Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Cat Manual (Michael Ray Taylor)

The Cat Manual
Michael Ray Taylor
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, Humor
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: It's no secret to any cat owner that felines are masters of manipulating mankind, but few suspect just how our erstwhile pets come by their abilities. Discovered by accident and translated from the original Cat language, this book offers a rare glimpse into the feline world. Learn, as your cat herself learned, how to properly present a gift, how to identify the "sucker" in the room, the trick of increasing one's weight at will, and other invaluable lessons.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: A poor man's "Devious Book for Cats," this guidebook was clearly written by someone who knows and loves cats. The chapters rarely run longer than a couple of pages, sometimes ending before they hit their punchline or properly explore their joke. While not hilariously original, it prompted a few chuckles. For the price - free when I downloaded it, 99 cents now - I consider myself reasonably satisfied.

Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs)

Tarzan of the Apes
(The Tarzan series, Book 1)
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Adventure/Fantasy
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: The Englishman John Clayton, Lord Greystoke by rank, and his wife thought they were on their way to Africa merely on government business. They never intended to die there. A mutiny aboard their ship left them, abandoned by the sailors, on a remote coast in the midst of an uninhabited swath of wildest jungle. Bad enough that they must wait on the increasingly-dim hopes for rescue, but Lady Alice bears Greystoke's heir - a baby boy doomed to die when the wilderness finally claims his parents. Fate, however, has other plans: as his parents lay dead near his cradle, a nearby mother ape, her own baby freshly deceased, hears his cries. Kala takes the babe to her breast, raising him as her own.
Years later, the child Tarzan grows restless. He knows no mother other than Kala, knows no family but the apes, yet deep down he knows he is something different. Even the savage dark-skinned people, who look so similar, are too different in mind and body for him to understand. Then he spies the strange thing floating upon the waters, from which disembark creatures very like his own reflection... and one, the female Jane Porter, whose beauty and love might lure Tarzan away from the only world he has ever known.

REVIEW: Early on, the book was headed for a higher rating. Tarzan grows up like an African Mowgli, only without the Kipling character's annoyingly selfish pigheadedness. He makes certain intuitive leaps - learning how to read and write English while remaining ignorant of spoken human speech, for instance - that stretch credulity, but overall his jungle adventures were fun to read. Even when the cannibals come, setting up a village in his domain and giving Tarzan his first (unpleasant) taste of humanity, I remained interested; as savage as they were, they, too, were victims of white colonists who drove them from their homeland, leaving them an embittered and degraded people. Then came the Great White Man and the Lady Love, and things started going downhill. Unfair as it is for me to judge Burroughs - who, after all, grew up in such a different world, with such a different set of values and prejudices, that I can hardly fathom it - I found myself choking on the stereotypes and assumptions he rammed down my throat. The idea that noble-born white men have an inherent advantage, ingrained in the blood, over the lessers of their own race, to the point where a boy raised in a savage wilderness by animals instinctively displays gentlemanly behavior and grace the moment the opportunity arises to do so... The ridiculously oblivious and arrogant behavior of Jane's father, Professor Porter, and his well-to-do companions... Jane's persistent helplessness over her own life, let alone her own heart... the shamefully stupid antics of Esmeralda, Jane Porter's black maid, who doesn't even have a cannibal's excuse of growing up in a different world than her white employers... I came close to lopping another half-star off the rating. The story itself clunks and hiccups, grinding its gears as it removes itself from the jungle and returns to civilization. The ending is supposed to be bittersweet, but the only one I really felt sorry for was Tarzan, who seems to have chained his heart to a creature too faint and fickle to do his love justice. Once again, while I'm glad I finally got a chance to read the original story, I find myself preferring more modern interpretations of the iconic Tarzan character.

January Site Update

The previous 12 book reviews have been archived and cross-linked at Brightdreamer Books.
I also changed out the Random Recommendations page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Heroes of the Valley (Jonathan Stroud)

Heroes of the Valley
Jonathan Stroud
Disney Hyperion
Fiction, YA Fantasy
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: In ancient times, the great hero Svien came to the valley as a babe; strangling a serpent with his bare hands, it was clear he was destined to become a hero. He fought many a monster, squabbled with many a man, and - at the end - joined forces with 11 other mighty heroes to destroy the foul, tunneling Trows. Upon his death, he was laid to rest in a cairn, sword in hand, to defend the valley forevermore.
Halli, born to the House Svien, never fit in with his family. Bandy-legged, short, and homely, full of restless energy, he chafes at the sedate life of the peaceable household. He dreams of being an elder-day hero - but, in these times, blood-feuds have yielded to dull laws, with rivalries settled by marriage more often than murder. Only his uncle, another family outcast, seems to understand... but even that small solace is stolen from him when a drunken insult spirals out of hand at a Gathering. Witnessing his uncle's murder at the hands of House Hakon, the boy's anger knows no bounds. Unsatisfied with the prospects offered by the laws of the valley, Halli determines to settle the score as Svien himself would have done... no matter what the consequences.

REVIEW: Many tales, especially Young Adult tales, tell of heroism in its many forms. Few explore its meanings and complexities as Stroud does here. Halli starts off, frankly, as a bit of a brat, selfish and short-sighted. His emotions rule him, as do his dreams based on elder-day tales of daring and bravery and brutal justice - dreams that cannot work in the real world. Slowly, through many mishaps and harsh lessons that return to haunt him, he learns the truth about the heroes and the stories he so long held dear. Along the way, he learns just what it means to become a real hero, not just a tale-teller's grandiose vision of one. The story drug now and again, taking its time setting up Halli and his world. Once it starts moving, it takes some unexpected turns on its way to a fitting finale. An enjoyable tale!

The Darkslayer (Craig Halloran and Ernie Chang)

The Darkslayer
Craig Halloran and Ernie Chang
Two-Ten Book Press
Fiction, Fantasy
*+ (Terrible/Bad

DESCRIPTION: Through the infinite reaches of eternity, ascended races of immortals seek the Meaning of Life, the ever-elusive Edge of the Universe... and ways to alleviate the crushing boredom of omnipotent powers and endless existence. To this end, the being Tritos created the unique world of Bish. Unlike other worlds, natural laws of evolution and entropy do not apply here. It is a planet of constant chaos, without learning or science, filled with monsters and magic. On Bish, the forces of Good and Evil eternally struggle for the amusement of the onlooking Tritos... and, lest one ever gain an upper hand (and ruin the fun,) an equalizing failsafe always keeps things in balance.
Venir the warrior travels the wilds of Bish, slaughtering evil underlings as the supernaturally powerful Darkslayer. Among civilization, though, his ego and his love of mind-clouding grog land him in no end of trouble - which is how he found himself, hung over and chained, in the dungeons beneath the city of Bone. With his thief friend Melegal, he escapes, but the wealthy Royal princeling he angered prior to his arrest won't let him go that easily. Nor is he Venir's only pursuer: the underlings tire of his predations, as they tire of the irritatingly fast-breeding humans of the surface world. They determine to end the threat of the Darkslayer once and for all. Even by Bish's chaotic standards, things are going to get wild...

REVIEW: This free-for-Kindle edition was billed as a "fun," "hilarious" fantasy.
Put simply: It wasn't.
The inhabitants of Bish are, to a man (or, very rarely, woman), flat, uninteresting entities, too stupid and annoying to even be self-parodying stereotypes. They wander aimlessly through a series of events that, I suppose, constituted a plot, but read more like the results of a Random Plot Generator. Along the way, they trade modern-sounding dialog that must've been hilarious within the author's head, but which came across as forced and stilted. For one particularly lousy example, Melegar earns the illogical nickname "Me." Why "Me" instead of the more natural "Mel?" Apparently, to justify the following (paraphrased) zinger towards the end: "Listen to me!" "Me? is Me here?!?" Ha, ha. This setup, sadly, is one of the few examples of follow-through to be found; the author was evidently too busy chuckling over the dialog to remember such basic writing steps as proofreading (countless misused apostrophes-as-plurals and misused homonyms, not to mention setups to story threads that never happened) and beta-reading. (At least, beta-reading by people who aren't pals, and are willing to point out such minor flaws as his utter failure to generate a micro-iota of reader interest.) This edition also features a number of original illustrations, all of which look strangely distorted and blandly generic. Naturally, there is every hint of a sequel.
This being a free download, it's hard to say that I overpaid, but I did spend my irreplaceable time slogging through this rotten turkey... and rarely have I so desperately wished I could get a refund!

The House of Silk (Anthony Horowitz)

The House of Silk
(A Sherlock Holmes novel)
Anthony Horowitz
Mulholland Books
Fiction, Mystery
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: Throughout his long acquaintance with the famed detective Sherlock Holmes, Dr John Watson faithfully chronicled the many cases, conundrums, and characters that crossed the threshold of 221B Baker Street. Now nearing the end of his twilight years, Watson finally pens the story of Holmes' darkest case, a case whose details were so scandalous and depraved in nature that he dared not even set them on paper until now; indeed, he even leaves instructions with his heirs that the story not be released to the public for a further hundred years.
When the distraught art dealer Mr Carstairs seeks help against a vengeful stranger, Sherlock and Watson both expect a fairly straightforward investigation. But the matter takes an unexpected turn with the death of a young street urchin, one of the detective's squadron of Baker Street Irregulars. Searching for the killer, black rumors reach their ears of the "House of Silk" - but where, what, or who it refers to, even Sherlock Holmes cannot decipher. Their hunt for justice leads to a scandal that could destroy the very heart of London itself.

REVIEW: The first officially authorized Sherlock Holmes adventure in over a century, The House of Silk meshes seamlessly with the characters and the world of history's greatest detective. Horowitz crafts a compellingly complex new mystery that faithfully evokes the spirit of Doyle's original works. The aging Watson reflects on the case with a certain air of nostalgia for his long-lost days as a detective's biographer and friend, perfectly understandable for a man whose final days are upon him. A fun, unpredictable investigation unfolds, with a resolution as satisfying as it is elementary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Forbidden Mind (Kimberly Kinrade)

Forbidden Mind
(The Forbidden Minds trilogy, Book 1)
Kimberly Kinrade
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: 17-year-old Sam never had a normal life, but then she's never been a normal girl. Like all the kids at her secluded school, known by the students as "Rent-A-Kid," she has paranormal abilities - in her case, telepathy. Clients pay big money to borrow teens like her for special projects, but it's not like she isn't being paid for her services. Over the years, she's built up quite a bank account. Now on the edge of 18, she's been assured acceptance into a New York college, where she'll go on to build a normal life among normal people with her earnings. That's what happens to everyone at Rent-A-Kid when they graduate. Or so Sam always thought...
She first saw the strange boy at the campus health clinic, strapped to a gurney with a bloody head wound. He cried out to her for help with his eye and his mind. Nobody wants to talk about him, and this close to graduation Sam doesn't want to rock any boats, but she can't get him out of her mind... literally. Because of him, she starts to question everything she knows about her life, her talent... and what's really going to happen when she turns 18.

REVIEW: This grabbed me with a fast start, quickly sketching in Sam's life and her world, and establishing the vaguely questionable staff of "Rent-a-Kid." When she learns that she's been involuntarily enrolled in a breeding program, the tale threatens to wobble, but instead of degenerating into pro-life simpering Sam uses it as fuel to stoke her own determination to free herself, her mystery man, and her friends. Unfortunately, it unravels at the end, as the previously strong heroine collapses into a useless, weeping wreck. I'd hoped for a little more paranoia, more of a sense that even among her friends there might be spies and traitors willing to sell her out for her growing doubts, but the friend-versus-foe count breaks down pretty much as it appears, even without telepathy. While I've definitely read worse, it failed to engage my interest sufficiently for me to follow the rest of the trilogy.

Pyramid Scheme (Eric Flint and David Freer)

Pyramid Scheme
(The Pyramid series, Book 1)
Eric Flint and David Freer
Fiction, Sci-Fi
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: When it hurtled through the atmosphere, crashing into the library on the University of Chicago campus, it seemed harmless enough. A five-sided black pyramid, little larger than Sputnik, only its extraterrestrial origins made it in any way worthy of attention. Then it started growing... and people started disappearing.
As scientists race to study it and the military tries to destroy it, nobody suspects the alien probe's true power or purpose. Only those who have been "snatched" by its violet beam, transported to a world seemingly cobbled together from ancient myths and legends, can hope to figure it out... but do they have a chance of stopping it, when the very gods Themselves are arrayed against them?

REVIEW: A serviceable tale, Pyramid Scheme introduces several vaguely distinctive characters, throws them into all sorts of trouble (within the pyramid's "Ur-universe" and without), saturates itself in pun-heavy efforts at humor, scrambles the mixture, then finally ends. The sense of wonder, of walking in a world that never existed on Earth amid marvels that defy modern science, never comes through, hazed by bad jokes and shallow characters. The logic of the plot never gels, either, but it's not really about the logic, or even the sense of wonder. It's about a mismatched collection of modern people blundering through classical myths, spreading the gospel of their superior age and culture while trumping even the gods with American know-how and mining the depths of inane punnery. Oh, yeah... there also happen to be just enough single modern men to hook up with lonely classical-world women, more because this kind of plot needs that sort of thing than out of any genuine chemistry. Overall, despite a vaguely intriguing idea, Pyramid Scheme is largely forgettable.

Profit from the eBook Revolution (Bob Perry)

Profit from the eBook Revolution
Bob Perry
Amazon Digital Services
Nonfiction, Business/Writing
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: The debut of ebooks has revolutionized the centuries-old world of publishing, creating opportunities and markets that traditional printhouses have yet to understand, let alone explore. Even if you've never written a word in your life, learn how to capitalize on these lucrative opportunities and write your own success story!
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: This low-effort/high-profit sales pitch only needs a little synthesized music and stock footage to become a full-blown infomercial. Perry glosses over the important considerations of why, what, and how to write; indeed, he happily informs the would-be profiteer that it's just as easy - easier, even - to outsource that particular tedious and unrewarding step. The rest of his information, on how to actually publish and market "your" ebook for maximum exposure and profit, was equally vague, and only occasionally enlightening. While I understand and appreciate that marketing's a big part of success in any field, especially the competitive world of writing and publishing, this sort of get-rich-quick "plan," glorifying speed and greed, just rubs my little writer soul the wrong way.
(Okay - this is strange. When I typed this review initially, Amazon listed the author as John Haydn. Now it lists this as the work of Bob Perry. Apologies for any confusion... though, considering the author's views on profiting off other people's work, perhaps it's to be expected.)

The Sea Fairies (L. Frank Baum)

The Sea Fairies
(A Trot and Cap'n Bill Adventure, Book 1)
L. Frank Baum
Public Domain Books
Fiction, YA Fantasy
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Bold young Mayre, affectionately known as Trot, has always loved the sea. No wonder her best friend is Cap'n Bill, a peg-legged old sea dog who used to sail with her skipper father. With pockets full of wonders and a head full of stories, he regales her on their many walks beside the seashore. One fine day, Bill tells Trot about mermaids, sea-dwelling fairies so beautiful yet so dangerous that no sailor who ever met one lived to tell the tale. His story awes the girl, but inadvertently offends eavesdropping mermaids. They offer to show Trot and Bill their wonder-filled world beneath the waves, to set the record straight. It's an offer neither of them can refuse. Trot and Bill dive into an adventure far grander than any salty sailor yarn - but will they live to tell the tale?

REVIEW: A frivolous little fancy by the author of the Oz series, it follows the basic, non-threatening formula of many elder-day children's tales. A young hero (and often a friend or two) encounter a friendly guide who takes them to a magical world, shows them pretty things, introduces them to benignly odd characters, then returns them home with minimal fuss or bother. Any threat, usually minimal, is dealt with not by the young visitor but by the guide or another magical ally (save, perhaps, once or twice toward the end, when the hero/heroine might make a minor, even accidental, contribution to their own survival.) Such tension-free adventures remind me of those bland, unappetizing yet healthy "treats" that well-meaning parents sneak into their children's lunches: no-calorie, sugar-free, fun-shaped objects that appeal more to overprotective parents than the kids stuck eating them.

The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures (Emily Fiegenschuh)

The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures
Emily Fiegenschuh
Impact Books
Nonfiction, YA? Art
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Creating fantasy art is about more than just the dry fundamentals. It's a process of exploration, discovering all manner of peculiarities within the limitless realms of the imagination, then capturing their wonder and beauty for all to see. Follow the brave adventurer Paki as he introduces you to the basics of art and media selection, then guides you through drawing a number of fantastic beasts and beings from his homeworld.

REVIEW: A fun, somewhat original idea adds a little zest to an otherwise generic how-to-draw-fantasy book. Not that Fiegenschuh's works count as "generic." Bright, interesting, and fun, she draws a variety of creatures, each designed to live in a different environment, fulfilling different ecological roles. Still, her original works aside, there's not much covered here that one wouldn't find elsewhere. I might've enjoyed a little more play on the "explorer" gimmick - perhaps some instructions on designing and sketching plants or environments to go with the animal "discoveries" made by the book's mascot. That minor quibble aside, I enjoyed it, even as an armchair artist and not an active explorer myself (at the moment, at least.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Metropolis (Thea von Harbou)

Thea von Harbou
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Sci-Fi
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: The great, shining city of Metropolis, brainchild of Joh Frederson, basks in wealth and prosperity... all thanks to the massive machines that thrum like a heartbeat through the streets. But the men who give their lives to the machines, working in gruelingly inhumane conditions, reap none of the rewards of their efforts, while the sons of privilege know little and care less about the workers who make their carefree lives possible.
Freder, son of Joh, never thought to question his world, nor the designs of his father, who sees humanity as a mass of imperfect machines designed to serve his dream. Then he saw the Woman, the shining face of God's beloved Virgin. That glimpse, that moment, shattered his world. He becomes obsessed with finding her again, even defying his own father and descending into the bowels of the machine-works, to walk among the workers and taste their exhaustion, their despair... and their growing anger.

REVIEW: Published in 1926, this book formed the basis for the 1929 Fritz Lang movie of the same name. The film (or, rather, the 1980's version of the film) has long been a family favorite, so when I found the book as a free public-domain download for my Kindle, I eagerly gave it a try.
The movie was better.
Messages - about class struggles, about sin and redemption, about machines corrupting and dehumanizing humanity - run rampant through the book, crammed down the reader's throat in long, repetitive tracts of hallucinogenic metaphors. I started feeling insulted, as though von Harbou thought I was too stupid to understand her Profound Insights and thus had to hammer yet another metaphor and yet another Biblical reference into my sore little brain. The characters (who aren't really characters, but rather archetypes created to deliver the aforementioned Messages) are drawn in such caricatured strokes that I simply couldn't believe in them. These archetypes descend into outright stereotypes more than once - Asians tend to be smiling purveyors of drugs and sin, while women do nothing but fret and wait to be saved - but I suppose that's to be expected from a European writer in the 1920's. But, I digress... Freder, a graduate of the Victor Frankenstein School of Suffering, throws himself into his soul-rending despair and frequent fever-fits until it seems a marvel that the man can actually walk upright. Maria is less a love interest than a manifested Virgin Mary, too innocent and pure and impossibly serene to ever return Freder's passions... save, perhaps, as God returns the passions of his most pious followers. Despite the hedonistic lifestyles of the wealthy and the machine-worship that dominates Metropolis, somehow the Bible and the Church survive - not just as quaint relics of an imperfect and bygone era, but as a culturally relevant subtext to city life, as blue-garbed worker slave and white-silked sons of privilege both have common casual knowledge of church doctrines. This is especially inexplicable in Freder's case; raised by his machine-loving father after his mother's death in childbirth, just where and when was he exposed to what his father clearly considers (for most of the book, at least) to be savage superstition, a blasphemy against his glorious City and the perfection of the Machine? (He does have a pious grandmother, but it seems a bit of a stretch - not everyone in Metropolis can possibly still have grandmothers...) Between Message and Metaphor and over-the-top archetype characters, the story slips along almost as an afterthought.
I'm sure, when this was published, it was a profound and insightful commentary on the Industrial Age, mankind's willingness to sell its soul for earthly pleasures, and what-have-you. I'm sure students of philosophy and literature still gush over the many intricate metaphors. But I'm just as sure that, for me, the story loses something in translation. While many of von Harbou's images are indeed memorable, I just don't like this kind of book. (And I couldn't help thinking that the movie, much as it trimmed and subtly rearranged, made the same points without nearly so much brow-beating deadweight.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shadowrise (Tad Williams)

(The Shadowmarch series, Book 3)
Tad Williams
Fiction, Fantasy
***** (Great)

DESCRIPTION: Between the warships of the mad god-king Sulepis of Xis to the south and the wrath of the ancient faerie Qar to the north, the mortal land of Eion suffers greatly... but worse may be coming.
In the north, deep in the perpetual twilight beyond the Shadowline, the lost Prince Barrick struggles to reach the faerie king in Qul-na-Qar - the only hope of sparing Barrick's former home, the castle Southmarch, from the faerie armies encamped on its doorstep. His faerie guide lost and his mortal companion long gone, he stumbles from one disaster to the next, narrowly avoiding a hundred deaths, under the unreliable guidance of the raven Skurn. Even as Barrick struggles to make sense of this mad world in which he's trapped, he fears he may already be too late.
Barrick's twin sister, Princess Briony, is once more adorned in the robes and honors of her station in the Syannese court of Tessis... but is in more danger than ever she was fleeing Southmarch in a peasant boy's guise. The king is a fool, his mistress a viper, and the royal court itself an ever-shifting maze of allies and traitors, always with too few of the former and too many of the latter. Briony quickly realizes she's out of her depth, a rustic and suspiciously ungirlish oddity whose name has already been tainted by agents of Southmarch's usurpers, the Tollys. Her dreams of securing assistance to reclaim her throne dashed, all she can hope for now is to escape with her life.
Meanwhile, the autarch Sulepis continues to rain terror on Eion, following his own mad and inscrutible plans as he reaches for a prize none of his ancestors, omnipotent as they were, dared achieve: true immortality itself. Such a lofty goal cannot happen without sacrifices, naturally, but what mere unwashed mortal wouldn't happily lay down their life for the pleasure of the Chosen One?
All eyes, all armies, all hopes and fears seem to fall upon Southmarch, where a long-forgotten force lies waiting to be awakened... or utterly destroyed.

REVIEW: Williams crafts an excellent, gripping continuation of the Shadowmarch series, which eclipses even his excellent Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy in sheer scope and sense of wonder. He begins, as he did in Shadowplay (Book 2), with a brief synopsis of the series thus far - a welcome refresher to remind old readers where things stand and help bring newcomers up to speed. (Many authors seem to forget that reader memories can fade between published installments.) From there, he picks up right where he left off. Ancient tales and religious tracts that were once mere background color become integral keys to the plot, as the wars of the long-absent gods stand poised to replay themselves upon the earth. The cast of characters is large, but never too large to keep track of, each one adding a unique and necessary thread to the overall tapestry. By the end, much has changed, and the stakes are higher than ever. I can hardly wait to get my hands on Book 4!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fantasy - A Writer's Short Guide (Linda McNabb)

Fantasy - A Writer's Short Guide
Linda McNabb
Amazon Digital Services
Nonfiction, YA? Writing
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Fantasy author Linda McNabb presents an overview of fantasy, with workshop activities to spark story ideas.
A Kindle exclusive title.

REVIEW: As stated in the title, this is a short guide... so short I managed to read it in under an hour. The advice is so basic that I wonder if her target audience was people who hadn't read fantasy, and/or those who have never attempted writing at all. What is here isn't bad for an introduction, but it paints its subjects with such broad, simple brush strokes that no details can be discerned at all. (At the very least, McNabb could've offered a "Further Reading" section at the end, for those who wanted to learn more about fantasy and writing in general.)
If you were trying to organize a simple writing workshop for school or some manner of young adult club (an after-school book club, a Scout group, etc.), this might be an ideal course outline. Otherwise, aspiring fantasy writers would probably get much more out of Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
(A Sherlock Holmes collection, Book 1)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Anthology/Mystery
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: For several years, the London doctor and war veteran John Watson was privileged to be a companion and friend to Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective of all time. Following along on his investigations, he chronicled their various adventures - the scandalous, the dangerous, even the occasional minor diversion - in these stories.

REVIEW: After the character Sherlock Holmes proved wildly popular, Doyle featured him in several short stories beyond his novels. This, the first collection of those stories, includes many titles made famous by various interpretations through the years. Sometimes Holmes seems a little too brilliant to be believable, and one story at least - the infamous "Case of the Speckled Band" - simply could not happen in our universe, but even at their most implausible the characters remained interesting and singular. Given my notoriously poor luck with anthologies, I gave it an extra half-star for not boring me to tears or making a mockery of its stated subject matter. I expect I'll be reading more of Holmes in the future, especially as the originals have lapsed into public domain (and are therefore available free on my Kindle.)
(I've also greatly enjoyed the latest BBC revival of the character; the more stories I read, the more references I'm finding in the new Sherlock episodes.)