Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

  • Title – Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency
  • Author – Douglas Adams
  • # of Pages – 306

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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.

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Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency is the seventh Douglas Adams novel I’ve read (if you count Starship Titanic, which was his idea and highly resembles his writing style, depsite being written by his friend Terry Jones). I’ve mentioned countless times how much I love this man. I usually do so not by using the word love exactly, but by mentioning future plans to pickle his brain in a jar on my shelf or plan a pilgrimmage up to his grave. I think Adams is a brilliant writer – witty, funny, and a master of satire and sarcasm.

It took me nearly two weeks to finish this book – a major break from my previous five-completed-books week. The last Adams book I’d read before this was Starship Titanic and even though I haven’t, were I to review that book it would be very similar to the points I shall make in this one.

I guess I should start with the good points. Adams never fails as a writer. This book, just like the other six, is a masterpiece of words. The book has the Adams style I love so much – those random paragraphs that are completely unrelated, hilarious and unusual descriptions, offbeat characters, mentions of inatimate objects that are somehow completely irrelevant and yet become a vital part of the plot about two hundred pages later. Just like in Hitchicker’s Guide, Adams has us following every word, making sure not to skip any detail because who knows how important this sofa will end up being or how this horse in a bathroom is actually a hint at the wonderful solution we’ll discover at the end of the story for the crazy, twisted, problem-filled plot. Adams never just mentions the feelings of the horse-rider – he dedicates lengthy paragraphs to the goals and opinios of the horse too. He never just kills off characters – he makes sure that these characters are very surprised to find themselves dead. The weird thing here relates to that perfectly  normal thing over there, and so on and so on – all written in the most charming, funny, and absolutely outstanding way. Really, I’m sort of running out of adjectives here. Go look at the Highlights and Quotes at the bottom – they should give a good example of what I’m talking about.

Now on to the… less wonderful aspects. The plot. Yes, I know that’s quite a major aspect, but the writing really does save the book. I never exactly got sucked in to the book. I think this is because it starts off really slowly, with too many uninteresting scenes and that makes it very hard to push through to the interesting parts. Just like in Starship Titanic, I found myself struggling through the chapters, grasping onto every “Adams humor” I could find wedged in between the more dull parts of the book. The the story was a bit mess and the point was, well, there wasn’t really ever a point. In all honesty, I actually have no idea what was going on. The star of the book is a detective and he really does solve quite a few mysteries but I have no idea when these myseries were detected and why, or how we even got to wondering about their answers in the first place. It’s basically a mystery novel with no real mystery, and instead a bunch of confusing questions you never even wondered about till Gentley pointed out that something was off about them. This is also the reason for why it’s very hard to describe the plot in this review, because it’s very unclear even after you read it. Gentley keeps talking about the “interconnectedness” of things and the story really does reflect that, but it also makes writing any blurb-like paragraph nearly impossible. In fact, even Adams described the book as a “thumping good detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic.” I guess this is also a part of the Adams style – the very sensible nonsense – but it doesn’t always work. Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency is a pointless book with a point. Or many points. Does that even make any sense? I think only Adams readers will understand what I just said – it sort of takes an Adams novel to understand what MY point is.

The reason I have a hard time reviewing Adams books is because I feel like I do them no justice with my words, and also because to understand anything Adams related you have to read one of his books first. It’s impossible to describe his style without experiencing it, it’s impossible to describe the satire and the greatness, and even the flaws without reading at least one of his creations and seeing for yourself how he writes.

I cannot say I did not enjoy this book because it is after all written by this genius man, and because I did very much enjoy the writing. I do admit that the plot was not of much interest to me, and that although I do plan on reading the sequel The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul, I am in no rush to do so currently. I think Douglas Adams is one of the very few – if only – writers whose books I can read purely because of the writing, even when the story itself does not attract me at all.

In short, since this review is getting long and I have no idea if it even makes sense to anyone other than myself, I recommend this book for all Adams fans because it’s still the typical Adams we love, but if you’re looking to get into Douglas Adams books you shouldn’t choose this novel as a first because it’s not the best first impression. I still think Hitchiker’s Guide is his best work, and that this book – Starship Titanic alike – should be reserved for those Adams fans who finished the Hitchiker’s Guide series craving for more.

Highlights and Quotes

  1. “That was it. That was really it. She knew she had told herself that that was it only seconds earlier, but this was now the final real ultimate it.”
  2. “There had been a nasty moment when his life had flashed before his eyes but he had been to preoccupied with falling and had missed all the good bits.”
  3. “If you’ll excuse me I’d like to stomr out, please.” Richard stood aside, and out she stormed.
  4. “Yes, expenses were, well, expensive in the Bahamas, Mrs Suaskind, it is in the nature of expenses to be so. Hence the name.”
  5. “You see what I have done?” he asked the ceiling, which seemed to flinch slightly at being yanked so suddenly into the conversation.”
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