Douglas Adams

 

Dirk Gentlyís Holistic Detective Agency

If you got P.G. Wodehouse to write a Dr. Who script you might come up with something like this. Why not? Apparently as well as script editing for series 17 (featuring, for example, 'City of Death' where John Cleese is an art dealer), Adams wrote a couple of episodes ('The Pirate Planet', and the unfinished 'Shada' which featured none other than Prof. 'Reg' Chronitis and his TARDIS style study). Sorry, enough train-spotting (thanks G & J).

 

The Dr. Who thing only hit me late in the book, but that's partly because 'Dirk Gently' only pops up about half way through, and he's most enjoyably reminiscent of Tom Baker in his distracted purposefulness. I suppose there's something of Ford Prefect there too, and other elements of Hitch Hikers - yet another confused alien species looking to earth as an Eden and changing the deep past and whole evolution of humanity. And I suppose Richard could be played by whoever was DentArthurDent in the TV show.

 

But, hey, this isn't having a go at the book, which is sheer pleasure to read. It's not at all a cheap carbon of earlier Adams, there's just some lovely echoes. The guy just writes so wonderfully - like Wodehouse - and the dialogue is full of good (frightfully British) humour and character. Moreover the comic observations on the everyday are clever and flawlessly executed. The setting is surprisingly coherent when you get down to it (I love the way he casually resolves the sofa paradox that's been running through the whole book) - there's really nothing I can think of to complain about with it. I'm used to books lifting me up and then disappointing, but this manages to ebulliently float you along from start to finish.

 

Iím so glad I decided to start rereading books. It must be over a decade since Iíd read this and I only had the vaguest recollection of some of the key images. But the chief pleasure of Adams canít be reduced to, say, the plot line, which, while fine, is in one way incidental. I get the impression he was in a fairly positive state of mind when he wrote this (as opposed to Mostly Harmless), and in excellent form, so these characters are simply pleasant to be with Ė as well as being hilarious and Ė as with those of Pratchett on a good day - charming.

 

July 2004

(2nd Reading)