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on July 15, 2004
First of all I would like to say that I'm not the sort of person who needs everything to make sense to enjoy something (I'm a Doctor Who fan for Christs sake!) so that is something that helps me love this book.
Mr Adams was (and boy do I hate saying was) a master craftsman. He could be intelligent, witty and plain wierd at the same time and still have room for a bit of sentimentality.
I'm pretty confident that if you're reading this then you have enjoyed another of Mr Adams works. In which case I'm sure that you will delight in reading this as it is in the same style as many of his other books. It is fair to compare it to the Hitchhiker series as it is done in much the same vain. In my opinion it is as good as the aforementioned. Yes so the ending doesn't totally fit everyones perspective of great, but it suits me. It's full of lots of ideas that didn't neccessarily works out, but for me that is just as great; trying to work out what Mr Adams had as alternate plots. Even though the title charactor doesn't turn up till a good half way in, his soon to be friend, Richard Macduff does a good enough job of entertaining us. One to one, I strongly reccomend this to any other Adams fan, and for that matter any other fan of literature. It is truely great, as is its sequal.
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on July 7, 2004
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 trainspotting (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.
I'm so glad I decided to start rereading books. It must be over a decade since I'd read this and I only had the vaguest recollection of some of the key images. But the chief pleasure of Adams can't be reduced to, say, the plot line, which, while fine, is in one way incidental (i.e. the characters and dialogue are good enough to stand alone). 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 character's are simply pleasant to be with - as well as being hilarious and - as with those of Pratchett on a good day - charming.
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on March 28, 2004
Having finished with the Hitchhiker's series with So Long And Thanks For The Fish, Douglas Adams created a diptych utilizing the character of Dirk Gently, an eccentric character who in this first novel creates the self-titled Holistic Detective Agency. His method does not involve using fingerprint powder, but rather seeing the fundamental interconnectedness of things. As he elaborates to a client, "I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole. The connections between causes and effects are often much more subtle and complex than we with our rough and ready understanding of the physical world might naturally suppose." Missing cats is a specialty, using Schrodinger's quantum mechanics equation. It also serves to exploit old woman seeking their missing cats of their money, that is if he ever gets paid.
Gently cross paths with his old classmate from St. Cedd's College, Cambridge, Richard MacDuff, who is having a trying and interesting time. MacDuff, a computer programmer working for Way Forward Technologies, becomes involved with his old college tutor, Professor Urban Chronotis, the aged Regius Professor of Chronology, and hence bearing the nickname "Reg" whose vice is conjuring tricks, and in the middle of a dinner honouring Samuel Taylor Coleridge, performs a totally inexplicable one involving a salt shaker and a Grecian pot that perplexes MacDuff. Equally perplexing is how a horse entered the bathroom of his professor.
MacDuff has many other things to worry about. He's overdue on a software programme for his boss Gordon Way, he isn't spending enough time with his girlfriend Susan, who's his boss's sister, and he's got a sofa lodged halfway up the stairs to his flat. To make matters worse, he then sees the ghost of his boss, who was mysteriously killed at the same time he was at the Coleridge dinner, and is wanted by the police for questioning.
Adams' usual humorous observations on human foibles are at play here. He describes Reg's memory as being comparable to a Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly, "in that it was colorful, flitted prettily hither and thither, and was now, alas, almost completely extinct." Reg and the eccentric Dirk, who seems able to explain things MacDuff can't, are the best characters here.
As for MacDuff, there is some of Adams in this character. Like MacDuff, Adams attended Cambridge and went for an English Literature degree, only it was at St. John's College and not St. Cedd's per the novel. Adams also managed to turn in only three essays (!!), which was three more than MacDuff completed.
Some may know that Adams was the script-editor for Dr. Who from 1978-1979. Elements from two stories he personally wrote, City Of Death and Shada pop up here. In the latter story, there is a character called Professor Chronotis as there is here.
The humour is more tempered than in Hitchhiker, and relies more on wit and funny situations rather than the laugh-out-loud comedy of the HH series. And this is more a sci-fi/mystery rather than a meta-scifi comedy in space. Adams never loses his imaginative streak, in terms of story and writing style. I read this immediately after the last HH book and found it an amusing and entertaining read.
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on September 23, 2002
... unless, of course, you're the kind of person who does precisely the opposite of whatever they are told to... oh! Hang on... that's all of us! Folks, not only is this book brimfull of the usual brilliantly quirky insights and satires of the inimitable mr Adams, but it is also an extremely well thought out, self-consistent detective story, with only a few completely fantastic creatures. (Don't be scared now!) And perhaps the odd (almost) impossible occurence. (Surprised?) The characters are an utter delight, and arguably more sympathetic than the cartoon figures from the hitchikers series. Guaranteed: you'll laugh out loud in places, and at least spend a good deal of the rest of the time with a most idiotically pleasant smile on your face. (Try not to drool in public.) Upon finishing, you will find yourself obsessively compelled to schedule an immediate re-reading, seeing as you will most certainly have missed a number of small delights and teasingly hidden clues. This story Rocks! And Haunts! Unmissable!
I also FORBID you to read Dirk Gently's further adventures in "The long dark teatime of the soul"!
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on October 26, 2003
The people who say this is boring or difficult to understand are reviewing themselves, not this book.
I've read this six times and loved it each time. It's intended as pure entertainment (and I can't think of a more entertaining novel), but it just so happens it is better plotted than even Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones" and Milan Kundera's "Immortality", which is saying quite a lot. I'm not one of those lowbrows who go around calling pieces of genre fiction "classic", but this is close. Seven stars.
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on October 12, 2002
Douglas Adams has left us some rare gems, and one of these is this novel. Connect Coleridge's Kubla Khan whit fractal theory, software industry, Schrodinger cats and escatology...add a very unusual detective,and you have one of the weirdest mysteries ever written.You'll feel intrigued,haunted and bewitched... and the end will be worthy of your patience, provided you're not too fastidious whit scientific plausibility.
You'll love the uncanny athmosphere!
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on October 4, 2009
Terrific writing, as only Douglas Adams can produce. This book seems to make quite a bit more sense than its sequel (The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul) at first reading, and I would consider it to be slightly more "polished" in style. A fairly quick read, but also enriched with trademark DA wit, and social/theological commentary.

Well worth reading, if only for the bit about the horse.
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on October 25, 2013
From the same producers as the final 3 Hitchhiker's audio adaptations, this is a full spectrum audio production. Close your eyes and you are there. I've listened to this a few times. I like to take it camping and listen on earphones as I wind down in the evening. It's TV without the bright lights - it's a movie in your head where the FX's will always be better.
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on July 1, 2003
this one is just wonderful- I reread it every once in a while because it makes the world better. The first time I read it, I got to the end and immediately started reading it again. I've loved all of his books (how can he be dead?) but this one's still my favorite- yes, even above the hitchhiker books.
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on June 25, 2000
This book is extremely funny. Simple. It is also extremely unusual. No surprise there, this is an Adams book. It is also one of the best books i've read.. ever. I personally think it is better than the Hitch-Hiker books because we can all relate to the environment. Read it.... now.
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