Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
SPOLIER WARNINGS - THIS WHOLE ARTICLE DISCUSSES THE MAIN PLOT OF THIS BOOK!!
an Invalid Ending
I love Douglas Adams and I'm a HUGE fan of this book. I think it is brilliant in many, many ways. For example, the initial timestream that Dirk and friends is in does not have Bach as a famous composer. Bach is only introduced to the "music of the spheres" at the end of the book, and then suddenly he is very famous. If you listen to the scene where they are having dinner at the college, you'll hear some of the musical types discussing one of Bach's contemporaries, Buxtehude, who is at that point the "famous one". He's only famous because Bach wasn't around to outshine him :)
At the end of the book, the "lost cat" that Dirk had been hunting for for Mrs. Sauskind originally is actually NOT lost, he's always been home safe, because of the cosmic shift in the time stream they caused.
You really should read both Rime and Kahn to understand some of the cool in jokes. In Rime, a shipwreck victim finds 3 guys going to a wedding and grabs one of them to tell his tale to. Sure enough, in the story, the ghost (a shipwreck victim) finds 3 guys in a train going to a wedding, and grabs one of them to tell his tale to. The references to Slimy Things are in there too :)
But anyway, back to the ending. Let's first go through what was going on in the book.
* An alien race lands on Earth to get minerals
* The engineer asks an electric monk if it's safe to take off
* The electric monk says (erroneously) that Sure It's Safe
* The rocket ship explodes, killing all aliens
* The ghost of the engineer wanders the Earth for time eternal, very upset about this
* He affects people along the way. One person he hits is Coleridge, and affects his poem writing
* Coleridge doesn't write about an albatross in Rime, and has 2 parts of Kahn, the second which describes this shipwreck
* The ghost then tries Reg and finds out about the time machine but can't influence him
* The ghost gets into Richard but Richard also refuses to grab the tape
* The ghost gets into Wenton and finds a willing victim.
* Wenton reads the Rime and Kahn stories and understands about the shipwreck
* The ghost makes Wenton go back into time to fix the spaceship so it can take off properly
* Life on earth wouldn't have started if the spaceship did not explode
OK, so what Richard etc. do is go back to Coleridge and make him not write that second part of Kahn, so that there's no description of the shipwreck and so on. And accidentially they introduce the albatross into Rime :) They distract him while he was writing Kahn.
But so what?? It's not like WENTON is the one that has to understand what is going on. He's already a willing victim of the ghost. The ghost obviously knows what was going on and is fully controlling Wenton. Whether or not Wenton was able to read that particular part of the story, the ghost had him. The ghost was going to ask him to kill his arch rival. Sure, Wenton would do that! He didn't need a poem-piece to encourage him in that direction. So then the ghost goes back in time, and he knows not to believe the electric monk any more. So Wenton's knowledge or lack of knowledge has nothing to do with it.
Someone else said, well maybe the ghost got bored during that hour that Dirk was harassing Coleridge, left Coleridge and therefore wasn't in Coleridge when Coleridge learned about the time machine. So he never realized there was a time machine and never tried to use it therefore. And since the time machine is neutralized at the end of the story, if he doesn't realize about it by that point it's too late.
However, this ghost has OODLES of time. If there's anything he doesn't do, it's rush off. And in all history that we know of the ghost, he goes from person to person once people arrive on the scene. He doesn't just jump out of Richard and meander across the dunes. He goes into Wenton. He's looking for a carrier. So even if he did get bored during that one hour of Dirk talking, he would have gone into Dirk. He wouldn't have just left Coleridge and trudged across the moors. Plus, if he is able to stay with Coleridge while he eats, sleeps, wanders around and so on because he thinks he's of value, I doubt he'd run off during an evening conversation.
In any case, I love the book and think the tie-ins are brilliant. I just think there's a bit of a loose end with why simply talking to Coleridge in an hour would manage to take care of a very determined ghost.
Lisa Shea Homepage