Man vs Bookshelf: Dirk Gently (1 & 2)

This entry is part 25 of 45 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I know, I know, I said after last weeks EXTRA SPECIAL review it would be back to normal this week.

I said it, then promised you my next review would be of my next two books – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.

And yet what you may have noticed in the banner above is that these two books were not read consecutively.

Oh, don’t give me that look.

I’m writing a novel at the moment and I was floundering. I needed a little guidance and, much as I enjoyed Dirk Gently, it wasn’t going to help me write my book on account of it not having a plot.

So, I picked up a Myron Bolitar book – the Final Detail – this series being my novel’s inspiration.

I read it, hoping it would help me, even knowing I was letting my legions of fans down as I broke from the order I had promised them.

I’ve come to terms with that and you’ll do the same.

The final detail read I considered what I should do, re. a review, and decided not to disrupt the rhythm I had established.

I went on to read Dirk Gently 2, the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and now I bring you this review of books one and two, as promised.

As for the Final Detail, you’ll have to wait for that review, I’m afraid. I’ll be grouping it together with the rest of the Myron Bolitar books…

Whenever that might be.

In the meantime:

The Author Bit?

It has been less than a month since I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and, as such, it seems silly to rewrite a Douglas Adams and Me section here.

If you would like to read my previous thoughts on the matter (and you should, they’re probably very good) then you can find them here.

Once you’ve done that, come on back over, and we’ll get into the review proper.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency & The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

As I directed you to my Hitchiker’s blog above for my thoughts on the author, I could probably get away with doing the same here.

Yes the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a series predominantly set away from Earth and the cast of characters are entirely different, but, there still appear to be more similarities than there are differences, such as:

It’s all about the humour

All of Adam’s books are vehicles for his irreverent and wonderful sense of humour.

In so much as there is a plot (see below) it is only followed so long as Douglas Adams can be bothered with it.

He writes almost at random. Following the plot only until a joke pops into his head.

At this point, we grab hold of our seats and pray the airbags are working because Adams is likely to swerve violently away from any story that was developing to reach a place he can make his joke.

This done, Adams will usually return to the story in some way, although he generally takes the scenic route to get back.

This sort of wild storytelling would not work outside of a comedy, I don’t think.

We allow it – or at least tolerate it – because the jokes are so funny. Laughing makes us forget we’re being cheated out of something more substantial, and by this I mean:

The Plot, where is the plot?

These books are best sellers so I suppose it would be unfair to say having no plot puts people off.

But, with Dirk Gently, as with Hitchhiker’s, it regularly seems like Adams has not bothered to put any thought into what actually is happening, other than that it be very funny and preferably weird enough to defy understanding.

The books move at good pace and remain engaging, but they never seem to wrap up.

People will tell me both Dirk Gently books have an ending, but to me, they felt rushed, and underdeveloped. The climax would begin four pages from the end and be wrapped up so fast you had to go back and read it again to make sure something had actually happened.

Even worse than the reader not knowing what happened, in the second book, Dirk Gently doesn’t even know what happened. He gets knocked out a couple of chapters from the end and doesn’t wake up until the story has been ‘wrapped up’ by someone else in the most confusing and unsatisfactory way possible.

This is not right because, as we all know:

Main characters are supposed to appear rather frequently in their own books

You’ve read the Harry Potter books right?

Well, then you’ll know, Harry has a tendency to be the worst (just look at that smug mug). An annoying, whiny brat who rarely understand what’s going on around him until it’s been explained at least three times.

And yet, he is the focal point of every book, appearing in 99.99% of the chapters.

Why?

Because J.K. Rowling loved him?

No.

It’s because his name was in the book title.

Rowling couldn’t leave Harry Potter out of a book called Harry Potter and the whatever.

She would have looked quite the fool.

And who wants to be a foolish billionaire?

Well, while this requirement to feature main characters predominantly in books on which their name appears on the cover, regardless of how annoying they are, applies to the majority of writers, even the great J. K. Rowling, it does not seem to apply to Douglas Adams.

I am, of course, referring to the fact that Dirk Gently does not even appear in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency until the midway point, and is not featured in every chapter after that.

I’m not saying this made a worse book.

Just that there should be laws against this kind of happenings.

Imagine if the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy hadn’t featured the Galaxy?

Madness.

Book two actually does feature more Dirk Gently, which is presumably why Douglas Adams decided not to put his (Dirk’s) name in the title.

The bastard.

Thoughts, though?

Okay, if we’re being serious, these books are funny.

Really funny.

Funny enough to be worth reading almost on that strength alone.

However, I found myself skimming pages at points looking for the next joke because the plot was not all that compelling and was very confusing.

It’s a 3/5 on the Goodreads scale and makes you wonder how good these books would have been if Adams could have maintained the humour while holding up a good story.

Well, I suppose if that had happened he’d just be Terry Pratchett, wouldn’t he?

Next Time

The final of our three double bills on the bounce comes next.

And this one was written by those most terrifying of creatures.

An ex-convict.

That’s right, we’re picking up a couple of Jeffery Archer books.

It’s Only Time Will Tell and The Sins of the Father, books one and two of the Cliffton Chronicles.

See you then.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: 102 days down (+ Freakonomics)Man vs Bookshelf: The Clifton Chronicles (1 & 2) >>
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International worst selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). Recently he is taking the internet by storm with his Man vs Bookshelf Challenge where he aims to read the 210 books on his bookshelf in 210 weeks, reviewing them on his blog and Goodreads along the way. He is also publishing books on Amazon, his most recent being the family suspense novel, Poor Choices, which you can find here.

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