Selections from the Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Monday, February 1, 2010

Selections from the Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Edited by John Joseph Adams, 2009

So, I currently am borrowing a Kindle, so naturally I want to try it out.  Preferably without buying anything, since it's not actually my Kindle.  I decided to see if I can get anything from the Baen Free Library.  And lo and behold, there is an offering entitled, Selections from the Improbable.... So I download it, as a well-timed experiment.

I'm telling you this so that you'll know that I don't have a copy of The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in front of me.  I haven't read Stephen King's story, or Laurie R. King's.  But the following nine stories are available for free online, all but two as a free ebook.  Each title below is linked to the text, so if you have lots of time to kill, you can see whether you agree with my reactions.  Talk about immediate gratification.

I like this compilation, as an idea.  It's mostly reprints from various anthologies that have been done, Holmes and Lovecraft, Holmes and Sci-fi, Holmes and Ghosts, etc.  At least one comment I've read online applauded that, unlike with the source volumes, this way you don't get burned out on any one gimmick.  I would add, that this also means you're never quite sure what to expect, which is fun.  Also, the mere fact that these are short stories was a positive.  It's easier for the authors to maintain a strong tone over the shorter length.  There may be small spoilers below, but mostly just for the premise of each, so you can see if you want to read the whole thing.

The Horror of the Many Faces, by Tim Lebbon
This is the first of two Holmes and Lovecraft stories in this list.  And I really liked this one, it might be my favorite short story out of all of these.  It managed a strong opening, a strong climax, a strong close, which none of the others really did.  Really surprisingly good.  Kept in tone, with heavily dark tweaks.  Emphasized the effect on Holmes to be faced with the truly unknown.

Adventure of the Field Theorems, by Vonda N. McIntyre:
(not in the ebook)
Cute and fairly clever.  I appreciate playing with the irony of Holmes vs. Doyle, in terms of the contradictions in Doyle's later life.  Also Holmes investigates crop circles.

The Adventure of the Death-Fetch, by Darrell Schweitzer:
This one was too directly weird.
It wasn't funny enough to be camp, or dark enough to be intriguing, or complex enough to be compelling.  Has a bad joke/pop culture ref, but wasn't amusing enough prior to that to earn it.

The Adventure of the Lost World, by Dominic Green:
Dinosaurs, so you have to expect that this one is zany, campy silliness.  On that level, it's not bad.  Amusing idea, to double up Holmes and Lost World, would maybe have been better to actually bring Prof Challenger in as a character.

Dynamics of a Hanging, by Tony Pi:
This fan-fic-esque tangling of Watson, Lewis Carroll, Doyle and Moriarty was fine.   Slightly cutesy, and no action here, purely a mental puzzle. 

Merridew of Abominable Memory, by Chris Roberson:
The story itself is fine, if the framing and all the nattering on about the nature of memory somewhat obvious.  Also the connection to the phrase the story is hung on (the title, itself a quote from "The Adventure of the Empty House") is a bit thin and the introduction of Merridew early on fairly clumsy.  Overall, heavy-handed but still solid.

The Adventure of the Green Skull, by Mark Valentine:
Fairly standard fare, not bad, not exceptional.  Reads like one of the mediocre Holmes canon tales, which is a pretty good accomplishment in itself, but it didn't add much.  Nice to have someone use the stories as a weapon.

You See But You Do Not Observe, by Robert J. Sawyer:
HA HA HA HA HA. This one is Holmes plus quantum theory.
Okay, it was slightly corny but pretty awesome.

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman:
(not available in the ebook, you'll see why if you click the link.  It's a pdf)
This is a cute spin on A Study in Scarlet (obviously).  Okay, it was actually super cute.  I would describe it as an adorable Holmes and Lovecraft mash-up.  I know that sounds weird, but don't worry, it's dark.  Go read it, especially if you're a Holmes fan.  Go on, I'll wait.
Did you read it?  Cute, huh?  It's actually worth a second read too, where you can pick up on all the places where he telegraphs the twist, but you just can't see it.  Well played, Mr. Gaiman.

Overall for these selections:  4 Stars

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