Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams – Book Review

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My recent watching of the  Dirk Gently  television series  inspired me to re-read the books on which it was based. As you may recall, I was quite concerned that the books wouldn’t live up to my memory of the books. Well, as it happens, I can’t find the second book, which I thought was in my bookcase alongside the first, so that one will have to wait. I flew through the first book, and initially was pretty scared. I wasn’t totally enjoying it. I was expecting to be laughing aloud and recalling it all, but I didn’t. So, I took myself on a walk around the block, did some deep breathing, and threw all of my prior expectations out of the window.

There are many strands to the story – the electric monk (a robot which is programmed to believe for people so they don’t need to) and his horse, the computer magnate and his long answering machine messages, MacDuff and his visit back to Cambridge for the Coleridge Dinner. As I relaxed into the story, I realised that I needn’t be trying to remember what I loved about it – I was reading it again, and therefore I would be coming across it all again. And I did. As the pieces slowly fell into place, I enjoyed my love of Douglas Adam’s magnificent brain and the way it all worked. And it does, marvelously.

Was Dirk Gently as condescending as he came across to me in the show? No. Distracted, perhaps.  Very self-centred, but not as mean. As for the other aspects of the show that I wondered about, well some stuff is taken directly from the book, but had been changed. A lot of the time, the changes were necessary to keep the flow of the plot in the show, but lost some of the charm from the original text. Certainly, I prefer the book to the show, but still enjoyed the show a lot.

Dirk Gently TV Series – TV Review

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Ah, Douglas Adams. Most people remember him fondly for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – indeed, I was obsessed with the original BBC TV adaptation as a child, and loved the books when I was older. Then, along came Dirk Gently – Holistic Detective. Two books – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul. When I heard that these had been adapted into a television series, I was very excited. Then to hear it would feature Stephen Mangan as Dirk Gently, I was even more excited. I thought he was fabulous in Green Wing, a series I really must watch again.

The pilot episode was pretty good. There was all of the insanity I remember from the books somehow wrapping up into a solution. However, the rest of the season didn’t work so well for me. The mysteries were interesting and a bit nuts, but I don’t remember Dirk Gently being as condescending and nasty in the books as he appears in the television show. In addition to this, there is an over-lying story of the character of Richard MacDuff as Gently’s sidekick/partner. In the final episode, MacDuff stands up to Gently, but I felt that there was no real justification to him having stayed with Gently for the previous episodes, or for him to suddenly stand up to him.

It’s a shame. I loved the books and had high hopes for the television show, but was very disappointed. Now, I want to read the books again, but I am concerned that I may have lost the love. Is it worth revisiting a loved book in the fear that it is not all you remember?