Explain the ending of D. Gently's Holostic Detective Agency to me

(Spoilers, naturally)

I’ve read this book a couple times now and I still feel like I’m missing something at the end. The scene is that Richard, Reg and Dirk have helped Michael (possessed by the alien spirit) into his SCUBA gear and Michael is going to repair the alien spacecraft way back at the beginning of Earth’s history so (supposively) he can save the alien crew. Richard discovers that Michael’s goal isn’t to repair the craft so it can leave, but rather repair it so it can terraform Earth and, in the process, stop mankind from ever coming about. Richard, Reg and Dirk go back in time to when Coleridge is writing the Rime which is the alien spirit’s tale, told to Coleridge while he was possessed himself. Dirk makes his way into Coleridge’s home and comes out later (well, is thrown out) and says that the problem is fixed.

Fixed how?

Again, I understand that the spirit used Coleridge to get his story out, so to speak. And, from the conversation Michael has with the young guy on the train, I know that the albatross was “added” by Coleridge, much to the spirit’s annoyance. And when Dirk enters enter’s Coleridge’s home, he’s asking about an albatross. But, still, from this I get two possibilities:

(a) Coleridge wrote the Rime but included the albatross due to Dirk’s interference. Seems unlikely since Michael/Spirit was complaining about it prior to Dirk going back in time and Michael, having read the albatross version, was still willing to help the spirit.

(b) Dirk prevents the Rime from being written at all. I’m still not convinced that would make any difference. The only person who truely mattered was Michael and I don’t think it was the Rime that convinced him, but rather his own spirit being at ebb and his not caring much about the world now that his magazine was taken away.

I guess I should add © I totally missed the point of something and am clueless. I’m good with that :wink:

So explain it to me.

Oh, and I kind of assumed the effect Dirk had by talking to Coleridge was direct and not a sublt Sound of Thunder thing where it set some long elaborate chain of events into motion. If for no other reason than because they wouldn’t really be able to plan a chain of events spanning hundreds of years and Dirk is certain, upon leaving the house, that what they did worked. Feel free to argue any side you want, I just figured it was a “If we do A, B is going to happen” scenario.

It wasn’t Rime that Dirk interrupted Coleridge in writing - it was actually an earlier work, [i/Kubla Khan*.

Chapter 6 is the one with a reading of Kubla Khan while Richard reminisces about Dirk. The last paragraph of the chapter:

In point of fact, the “second part” of the poem doesn’t exist.

Coleridge had indeed started writing Kubla Khan, and had gotten down the first part, when he was interrupted by “a visitor from Porlock”. The visitor did stay for over an hour and by the time he left, Coleridge had been so distracted that he forgot what he was writing, and was never able to get it back.

This, at least, is our memory of how history happened. Adams merely set up the “second part of the poem” as part of an alternate reality, and used Dirk as the mechanism to bring reality back to the way that we recognize it.

And if you’re not thoroughly confused by that explanation, I can easily prove that black is white and SPLAT!

Having read very little Coleridge in my lifetime (and not having read DG’sHDA for a couple weeks… question came to me at work after reading someone’s DG sig), I apparently made a mistake there.

I’m still not entirely convinced of what that’s have (directly) to do with the future. Michael seemed already to be under thrall of the spirit when he put his hand through the window; I’m not sure the poem, or lack thereof, would have put him over the edge. I know he read the thing, but surely the spirit could have told his story directly if need be. Again, I suppose you could claim the entire “chain of subtle events” thing, but Reg bringing Bach into the world didn’t have any noticable effect on things when Richard returned, other than Susan thinking he needed to get out more.

I’m not directly questioning you… just dissatisfied with the ending, I guess.

I love this book, and I love the ending.

It’s been a while since I read it, but isn’t he reading Kubla Khan when he becomes posessed? Or isn’t it his favorite poem or something?

A couple of things:

  1. Kubla Khan, it is implied, was the sprirt’s attempt to tell his story through a drug-induced Coleridge. (Remember, at one point, Coleridge did try to snoop around Professor Chronotis’s time machine.) The Dirk Gently interruption was a way of pulling a rug out from under the ghost and preventing him from getting a hold at that point in history.

  2. Chapter 19 is the first time we see Michael after he punches his hand through the window. A few cues indicate that this scene takes place the morning after he murdered Ross, which was the event the ghost needed to completely take over Michael’s personality. By getting him to then read Coleridge’s works, he’s able to trigger Michael’s mind into giving itself completely over to the ghost, since it was clear that, since his desires were so close to the ghost’s (undoing Ross’s takeover of his magazine vs. undoing the human’s takeover of earth). Without the Coleridge connection, there wasn’t enough of a resonance to allow the ghost to completely take over Michael.

  3. Hi!.. :wink:

Mind you, this is all stuff that I only picked up after reading the book about, oh, 42 times over the course of 18 months. Feel free to add your own interpretations, everyone.

Again, I’d have to refresh my memory, but my meory of the sequence was that Michael takes Susan home, the spirit leaves Richard after the aborted attempt with the answering machine tape and possesses Michael, Michael takes a cab home, going tappity-tap on the window the whole way, gets home, sits down by the window, goes tappity-tap some more as he mulls over memories of losing his magazine and is suprised to see he tappity-tapped his fist right through the glass. I thought he murdered Ross afterwards.

I admit that the entire book takes place over a pretty short period of time so he must have squeezed it in there somewhere. I suppose, if someone can state what chapter it occured in, I should give them some benefit of remembering the scene with more clarity than myself :wink:

The Dirk Gently books are favorites of mine, in some ways more than most of the Guide series. Great fan of each, but the plotlines in the Gently books are a bit more interesting.

The scene you mention is the end of Chapter 14. At some point between there and Chapter 19 (when we actually see Michael again), Ross is murdered, but nothing gets explicitly mentioned until much later. The cue in Chapter 19 that I mentioned in my earlier post:

… and jumping ahead to the end of Chapter 21…

… both allude to the already-committed murder.

Again, these are only my interpretations, but I hope they can provide you with some insight.

No arguement with any of that.

So the basic answer to my inital question was that Coleridge is prevented from writing the second half while it’s still in his mind and is confused out of it by Dirk’s prattling. Which means that Michael, despite being possessed and having murdered Ross, wouldn’t have had a way to learn the spirit’s story that actually resonated with him like the poem had, hence he wouldn’t have done it, hence the world is saved… at no charge.

In a related vein, I was flipping through my copy of Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. IIRC, Gaiman notes that the first Dirk Gentry novel is actually Adams’ recycling an old (unused) Dr. Who story.

The Dr. Who story was Shada. It’s sort of available on video. The few scenes that were filmed are intercut with film of Tom Baker narrating the plot of the scenes that weren’t shot. If you’re a fan, it’s worth the cost of renting it. Tom starts by explaining that the video is a recreation of a ‘lost’ episode. He talks about the lead actress being devistated because it was her first major role.

(paraphrase) “. . . so was the writer, Douglas Adams. Poor Douglas. I wonder whatever happened to him.”

For those who are interested, Shada was recently redone in the form of a Flash animation. The Beeb has it here.

I listened to this book as a book on tape as I fell asleep. Talk about some interesting dreams . . .