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Editor’s Note

“A Whimsical Romp...”

This kooky, whimsical romp through time & space provides comedy in chaos, insights into interconnectedness & ghosts galore.
Scribd Editor
There is a long tradition of Great Detectives, and Dirk Gently does not belong to it. But his search for a missing cat uncovers a ghost, a time traveler, AND the devastating secret of humankind! Detective Gently's bill for saving the human race from extinction: NO CHARGE.

Topics: London, Speculative Fiction, First in a Series, Funny, Satirical, Witty, Time Travel, Ghosts, Alternate Universe, Possessed, Private Investigators, DNA, and British Author

Published: Pocket Books on
ISBN: 9781439140611
List price: $11.99
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slow to start, keep readingmore
One of the most annoying things about reading the Kindle edition of this book was the fact that popular highlights show up and you can't turn them off, at least not easily. It drove me mad. It was inevitably the parts that you'd pick out as funny for yourself, not anything surprisingly good...

Anyway, I grew up with Douglas Adams' work in the background, on the radio while we ate or while me and my sister played after dinner and my dad tried to relax. He's a big Douglas Adams fan, though he sticks mostly to the radio stuff, thinking that has more life.

I do enjoy Douglas Adams' writing, but I didn't find Dirk Gently as compulsive to read as Hitchhiker's Guide. There were a lot of good bits -- things I might pull out as memorable quotes -- but it didn't come out that memorably as a whole. The quotes are memorable without the story surrounding them. They're sort of bon mots that felt sort of pasted in, for the most part.

It's fun, don't get me wrong, and it was excellent train reading: entertaining without needing my full focus.more
Good bits. Very good bits, as one would expect of Mr Adams. But messy and, for me, ultimately unsatisfying. I feel bad about myself for saying that, but I'm nothing if not ludicrously honest.more
I think it would have gotten more stars if Adams didn't take almost the entire book for any action to happen. And we don't even meet Dirk Gently until the second half of the book.

I do think that this could be hilarious in the way Dr.Who is hilarious, as a tv show...but as a book I kept falling asleep. Some of it was funny but mostly I just kept thinking that Adams should just get to the point and stop trying to force goofy on me every two lines.

Maybe I'll try #2 but I'll probably just watch the BBC show.more
Eh. I was amused but not enthralled. [Feb. 2011]more
Decent book but probably not one for non fans.more
Not as light as the early Hitchhiker books this book is a lot heavier and grimmer though the humour of Douglas Adams shines through from time to time. Written with all the confusion I expect from his work this an interesting, twisted story. I can't say I enjoyed it as much as the Hitchhiker books but it wasn't too bad.more
"What do a dear cat, a computer whiz-kid and an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink have in common?" Very funny & highly recommended.more
“Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” A rollicking good science fiction mystery brimming with Adamsesque humour. The packed, mystery twists inventively and is held up by a decent cast, in particular Gently and the old professor. There are enough wry observations, and cool ideas to keep it ticking along nicely. "It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.Adams has such a cool view of the world it’s a pleasure to read even though it’s a bit clunky in places. It is a bit dated but nothing troubling, Adams was so forward thinking in his approach to technology you just get a bit nostalgic, Lotus eh? Having to look phone numbers up in a phone directory.. the horror!The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe Recommended to lovers of science fiction. It you need to start with Adams though go and find the Hitch Hikers Radio play (not the books) it’s utterly fabulous.more
This books starts slowly, weaving several plot threads together in what the reader hopes will become an entertaining story, but it never really gels. It is difficult to care very much about the characters. The story's main protagonist, a computer software writer, is never fully fleshed out, and the title character, Dirk Gently, remains a bit of an enigma. Adams seems more interested in putting forth his ideas about music, belief, time travel, and a few other subjects. These are often interesting, but don't make up for the lack of an urgent plot or for the books truly sloppy ending. Most importantly, the books just isn't that funny. True, it has an amusing tone, and Mr. Adams would have undoubtedly been a great guy to lift a few pints with, but there are no belly laughs, and some of what humor there is seems forced. Truly disappointing, although it does contain an interesting twist at the end that is easy to miss if you're not paying attention. In its favor, the book will encourage people to read Coleridge!more
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.’” BOTTOM LINE: The 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?”  more
Adams' goals for this book are lofty. He attempts to imbue certain poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge with clues to not only the origin of life, but possibly also its destruction. He explains the survival of the coelacanth, and the genius of J.S. Bach. He does this with a neat trick, that I can't really remember seeing in any other book: he starts his characters in an alternate universe, and has them go back in time and change the world so that it becomes our world. It's clever, but the issues he attempts to clear up with his trick are, interestingly, not those tackled by a typical time travel writer. Hitler is not covered. Area 51 is not even mentioned. Adams is interested in explaining the mysteries of art, not war. In this he anticipates the Da Vinci Code in a way (although Adams' plot is his own work and not a ripoff of another book, and Adams' book is much better written).It has its weaknesses, of course, but I think any book about time travel asks for those. "Why didn't they just travel back in time and do X?" the readers cry. I'm sure there were very good answers to all those questions, so I can't help but wonder what we would have seen if Douglas Adams had survived for another few decades. Hitchhiker's is of course brilliant, but the sequels mostly just got sillier. This first book about Dirk is hugely underrated, but the sequel with the lovely title, "The Long, Dark, Teatime of the Soul", doesn't hold up as well. Would he have recovered the brilliance?Regardless, the world lost a wonderful author when Douglas Adams died, and this book is both a worthy memorial and a demonstration of why.more
A private investigator attempts to solve the meaning of all things, especially those things that he wasn't hired to investigate.There are strands of something interesting in this book, but they don't stick together in any meaningful way. The title character doesn't appear until nearly halfway through the book, at which point the focus totally changes from the first half of the book and Gordon Way, and never really returns. The plot twist at the end is completely unsatisfying: a bunch of seemingly unrelated characters end up being tangentially related to another character, introduced at the last minute and totally unpleasant. I never had a grasp of any of the characters other than the narrator and his girlfriend, and could never guess which one the author was talking about until he used their names. You'd think one would be able to tell the difference between a cyborg monk, a former literary magazine editor, an absentminded professor and a detective of the occult, but I couldn't.more
Douglas Adams brought something unique to the detective novel most are familiar with by infusing Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency with quantum mechanics, time-travel, ghosts and aliens. The result is a fairly entertaining, quick read wrought with puzzles and quirky British humor - that and horses in second-story bathrooms. Those familiar with Adams' Hitch-hiker's Guide will feel right at home in this more down-to-Earth novel; it's less zany, but still has many of the characteristics so unique to THHGTTG that a connection is clear. However, this isn't much more than a kooky, nerdy sci-fi detective story. Sure, the characters and the plot are interesting (especially Reg - he's quite the character), but the book seems to lack a certain je ne sais quoi... but I can't be bothered to think of what it is (or maybe, like a certain Coleridge, I've been visited by the Person from Porlock?)more
"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" is typical Douglas Adams -- full of great British humor and wacky scenes that showcase how everything is interconnected. Who else could write a book about a detective, a sofa jammed in the hallway, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the music of numbers and a horse in the bathroom and make it all come together in the end?I liked the book a lot, though not as much as the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, which is better written and more enjoyable. I found the first third of the book to be a bit slow to start -- but once Dirk enters the picture, the book starts to move along and meld the bits together. Overall, a worthwhile and enjoyable read.more
Definitely a Douglas Adams book. This one took me a little bit to get into it. I think the fact it was almost a 3rd of the way into the book before me met the title character might have had something to do with it. Up until we meet Dirk the book is just a little strange, after we meet him, things start to feel much more like an Adams book. The story is a decent puzzle with all the pieces but it's was put together by putting all the pieces directly where they belonged without needed the connecting pieces first. Everything makes sense in the end but it takes a little while to get there. The author takes a holistic approach to story-telling.Dirk gets to solve a murder, find an electric monk and save the world, all for free, though he'll charge old ladies for trips to Bermuda as expenses for finding a missing cat.more
Satirical time travel story based on the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who figures in the plot at one point. Literate and funny.more
Everyone and his grandmother have now read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and those who haven't have seen the film or heard the radio show. They made Douglas Adams the icon he is, and ensured that my mother recognises his name. Dirk Gently, however, is more of an unknown entity in the world of nutty literati and grandmothers alike. Rather undeservedly; it should be remedied. Adams once wrote occasional episodes for the magnificent television series Doctor Who (and some of the better episodes at that). When, from time to time, the scripts did not pan out, he was known to convert them into pieces of books (see the Krikkit robots and the incident with the ashes, for example). Shada, which was left unfinished and unaired because of a strike, is one such, and Adams converted key bits of it into the strange composition of insanity, absurdity, hilarity and very, very close plotting which is Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The Doctor does not figure in it. Instead the reader must deal with the strange workings of the very odd minds of Professor Chronotis (Reg), and his cryptic comments, very strange behaviour and impressive magic tricks; and Dirk Gently, with his very strange hat, penchant for massive amounts of free pizza, and his tendency to notice things. The hat is very strange. Dirk Gently is a holistic detective, which means he will use his gifts to find the missing cat by visiting Bermuda -- for holistic reasons, you understand. And he never gets paid. And he went to school (and by "school" I mean Cambridge, as you do) with Richard. And was kicked out for correctly divining the correct questions of an exam. Down to the smallest comma. By accident. Richard is more boring (despite having an interesting sofa), but serves as the hub around which all the crazy happens. You see, Adams takes The Interconnectedness of All Things very seriously. So a lot of crazy has to happen in order to reveal itself as interconnected. And it is strangely disorienting when you are in the middle of it. And then, two weeks after you put the book down, you go "Ah! Right! I get it now". Or that is what I suspect. The first time I read it I read it twice in two days because I need to know that things fit. And they did. I read it again, now, after 12 years or so (with very fuzzy memories from the last time), and it took me a while to stop going "ah, yes, that was why he included that bit" once I had finished the book. There is a lot of technobabble. It is 1980s technobabble from Adams, which means it is weirdly mac-centered in a strange unworldly kind of way and may induce bouts of nostalgia in geeks (or, indeed, people who were old enough to know state of the art technology in 1987). Be warned. . More importantly (as I see it), it pokes and prods literary and musical history in just the right places and will reward anyone familiar with key Coleridge poems. It might also help you appreciate Bach's Mass in B Minor from the Brandenburg Concertos in a new way. And the extinction of the dodo is explainedIt is very much a Douglas Adams book. The weirdly absurdist carnivalesque style and the perfect wording that makes apparent True Meanings of things and which are characteristic of a certain type of British writing -- it is all here. People who like it, will; those who don't … well, I can't help you.more
Richard McDuff, a computer programmer, is attending a dinner at his old college St. Cedd's, dedicated to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His old professor guardian Reg is also in attendance. In the course of the evening he sees his professor perform a conjuring trick, a horse in the bathroom and the apparition of his boss, Gordon Way on his way back. Later he finds out that Gordon was murdered in the night and he is a suspect. He seeks the help of his long lost colleague from college, Dirk Gently. The story from here onwards leads us to four billion year old alien ghosts, time machines, space ships with music for an atmosphere and other strange things.The story is very intelligently woven and great to read. There is lots of wit and humor. Douglas Adams is a fabulous story teller who could have been a physicist in another life.more
I read this book because I absolutely loved Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy and I am glad I did. It had the same sense of humor, though in its writing style it reminded me more of Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Since I also love Discworld, this is a great combination and I highly recommend reading this book if you like either Hitchhiker's guide or Discworld!more
A very, very, stripped down dramatisation of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - it would have been unrecognisable had not Stephen Mangan made such an excellent Dirk - recently showed on the BBC. It prompted me to go out and re-buy a book - the same edition, no less - that I last owned twenty or more years ago.Now, on this site, I've already found that writing equivocal reviews of cherished books by a celebrated, prematurely dead cult writer - in particular, this one - is a fairly thankless business.So I don't expect to be popular. Indeed, it calls to mind one of Arthur Dent's wry observations: It feels rather like sitting in a Vogon airlock, waiting to be thrown into deep space, and wishing I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.Well, I didn't, and it's too late now. So, here we go.In 1987, revolutionarily, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was desktop-published by Douglas Adams himself, he boasted, on his Apple Macintosh, using MacAuthor publishing software (an unfortunate branding, given the market which has subsequently grown up around the capability the internet has delivered us for self-publishing mediocre books). But reading this one again - which was definitively not vanity published - it not only looks but feels a little that way: not a bad effort by any means, but it lacks a professional, detached judgement, the bearer of which could have put a hand on Adams' shoulder to say "steady on, old boy". I have very mixed feelings about Douglas Adams. Without a doubt, he owned one of the most agile minds on the planet. He was possessed of a rare wit - one not possessed, for example, by latter day pretenders like Ben Elton or even Stephen Fry. But Adams could be frightfully arch - smug, really (I know, I know: can't we all) - a tendency which grew worse as his reputation extended itself following the runaway success of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There's a trade-off between Adams' dead-ball wit - truly Beckhamesque at first - and the coherence and structure of his novels - pretty much non-existent in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but ever more in evidence as his writing matured. Alas, one killed the other: the later instalments of the Hitch-Hiker series felt like increasingly desperate attempts to rein in and put some structure round his original story, but they suffered for being increasingly unfunny and forced, stifling what was so good about the premise in the first place.Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency finds Adams at as happy a compromise as he ever reached between the two. There are some sizzling ideas: believing in things being a chore for which a labour-saving device has been developed; the whole "fundamental interconnectedness of things" and the translation of fractal data into music (actually pretty prescient, too); but so too is there a real linear narrative, characters who develop and a complex and cleverly-wrought plot reveal.But it still doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts: there are a good five too many main characters (or, if you take the BBC's line, ten: none of Gordon Way, The Monk, its horse, Reg, St. Cedd's College, the bored little girl, Michael Wenton-Weakes or Adam Ross makes the BBC version!) and the plotting is Byzantine indeed for such a short book. I am still not sure I understand all the implications or interrelations between Coleridge, some aliens, a ghost, a time-travelling electric monk (why electric?) and a computer software magnate. Adams thought this was clever - he even said so, archly, on the back cover of the book (a "thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time-travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic" - har har). But actually it all feels a bit arbitrary - rather like some blinding ideas thrown together and frantically stitched into a loose framework of a novel.I preferred the ideas, I think, unencumbered, and for me this is therefore a waystation on the downward trajectory from The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.more
The world of Dirk Gently is satisfying proof that niche writers shouldn’t be dismissed as successful because they write to a similar formula. Gently is a rational man entangled in the solving of paranormal crimes which he does largely through common sense and educated guesswork. The situations Gently and supporting characters are often farcical but the character of Gently himself keeps the story from becoming pure comedy. He is an anti-hero answer to Sherlock Holmes, a detective bridging the gap between hardboiled efficiency and slapstick comic relief. The crime/mystery storyline is developed at a good pace and the story is furnished with healthy dollops of Adams-style observational humour and unconventional metaphor.more
There is a long tradition of Great Detectives, and Dirk Gently does not belong to it. But his search for a missing cat uncovers a ghost, a time traveler, AND the devastating secret of humankind! Detective Gently's bill for saving the human race from extinction: NO CHARGE. A slight change for Adams though familiar themes are covered. An electric monk designed simply to believe, a 4 billion year old alien ghost, a murdered dotcom millionaire, a computer software genius and a time-traveling Cambridge professor come together with the title character to determine the fate of mankind as dictated by the poetry of Englishman Coleridge. Perhaps a stab at pulp noir with his normal cosmic twists, the book was entertaining but did not tread as happily carelessly as the Hitchhiker series. One can detect portions of the book where Adams attempted to write in a different style. These sections are book thankfully ended by lapses into the flippant, aside-filled jaunts that made him enjoyable. While it has it moments and the characters are entertaining, the plot and subplots amble along, sometimes without purpose or satisfying resolution. It seems as if Adams attempting to write a book with a similar scale and connectivity as he previous works and cram in all into a 200 page detective story. While it is not as concrete as the Hitchhiker series, it is full of the Adams' charm and sets up the much stronger sequel nicely.more
Douglas Adams' books are a part of MY pop culture. Anything he writes, no matter how nuts, confusing and remarkably funny I love it all, because it IS him and it is me. The book does make sense at the end, and when you understand this, it is all so worth it. Don't miss this book!more
As a longtime fan of Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide series, I've been meaning to read this for quite a while. Unfortunately, it's clear why this series does not have the cult following of the other. It has the same random humor and just-go-with-it meandering style of plot, but somehow it doesn't quite gel as a novel. The titular character doesn't even show up until about halfway through the book. The narration shifts constantly between a computer programmer, his boss, his girlfriend, an Electric Monk, and Bizarre Omniscient. The characters are amusing on their own but one needs more than good characters to make a good novel. Don't get me wrong: there are some very funny anecdotes and asides, but the main story is so confusing that the humor is nearly overshadowed. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to read the sequel.more
This book is more insane than The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and that's saying something. Most of the time, I couldn't even figure out what was happening. If you value your sanity at all, then AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!!more
This book returned to my library via SantaThing this year. What a delight! Was great fun to revisit a book I read often years ago. Still loved every moment of it and would recommend it to others without reservation. "The couch is stuck" has become a humorous refrain now in my husband's battle with leukemia. We crack up and everyone looks at us as if we were crazy. Perhaps I should start carrying extra copies with me.more
Substance: I didn't see much point to it, although the individual elements were well-plotted. The humor is in the same vein as Terry Pratchett, without the underlying moral sense.Style: Readable without too much back-tracking. Subtle clues well-laid.more
Twisty plot, good fun, but you do have to pay a little bit of attention. It takes quite a while to find out what exactly the problem is going to be, and then you have to deal with the old trope of the innocent person being thought to be the murderer and needing to prove their innocence (which doesn't last too long, thankfully). At the end, it's a bit abrupt and takes a bit of thinking about it (hard to do since it involves some odd logic) but the world ignores any paradoxes and just goes right on existing.more
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Reviews

slow to start, keep readingmore
One of the most annoying things about reading the Kindle edition of this book was the fact that popular highlights show up and you can't turn them off, at least not easily. It drove me mad. It was inevitably the parts that you'd pick out as funny for yourself, not anything surprisingly good...

Anyway, I grew up with Douglas Adams' work in the background, on the radio while we ate or while me and my sister played after dinner and my dad tried to relax. He's a big Douglas Adams fan, though he sticks mostly to the radio stuff, thinking that has more life.

I do enjoy Douglas Adams' writing, but I didn't find Dirk Gently as compulsive to read as Hitchhiker's Guide. There were a lot of good bits -- things I might pull out as memorable quotes -- but it didn't come out that memorably as a whole. The quotes are memorable without the story surrounding them. They're sort of bon mots that felt sort of pasted in, for the most part.

It's fun, don't get me wrong, and it was excellent train reading: entertaining without needing my full focus.more
Good bits. Very good bits, as one would expect of Mr Adams. But messy and, for me, ultimately unsatisfying. I feel bad about myself for saying that, but I'm nothing if not ludicrously honest.more
I think it would have gotten more stars if Adams didn't take almost the entire book for any action to happen. And we don't even meet Dirk Gently until the second half of the book.

I do think that this could be hilarious in the way Dr.Who is hilarious, as a tv show...but as a book I kept falling asleep. Some of it was funny but mostly I just kept thinking that Adams should just get to the point and stop trying to force goofy on me every two lines.

Maybe I'll try #2 but I'll probably just watch the BBC show.more
Eh. I was amused but not enthralled. [Feb. 2011]more
Decent book but probably not one for non fans.more
Not as light as the early Hitchhiker books this book is a lot heavier and grimmer though the humour of Douglas Adams shines through from time to time. Written with all the confusion I expect from his work this an interesting, twisted story. I can't say I enjoyed it as much as the Hitchhiker books but it wasn't too bad.more
"What do a dear cat, a computer whiz-kid and an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink have in common?" Very funny & highly recommended.more
“Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” A rollicking good science fiction mystery brimming with Adamsesque humour. The packed, mystery twists inventively and is held up by a decent cast, in particular Gently and the old professor. There are enough wry observations, and cool ideas to keep it ticking along nicely. "It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.Adams has such a cool view of the world it’s a pleasure to read even though it’s a bit clunky in places. It is a bit dated but nothing troubling, Adams was so forward thinking in his approach to technology you just get a bit nostalgic, Lotus eh? Having to look phone numbers up in a phone directory.. the horror!The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe Recommended to lovers of science fiction. It you need to start with Adams though go and find the Hitch Hikers Radio play (not the books) it’s utterly fabulous.more
This books starts slowly, weaving several plot threads together in what the reader hopes will become an entertaining story, but it never really gels. It is difficult to care very much about the characters. The story's main protagonist, a computer software writer, is never fully fleshed out, and the title character, Dirk Gently, remains a bit of an enigma. Adams seems more interested in putting forth his ideas about music, belief, time travel, and a few other subjects. These are often interesting, but don't make up for the lack of an urgent plot or for the books truly sloppy ending. Most importantly, the books just isn't that funny. True, it has an amusing tone, and Mr. Adams would have undoubtedly been a great guy to lift a few pints with, but there are no belly laughs, and some of what humor there is seems forced. Truly disappointing, although it does contain an interesting twist at the end that is easy to miss if you're not paying attention. In its favor, the book will encourage people to read Coleridge!more
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.’” BOTTOM LINE: The 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?”  more
Adams' goals for this book are lofty. He attempts to imbue certain poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge with clues to not only the origin of life, but possibly also its destruction. He explains the survival of the coelacanth, and the genius of J.S. Bach. He does this with a neat trick, that I can't really remember seeing in any other book: he starts his characters in an alternate universe, and has them go back in time and change the world so that it becomes our world. It's clever, but the issues he attempts to clear up with his trick are, interestingly, not those tackled by a typical time travel writer. Hitler is not covered. Area 51 is not even mentioned. Adams is interested in explaining the mysteries of art, not war. In this he anticipates the Da Vinci Code in a way (although Adams' plot is his own work and not a ripoff of another book, and Adams' book is much better written).It has its weaknesses, of course, but I think any book about time travel asks for those. "Why didn't they just travel back in time and do X?" the readers cry. I'm sure there were very good answers to all those questions, so I can't help but wonder what we would have seen if Douglas Adams had survived for another few decades. Hitchhiker's is of course brilliant, but the sequels mostly just got sillier. This first book about Dirk is hugely underrated, but the sequel with the lovely title, "The Long, Dark, Teatime of the Soul", doesn't hold up as well. Would he have recovered the brilliance?Regardless, the world lost a wonderful author when Douglas Adams died, and this book is both a worthy memorial and a demonstration of why.more
A private investigator attempts to solve the meaning of all things, especially those things that he wasn't hired to investigate.There are strands of something interesting in this book, but they don't stick together in any meaningful way. The title character doesn't appear until nearly halfway through the book, at which point the focus totally changes from the first half of the book and Gordon Way, and never really returns. The plot twist at the end is completely unsatisfying: a bunch of seemingly unrelated characters end up being tangentially related to another character, introduced at the last minute and totally unpleasant. I never had a grasp of any of the characters other than the narrator and his girlfriend, and could never guess which one the author was talking about until he used their names. You'd think one would be able to tell the difference between a cyborg monk, a former literary magazine editor, an absentminded professor and a detective of the occult, but I couldn't.more
Douglas Adams brought something unique to the detective novel most are familiar with by infusing Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency with quantum mechanics, time-travel, ghosts and aliens. The result is a fairly entertaining, quick read wrought with puzzles and quirky British humor - that and horses in second-story bathrooms. Those familiar with Adams' Hitch-hiker's Guide will feel right at home in this more down-to-Earth novel; it's less zany, but still has many of the characteristics so unique to THHGTTG that a connection is clear. However, this isn't much more than a kooky, nerdy sci-fi detective story. Sure, the characters and the plot are interesting (especially Reg - he's quite the character), but the book seems to lack a certain je ne sais quoi... but I can't be bothered to think of what it is (or maybe, like a certain Coleridge, I've been visited by the Person from Porlock?)more
"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" is typical Douglas Adams -- full of great British humor and wacky scenes that showcase how everything is interconnected. Who else could write a book about a detective, a sofa jammed in the hallway, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the music of numbers and a horse in the bathroom and make it all come together in the end?I liked the book a lot, though not as much as the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, which is better written and more enjoyable. I found the first third of the book to be a bit slow to start -- but once Dirk enters the picture, the book starts to move along and meld the bits together. Overall, a worthwhile and enjoyable read.more
Definitely a Douglas Adams book. This one took me a little bit to get into it. I think the fact it was almost a 3rd of the way into the book before me met the title character might have had something to do with it. Up until we meet Dirk the book is just a little strange, after we meet him, things start to feel much more like an Adams book. The story is a decent puzzle with all the pieces but it's was put together by putting all the pieces directly where they belonged without needed the connecting pieces first. Everything makes sense in the end but it takes a little while to get there. The author takes a holistic approach to story-telling.Dirk gets to solve a murder, find an electric monk and save the world, all for free, though he'll charge old ladies for trips to Bermuda as expenses for finding a missing cat.more
Satirical time travel story based on the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who figures in the plot at one point. Literate and funny.more
Everyone and his grandmother have now read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and those who haven't have seen the film or heard the radio show. They made Douglas Adams the icon he is, and ensured that my mother recognises his name. Dirk Gently, however, is more of an unknown entity in the world of nutty literati and grandmothers alike. Rather undeservedly; it should be remedied. Adams once wrote occasional episodes for the magnificent television series Doctor Who (and some of the better episodes at that). When, from time to time, the scripts did not pan out, he was known to convert them into pieces of books (see the Krikkit robots and the incident with the ashes, for example). Shada, which was left unfinished and unaired because of a strike, is one such, and Adams converted key bits of it into the strange composition of insanity, absurdity, hilarity and very, very close plotting which is Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The Doctor does not figure in it. Instead the reader must deal with the strange workings of the very odd minds of Professor Chronotis (Reg), and his cryptic comments, very strange behaviour and impressive magic tricks; and Dirk Gently, with his very strange hat, penchant for massive amounts of free pizza, and his tendency to notice things. The hat is very strange. Dirk Gently is a holistic detective, which means he will use his gifts to find the missing cat by visiting Bermuda -- for holistic reasons, you understand. And he never gets paid. And he went to school (and by "school" I mean Cambridge, as you do) with Richard. And was kicked out for correctly divining the correct questions of an exam. Down to the smallest comma. By accident. Richard is more boring (despite having an interesting sofa), but serves as the hub around which all the crazy happens. You see, Adams takes The Interconnectedness of All Things very seriously. So a lot of crazy has to happen in order to reveal itself as interconnected. And it is strangely disorienting when you are in the middle of it. And then, two weeks after you put the book down, you go "Ah! Right! I get it now". Or that is what I suspect. The first time I read it I read it twice in two days because I need to know that things fit. And they did. I read it again, now, after 12 years or so (with very fuzzy memories from the last time), and it took me a while to stop going "ah, yes, that was why he included that bit" once I had finished the book. There is a lot of technobabble. It is 1980s technobabble from Adams, which means it is weirdly mac-centered in a strange unworldly kind of way and may induce bouts of nostalgia in geeks (or, indeed, people who were old enough to know state of the art technology in 1987). Be warned. . More importantly (as I see it), it pokes and prods literary and musical history in just the right places and will reward anyone familiar with key Coleridge poems. It might also help you appreciate Bach's Mass in B Minor from the Brandenburg Concertos in a new way. And the extinction of the dodo is explainedIt is very much a Douglas Adams book. The weirdly absurdist carnivalesque style and the perfect wording that makes apparent True Meanings of things and which are characteristic of a certain type of British writing -- it is all here. People who like it, will; those who don't … well, I can't help you.more
Richard McDuff, a computer programmer, is attending a dinner at his old college St. Cedd's, dedicated to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His old professor guardian Reg is also in attendance. In the course of the evening he sees his professor perform a conjuring trick, a horse in the bathroom and the apparition of his boss, Gordon Way on his way back. Later he finds out that Gordon was murdered in the night and he is a suspect. He seeks the help of his long lost colleague from college, Dirk Gently. The story from here onwards leads us to four billion year old alien ghosts, time machines, space ships with music for an atmosphere and other strange things.The story is very intelligently woven and great to read. There is lots of wit and humor. Douglas Adams is a fabulous story teller who could have been a physicist in another life.more
I read this book because I absolutely loved Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy and I am glad I did. It had the same sense of humor, though in its writing style it reminded me more of Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Since I also love Discworld, this is a great combination and I highly recommend reading this book if you like either Hitchhiker's guide or Discworld!more
A very, very, stripped down dramatisation of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - it would have been unrecognisable had not Stephen Mangan made such an excellent Dirk - recently showed on the BBC. It prompted me to go out and re-buy a book - the same edition, no less - that I last owned twenty or more years ago.Now, on this site, I've already found that writing equivocal reviews of cherished books by a celebrated, prematurely dead cult writer - in particular, this one - is a fairly thankless business.So I don't expect to be popular. Indeed, it calls to mind one of Arthur Dent's wry observations: It feels rather like sitting in a Vogon airlock, waiting to be thrown into deep space, and wishing I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.Well, I didn't, and it's too late now. So, here we go.In 1987, revolutionarily, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was desktop-published by Douglas Adams himself, he boasted, on his Apple Macintosh, using MacAuthor publishing software (an unfortunate branding, given the market which has subsequently grown up around the capability the internet has delivered us for self-publishing mediocre books). But reading this one again - which was definitively not vanity published - it not only looks but feels a little that way: not a bad effort by any means, but it lacks a professional, detached judgement, the bearer of which could have put a hand on Adams' shoulder to say "steady on, old boy". I have very mixed feelings about Douglas Adams. Without a doubt, he owned one of the most agile minds on the planet. He was possessed of a rare wit - one not possessed, for example, by latter day pretenders like Ben Elton or even Stephen Fry. But Adams could be frightfully arch - smug, really (I know, I know: can't we all) - a tendency which grew worse as his reputation extended itself following the runaway success of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There's a trade-off between Adams' dead-ball wit - truly Beckhamesque at first - and the coherence and structure of his novels - pretty much non-existent in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but ever more in evidence as his writing matured. Alas, one killed the other: the later instalments of the Hitch-Hiker series felt like increasingly desperate attempts to rein in and put some structure round his original story, but they suffered for being increasingly unfunny and forced, stifling what was so good about the premise in the first place.Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency finds Adams at as happy a compromise as he ever reached between the two. There are some sizzling ideas: believing in things being a chore for which a labour-saving device has been developed; the whole "fundamental interconnectedness of things" and the translation of fractal data into music (actually pretty prescient, too); but so too is there a real linear narrative, characters who develop and a complex and cleverly-wrought plot reveal.But it still doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts: there are a good five too many main characters (or, if you take the BBC's line, ten: none of Gordon Way, The Monk, its horse, Reg, St. Cedd's College, the bored little girl, Michael Wenton-Weakes or Adam Ross makes the BBC version!) and the plotting is Byzantine indeed for such a short book. I am still not sure I understand all the implications or interrelations between Coleridge, some aliens, a ghost, a time-travelling electric monk (why electric?) and a computer software magnate. Adams thought this was clever - he even said so, archly, on the back cover of the book (a "thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time-travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic" - har har). But actually it all feels a bit arbitrary - rather like some blinding ideas thrown together and frantically stitched into a loose framework of a novel.I preferred the ideas, I think, unencumbered, and for me this is therefore a waystation on the downward trajectory from The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.more
The world of Dirk Gently is satisfying proof that niche writers shouldn’t be dismissed as successful because they write to a similar formula. Gently is a rational man entangled in the solving of paranormal crimes which he does largely through common sense and educated guesswork. The situations Gently and supporting characters are often farcical but the character of Gently himself keeps the story from becoming pure comedy. He is an anti-hero answer to Sherlock Holmes, a detective bridging the gap between hardboiled efficiency and slapstick comic relief. The crime/mystery storyline is developed at a good pace and the story is furnished with healthy dollops of Adams-style observational humour and unconventional metaphor.more
There is a long tradition of Great Detectives, and Dirk Gently does not belong to it. But his search for a missing cat uncovers a ghost, a time traveler, AND the devastating secret of humankind! Detective Gently's bill for saving the human race from extinction: NO CHARGE. A slight change for Adams though familiar themes are covered. An electric monk designed simply to believe, a 4 billion year old alien ghost, a murdered dotcom millionaire, a computer software genius and a time-traveling Cambridge professor come together with the title character to determine the fate of mankind as dictated by the poetry of Englishman Coleridge. Perhaps a stab at pulp noir with his normal cosmic twists, the book was entertaining but did not tread as happily carelessly as the Hitchhiker series. One can detect portions of the book where Adams attempted to write in a different style. These sections are book thankfully ended by lapses into the flippant, aside-filled jaunts that made him enjoyable. While it has it moments and the characters are entertaining, the plot and subplots amble along, sometimes without purpose or satisfying resolution. It seems as if Adams attempting to write a book with a similar scale and connectivity as he previous works and cram in all into a 200 page detective story. While it is not as concrete as the Hitchhiker series, it is full of the Adams' charm and sets up the much stronger sequel nicely.more
Douglas Adams' books are a part of MY pop culture. Anything he writes, no matter how nuts, confusing and remarkably funny I love it all, because it IS him and it is me. The book does make sense at the end, and when you understand this, it is all so worth it. Don't miss this book!more
As a longtime fan of Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide series, I've been meaning to read this for quite a while. Unfortunately, it's clear why this series does not have the cult following of the other. It has the same random humor and just-go-with-it meandering style of plot, but somehow it doesn't quite gel as a novel. The titular character doesn't even show up until about halfway through the book. The narration shifts constantly between a computer programmer, his boss, his girlfriend, an Electric Monk, and Bizarre Omniscient. The characters are amusing on their own but one needs more than good characters to make a good novel. Don't get me wrong: there are some very funny anecdotes and asides, but the main story is so confusing that the humor is nearly overshadowed. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to read the sequel.more
This book is more insane than The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and that's saying something. Most of the time, I couldn't even figure out what was happening. If you value your sanity at all, then AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!!more
This book returned to my library via SantaThing this year. What a delight! Was great fun to revisit a book I read often years ago. Still loved every moment of it and would recommend it to others without reservation. "The couch is stuck" has become a humorous refrain now in my husband's battle with leukemia. We crack up and everyone looks at us as if we were crazy. Perhaps I should start carrying extra copies with me.more
Substance: I didn't see much point to it, although the individual elements were well-plotted. The humor is in the same vein as Terry Pratchett, without the underlying moral sense.Style: Readable without too much back-tracking. Subtle clues well-laid.more
Twisty plot, good fun, but you do have to pay a little bit of attention. It takes quite a while to find out what exactly the problem is going to be, and then you have to deal with the old trope of the innocent person being thought to be the murderer and needing to prove their innocence (which doesn't last too long, thankfully). At the end, it's a bit abrupt and takes a bit of thinking about it (hard to do since it involves some odd logic) but the world ignores any paradoxes and just goes right on existing.more
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