Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams

January 4, 2015

Dirk Gently UK front cover.jpg

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

December 22, 2013

The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins

If I have a daughter, I’ll get her to read The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is a great heroine – smart, resourceful, and pretty handy to have around if there’s no meat in the freezer. Sure she’s a little grim, but she provides a nice counterbalance to the passive princesses and attention-seeking twerkers that young girls have to look up to.

She’s also a product of her world. There’s a bit of backstory to The Hunger Games, but it’s all pretty familiar. Dystopian future America. Totalitarian government. Teen death match.  In many ways, it’s like a concentrated, exaggerated version of our world, and I was surprised at how political it is.  It’s savage in its depiction of wealth disparity, the media, and corruption. Although the central conceit of gladiatorial bouts to keep the populace subdued is a bit ridiculous, it did strike me as echoing our individualistic, cruelly competitive culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut

August 19, 2011

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

There are a hell of alot of interesting things going on in Breakfast of Champions: a distinctive authorial style that challenges fictional conventions, insightful social commentary, and an exploration of the relationship between fiction and determinism.  But because all these ideas are held together by a weak plot, the whole ends up being less than the parts.

The plot revolves around a science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout, who has “doodley-squat”, and a Pontiac dealer, Dwayne Hoover, who is “fabulously well-to-do”.  We are told that, in the future, the American Academy of Arts and Science will recognise Kilgore Trout as a great man for both his writing and his often hilarious insights, such as this:

“…we can build an unselfish society by devoting to unselfishness the frenzy we once devoted to gold and underpants.”

In the time period covered by the book, however, no one has heard of Kilgore trout, and his stories have only been published in porno magazines.  He’s surprised, then, when he is invited to speak at the Midlands Arts festival by someone who thinks that he’s written the greatest novel in the English language.

Meanwhile, bad chemicals in Dwayne Hoover’s head are sending him insane.   When he hears Kilgore Trout read one of his stories at the Arts Festival, it gives shape to his madness and he goes on a homicidal rampage. Read the rest of this entry »