Monday, June 27, 2011

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by John Joseph Adams (ed.)


Quite good, and thoroughly enjoyable. Which is a pleasant surprise, since "continuing adventures" of classic characters can be atrocious when done poorly--which they often are. In this case, the editors wisely culled (or commissioned) stories from some extremely gifted authors--and more importantly, authors who seemed to truly cherish and appreciate Holmes and his work.

Many of the stories take advantage of the overlapping lives of such well-known authors as H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. What would happen if Holmes met Doyle? If he went to school with Stoker? If he were hired by Wells to investigate a seemingly paranormal mystery? If the mythology of Lovecraft were true?

The authors overall do an excellent job of keeping Holmes true to himself--they do little violence to the character of the man himself. Some choose to write mysteries mentioned in passing in the canonical Holmes stories: the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland (referenced in Doyle's "Adventure of the Norwood Builder" and the basis for two stories in this collection); Merridew of abominable memory (referenced in "Adventure of the Empty House"); and the inexplicable disappearance of James Phillimore (referenced in "Problem of Thor Bridge"). Others choose to flesh out existing characters like Irene Adler, Mrs. Hudson, and Professor Moriarty. Many of the stories have truly fantastical elements--dinosaurs, aliens, time travel, a mummy's curse, ghosts . . .

There are stronger and weaker stories of course. I particularly enjoyed "The Singular Habits of Wasps" and (not surprisingly) "A Study in Emerald". I was less impressed by "The Adventure of the Death-Fetch" and "You See But You Do Not Observe". Ultimately, I think Holmes is at his best when he finds a rational solution to a seemingly supernatural mystery (which in no way disproves the existence of the supernatural on the larger scale), though several of the authors were able to introduce clearly supernatural elements into Holmes' world quite smoothly.

All in all, it's a fun collection, and definitely worth the read.

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