentous events seem to be accompanied.

So begins Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Adams begins slowly weaving threads of separate stories that don't connect for quite some time. The title character doesn't appear until about half way through the story, though he is shabbily delightful and haphazard. Somewhat of a con artist, he takes the approach of holism, or the interconnectedness of all things and other abstract scientific theories when looking at mysteries to be solved and he charges handsomely. The main character, however, is Richard, a young software designer, who finds himself in the middle of a complicated web of time travel and murder. He isn't particularly interesting, but the experiences he has are.
Adams uses sharp, insightful humor to build a world very much like our own, but just slightly slanted to make room for science fiction phenomenon. Though not all of his plot threads are sewn up in a completely satisfactory way, it still is amusing and thought-provoking. Random inexplicable things such as a sofa stuck in a hallway, a conjuring trick, the poetry of Coleridge, and the mathematical beauty of music all lay in Adams's landscape and add color to the story.
Ideas such as quantum physics and chaos theory are touched on in the story as apart of the plot and the way the world of the novel functions.
The story also curiously combines genres. It is, of course science fiction, but there is a mystery at the center and also elements of a sort of fantasy ghost story as well. Very peculiar.
It was certainly different than most of the books I read, but enjoyable. Adams was clearly a very creative, witty mind that loved combing scientific theory with fun and complex plots and some social satire as well.


  1. That's what I love about Douglas Adams's works. They're not just scifi or scifi comedy, there's more to them than that. They're quite philosophical and thought-provoking. The man was a genius, and the world lost a great mind in 2001. :(

    BBC4 showed a one-hour take on Dirk Gently back in December. I was either expecting a series or a film and the episode was just a weird pilot. Didn't really work. Sadly.

  2. Yes, I heard about the BBC show and was wondering about how that compared or if they were going to do anything else with it.
    Sorry to hear it didn't work.
    I suppose I should read the Hitchhiker's series soon.