Saturday, December 26, 2009

64. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

"It seems like that guy is everybody's best friend," my dad said when I told him I had picked up the first book of Douglas Adams' other series. It's not hard to see why. Adams' talent, wit, and bright though sarcastic personality shine through all of his books I've read so far. He was clearly intellectually engaged, which this book's extensive (and unfortunately, largely impermeable to me) discussion of the relationship between music, mathematics, and computer software shows. I'm in no place to judge whether he's accurate or completely making stuff up, but it sounds complicated enough to me.

Adams has a gift for amusing one-liners that shows up here as well as in all of his hitchhiker books. Unlike the hitchhiker books, this book even ties up neatly in the end. However, the getting there is so confusing and frustrating that I admit I had no patience for it. The Dirk Gently of the title doesn't appear until well over a hundred pages in, and isn't even mentioned for the first five chapters or so. The first chapters introduce the reader to a series of different characters and scenarios that bear no apparent relation. This is a common device, not one I have ever liked, and here it is taken to the extreme.

Perhaps it's because I'm more familiar with them, but I was much more fond of the Hitchhiker characters. Dirk Gently himself is interesting, but not particularly likable. My favorite character, Reg, a Cambridge don, turns out to be nearing senility, which rather than being funny, is disappointing, because otherwise he'd be a modern-day Merlin. Come on, you know how my generation loves magic.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
is exactly what you'd expect from Douglas Adams not trying as hard as he should have. It's witty in parts, brilliant in parts, dull in parts, and cheesy in parts. I guess you have to take the lumps with the rest.

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