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Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Further adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds. Manly W.Wellman & Wade Wellman, Titan Books. (2009)

A very enjoyable mash up between Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger and the Martian invasion from H.G. Well's War of the Worlds. There is a nice touch that has this book being part of a plan by John Watson to correct H.G. Well's version of the events.
Sherlock Holmes comes into possession of something which leads him to consult with the greatest scientific mind of the day, Professor Challenger. The two of them realise that the object offers a view of a far off world and thus they are somewhat more prepared when the Martian invasion begins. The narrative splits between the adventures of Holmes and Challenge as they leave London and discover the size of the problem and decide how to deal with. The final section has them both back in London and is narrated by Watson as the final showdown with the Martians takes place. The story is enjoyable and mixes up all the elements nicely and gives plenty of room for both Holmes and Challenger to display themselves.
Manly W.Wellman & Wade Wellman take a very interesting approach to Holmes, he is sizeably different to the original while still recognisable. The biggest difference is that Holmes has an active romantic interest, this is a nice departure for the character. It also allows the authors to have Holmes take the lead for a section of the book without being a problem for the readers. Holmes is nearly always seen through the eyes of Watson, this gives a cloak of humanity to an otherwise slender charachter. Dressed in the affection of Watson he is lent a humanity that makes him attractive.
Giving him a romantic relationship gives Holmes the dash of humanity he needs to be palatable without having to sacrifice any of his power of cutting observation.
The problem with this move is that it creates a major false note in the story, one that really should have been better managed by the writers. John Watson is oblivious to the relationship that Holmes is having and that just does not work without fundamentally destroying the character.  Watson is keenly aware of women and likes them, assuming that he would miss something so close to his heart is just a distraction and a poorly used plot device.
Professor Challenger is a near monster of ego and can be very hard company for the reader, he is saved by his overwhelming energy. He strides through the story amazed that his brilliance is not as obvious to others as it is to himself, he also is willing to act decisively when needed. The pairing of the two has a clear possibility of becoming a loud clash of egos, Holmes is played in a slightly minor key and that makes for harmony.
The overall framework of the invasion is nicely handled, the panic that follows the realisation of the dander and the exodus from London is very well done. The later action in the nearly deserted London is fast and sharp, the finale is very well set up.
Overall this is enjoyable, the idea is smart and the execution is thoughtful, a different view of Sherlock Holmes.

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