Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency/The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul Analysis
by Douglas Adams

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Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency/The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Adams has established a reputation as a teller of tall tales, an insightful writer about the human condition, and a purveyor of deadpan slapstick science fiction. Reflecting the high-tech obsession of the 1980’s, Adams incorporates computers, cellular phones, telephone answering machines, and videocassette recorders into his narrative. He pokes fun not only at the dehumanizing effect of technology on society but also at the technology itself.

MacDuff’s conversation with a police officer in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, concerning his company’s product, is a case in point. He asks the police officer which model of computer the police station has. Upon receiving the answer, he tells the officer that the computer does not work and never has, then suggests that the station “use it as a big paperweight.”

Later, Reg admits to using his time machine to watch television programs that he missed because he cannot figure out how to program his videocassette recorder. Throughout, Adams displays an uncanny knack for pointing out modern society’s frustrations and foibles, with lighthearted, humorous style.

Adams also depicts the high-tech junkies who become addicted to their toys. In The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Adams presents the ultimate teenage couch potato. The boy slouches in an armchair all day, watching television and surviving on a diet of Pot Noodles, Mars bars, and soft drinks. After several unsuccessful attempts to wrest the boy’s attention from the television, Gently decides to pull the plug, with instantaneous and comically painful results.

Gordon Way, MacDuff’s boss in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, is also a high-tech junkie, addicted to his cellular telephone. Way calls everyone he knows and brainstorms at length onto their telephone answering machines. Way’s secretary then periodically collects the tapes and transcribes them. When Way is murdered while talking to his sister Susan’s answering machine, his ghost is burdened with unfinished business: It must complete its call to Susan before it can go to its eternal resting place.

The two novels are connected in that they both...

(The entire section is 526 words.)