Tag Archives: Douglas Adams

The Dirk Gently Omnibus

By Douglas Adams

Dirk Gently, private detective, offers unique investigational services. When probing unexplained circumstances, Gently finds answers in not only the highly unlikely but also the downright impossible, for whatever cannot possibly be done must therefore be impossibly done. His bills are equally holistic, including anything and everything remotely connected to his methods of detection because at the root of it all, everything is fundamentally interconnected. Though unusual in the extreme, his antics are also extraordinarily effective. When first introduced to Gently, he picks up a case concerning a salt cellar in a Grecian pot, human suggestibility to do things one is not typically wont to do, and the unexpected death of a leading tech entrepreneur. In the second installment, Gently finds himself questioning an act of God (but which god, and why), tormented by a particularly persistent eagle, tracking down potatoes, and evading his egregiously disgusting fridge. His apparent bumbling and missteps, all of which can retroactively be deemed intentional whether they were intentional in the first place or not, lead to unbelievable conclusions that neatly explain everything and justify (almost) every charge on his bills.

The Dirk Gently Omnibus contains the first two Dirk Gently stories: “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul,” both by the unparalleled Douglas Adams (the third book in the series was unfinished at the time of Adams’ death, portions of which are published in the posthumous “Salmon of Doubt”). As with all other writings from Adams, the Dirk Gently novels are rambunctious, unpredictable, and laugh-out-loud funny. I would even go so far as to say they cause ROFL. Gently approaches his cases with such an open-minded perspective that his decisions and actions seem entirely absurd, yet also completely rational. He blatantly and directly questions behaviors that go unquestioned (and therefore unexplained), which makes his statements both unusual and completely obvious. It also forces characters (and readers) to examine their reasoning and explain unquestioned behaviors. Throughout it all is a supremely healthy sense of fun. The whims and instincts that guide Gently’s investigations are narrated by light-hearted satire that pokes fun at British (and U.S.) institutions, cultural quirks, and bureaucratic nightmares without edging into a mean or cynical tone. Gently’s internal monologue, and sometimes his conversation with others, reflect this by stating those thoughts we all have that just might be better left unsaid. Except when provoked.

The Dirk Gently novels are, in my humble opinion, highly underestimated and unfortunately sidelined by the greater prominence of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” despite being more entertaining (in my humble opinion). I have read both books multiple times, and I actually recommend starting with “The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul” because “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” goes through a lot of backstory and exposition that tend to cause some drag in the early parts of the story. I cannot recommend enough reading both of these books, and then doing it again. And again!

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The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

By Douglas Adams

Dirk Gently is a holistic private detective that solves mysteries by looking for the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, including his moldy refrigerator. Having been hired to help with a contract related to a potato of some sort, Gently first shows up to work more than 5 hours late to find his client recently decapitated. From there, he heads to a café where he steals both the cup of coffee and the book belonging to the woman sitting at the table next to him. Meanwhile, Kate Schehter, who had been involved in “an act of God” the week before (but which god, and why), does her own investigatory work to find answers for questions she doesn’t yet fully understand. Kate and Gently unexpectedly crash into each other (well, it was really just a fender-bender) down the street from a notorious hospital that seems to be covering up some information. After swapping stories, Kate and Gently part ways with the agreement to share any other information, however improbable, they find. As Gently continues on his unexpected day, he finds himself in a most unlikely situation. In fact, it is a quite impossible situation. But what cannot possibly be done must therefore be done impossibly, and Gently will do whatever it takes to solve the case.

“The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul” by Douglas Adams is the second of two novels in the Dirk Gently series, though the series does not necessarily need to be read sequentially. Adams introduces characters, storylines, plot twists, and non-sequitur explanations enough for the reader to just barely keep up with the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. As with all his other material, Adams describes Gently’s improbable world with wit and humor that is delightfully snarky without crossing into the realm of blatantly cynical. The storyline progresses with this tone in the familiarly unpredictable “one step forward, two steps to the side” that typifies Adams’ other writings. Upon first glance it seems impossible that all these tangential storylines and irrelevant details could possibly be related, but have patience. Adams, of course, finds a way to bring all pieces of the story together, emphasizing not only the fundamental interconnectedness of all things but also his ability to follow a story through every dimension of the universe and bring it all back to the task at hand. Raucous, wild, and unbelievably enthralling, Adams delivers yet another stunning science fiction gem.

This book had me rolling with laughter, almost to an inappropriate degree, when I read it in public. It was even more hilarious when reading in the privacy of my own home. Dare I say it, I love this book even more than “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series (blasphemy, I know). Astoundingly original, unbelievably far-fetched, and entirely satisfying, I can’t think of anything else to ask for in a novel. If you haven’t read it yet, put it at the top of your reading list. Now. You won’t regret it!

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