Book Review – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
The cast of delightful characters in this book includes a software developer, a forgetful time traveler, an electric monk, a couple of ghosts (one used to be human), and a ‘holistic detective’ who claims he isn’t psychic. It also includes several smiles and a place or two where laughing out loud is required.
I pulled my old first paperback edition off my shelves a couple days ago (noting the whopping $4.50 cover price) because I just finished reading Shada by Gareth Roberts, which was a novelization for an unaired script written by Douglas Adams for the Doctor Who TV series. Something about Shada reminded me of this book. And it should have. Professor Chronotis, appears in both. In Shada, he is clearly an absentminded Time Lord. In Dirk Gently’s Holistics Detective Agency, he still is — except the term ‘Time Lord’ isn’t used because this is not a Doctor Who story. Although it is, except it does not include the Doctor, so it really isn’t. In a way, it could be seen as a sequel to Shada with Professor Chronotis as the common character between them. Rereading this novel after Shada, provided answers to questions I had before, like who Chronotis is, where he got his time machine (now obviously a TARDIS), why he has lived so long, and what it was he enigmatically retired from before taking his post at Cambridge.
There are still a couple of things that leave me scratching my head — like what exactly did they do to stop the alien ghost from altering the course of Earth history? My only complaint about the novel is that there isn’t more of it. I would have loved to see some of the scenes expanded, especially a bit more on the ‘electric monk’ and the scenes where Chronotis, Richard, and Dirk are travelling in the time machine not called a TARDIS, exploring the alien ghost’s ancient spaceship, and bringing him back in time to ‘correct’ his mistake. (I know that all may seem confusing, but I try not to put plot spoilers in these pseudo reviews.)
So, my recommendation for people who have previously read this book is to reread it after reading Shada. If you haven’t read this book, read Shada first, then this one, and then read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. That’s what I plan to do tonight.
(My recommendations presume some familiarity with Doctor Who. If you are not familiar with Doctor Who, you have much catching up to do.)