Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul - Douglas Adams

   1989; 250 pages.  Book Two (out of three) of the “Dirk Gently” series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : British Humor; Fantasy; Quasi-Mystery.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    Dirk Gently, proprietor and sole employee of the Holistic Detective Agency, has a job!  It’s even a paying one, and he sure can use the money.

    Mr. Geoff Anstey is convinced that a 7-foot-tall, shaggy-haired, green-eyed monster is trying to kill him.  With a scythe, no less.  And he’s willing to pay Dirk a tidy sum to be his bodyguard.

    Dirk’s on his way to collect his first payment.  But the police cars parked all around the Anstey residence are not a good sign.  Neither is the crime scene tape roping off the area.  Dirk has a bad feeling as he ducks under the tape and enters the home.

    Things get even worse when he finds Geoff Anstey’s head.  On a record, on the turntable.  Without the rest of his body.  It appears Mr. Anstey will not be making his initial payment.

What’s To Like...
    The main theme of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, “when gods are past their prime”, has been done before.  It’s one of my favorite niche genres, and books dealing with it are reviewed here, here, and here.  AFAIK, it was first examined in an old (black and white) Star Trek TV episode, although I wouldn't be surprised to find out there are earlier sci-fi or fantasy examples.

    The first half of the book is pretty disjointed, but I get the feeling this was intentional.  Douglas Adams throws all sorts of threads and tangents at the reader, among them: Dirk’s refrigerator; an eagle with an attitude; a song about a hot potato; a coca cola vending machine; a table that turns into a kitten, mayhem at the airport (including a clueless would-be boarder, a missing check-in girl, and an explosion); and a boy hooked on video games in the same house as the decapitated client.  But the second half of the book is devoted to bringing all these things together and tying them up, which Adams succeeds in doing deftly, with the exception (unless I missed it) of the gamer kid.

    If you’re a Norse mythology buff, you’re in for a treat.  I also liked the electronic I Ching apparatus, the “non-fridge opening contest” between Dirk and his cleaning lady, and the tip of the hat to “The Ride of The Valkyries”, which always induces visions of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in my head.

     The book is written in “English”, as opposed to “American”, which means you occasionally have to decipher things like “hoovering” the carpet.  This is a standalone novel, as well as a part of a series, cut short by Douglas Adams’ all-too-soon passing away.

Kewlest New Word ...
Loured (v.) : frowned in a threatening way (often referring to clouds or the sky)
Others : Adumbrations (n., plural); Dordogne (n., proper, an area in France)

Kindle Details...
    Amazon offers the e-book version of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul for $6.99.  But right now, you can get it and Book One of this series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency as a boxed set for only $4.99, thus saving a sizable chunk of cash.  The third and final book in the series, The Salmon of Doubt, sells for $7.99.  There also appear to be a number of fan-books available, starting at $1.99.

    “You don’t look like a private detective.”
    “No private detective looks like a private detective.  That’s one of the first rules of private detection.”
    “But if no private detective looks like a private detective, how does a private detective know what he’s supposed not to look like?  Seems to me there’s a problem there.”
    “Yes, but it’s not one that keeps me awake at nights,” said Dirk in exasperation.  (loc. 1221)

    The Aries Rising Record Group, which had been founded on Sixties ideals, or at least on what passed for ideals in the Sixties, grown in the Seventies and then embraced the materialism of the Eighties without missing a beat, was now a massive entertainment conglomerate on both sides of the Atlantic.  Dennis Hutch had stepped up into the top seat when its founder had died of a lethal overdose of brick wall, taken while under the influence of a Ferrari and a bottle of tequila.  (loc. 2479)

 What god would be hanging around Terminal Two of Heathrow Airport trying to catch the 15:37 flight to Oslo?  (loc. 798)
    The ending of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul felt a bit forced and anti-climactic to me.  I almost got the impression Adams was so happy about successfully tying all the subplot threads together that he forgot to do the same with the main plotlines – why Geoff Anstey lost his head, and why the gods were so weak.

    The baddies were lethal but not particularly scary.  And reading the book did require patience and trusting that things would eventually come together.  They do, but our two protagonists (Dirk and Kate) don’t meet until 50%, and Kate and Thor don’t cross paths until 58%.

    But if you can hang in there with the story until then, the rest of the book is an utter delight.  And of course, you’re treated to the trademark Douglas Adams wit throughout the book.

    7½ Stars.  Not quite as good as Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (reviewed here), but still a worthwhile read. 

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