Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Few gentlemen in 19th-century London are as decent and upright as Dr. Henry Jekyll... which is why his lawyer friend, Mr. Utterson, is perplexed by the man's associated with an unsavory fellow known as Hyde. He's even named the despicable, ill-reputed beast as an heir in his will! Convinced Jekyll is a victim of blackmail, Utterson digs deeper - only to uncover a truth so terrible he can scarcely believe it.

REVIEW: Like many older books, some allowances need to be made for an archaic writing style. Unfortunately, as a modern reader, I find that such allowances don't do much to excuse the general tedium of stories like this. A long, slow build to a foregone conclusion runs headlong into a long, slow reflection by the doomed Dr. Jekyll as he recounts the thought processes and experiments behind his greatest triumph and failure... a recounting full of gaps and self-pitying sidetracks. Compared to some other classic sci-fi/fantasy tales, though, this story positively flies along. Stevenson also has some nice descriptive passages and a few characters that, while sketchily drawn, nonetheless stand out distinctly in the memory. (Not all of them, unfortunately...) I'm glad I finally got around to reading it, but I doubt I'll bother reading it again.

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