Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a funny book, both in the ha ha and peculiar sense. It introduces a lot of loosely connected plots about a computer programmer, an Electric Monk (which, for those that don’t know, is a kind of labour saving android that believes things on behalf of its owner), a dotty old Oxford Professor of Chronology, a millionaire philanthropist, his cellist sister, and a spoiled wannabe intellectual with a grudge. The titular character and antagonist doesn’t even enter the story proper until over a hundred pages in.
The first time I read this book about six years ago, I put it down half finished. Each plot seemed to amble along while the characters encountering complications ranging from mild to ridiculous, with only a vague promise that it would all tie together somehow to engage the reader. During my recent reading, I found the same problem with the first half of the book, but I persisted.
I was kept going by the humour and interesting concepts. Each page features at least one good joke. Although they’re often a little over explained, they’re genuinely funny. I don’t LOL during books, but if I did, I probably would have LOLed. There are also a range of fascinating ideas explored in accessible ways, from quantum mechanics to Coleridge to holism.
Thankfully, my persistence was rewarded with an extremely satisfying conclusion. As the title suggests, Dirk Gently, though an inveterate fraudster and arrogant windbag, investigates the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. The plot threads all come together into a climax that is both brilliantly funny and poignant – the punchlines about Bach and Coleridge alone are worth the price of admission. There’s even something strangely satisfying about Dirk, douchebag though he is, being right about everything.
It’s all clearly the work of a brilliant and playful mind, and convinced me that it might finally be time to read that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy that all the kids are talking about.