I’d read Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul before, but remembered nothing useful about them. I listened to them as audiobooks read by the author, as with the Hitchhiker’s books, and Adams again did an excellent job (with one small exception).
Dirk Gently’s was a lot better than I’d remembered (the sum total of which was Coleridge and weirdness). The ending requires a fairly unjustified deductive leap, but the characters were much more emotionally engaging—I remember listening to the death and after-death of one of the characters, and thinking that Adams had really surpassed himself with the sequence. Except for that unjustified deductive leap, the book also struck me as a lot more carefully constructed than the Hitchhiker’s Guide books. It does something neat with the worldbuilding, which is carried through well and cleverly even though I was distracted and didn’t notice it at first. I think that as a novel, it’s probably Adams’ best.
Despite the title of Dirk Gently’s, I thought Dirk was a supporting character and was unsure he could carry an entire novel by himself. Fortunately, in Long Dark Teatime, he’s balanced with a sensible co-protagonist, Kate (who doesn’t sound American in the least in Adams’s reading). The characters and book were ultimately less engaging to me, however, because it’s much pettier than the first. This is the point, mind you (consider the title), but it’s still not to my taste. It also struck me as less tightly-constructed, though I’m afraid that with this backlog I can’t recall the specific loose ends.
I certainly recommend reading or listening to Dirk Gently’s, though, and I’m pleased to have rediscovered it.