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The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Author:John Joseph Adams (Editor) The game is afoot! Night Shade Books is proud to present the improbable adventures of the world's greatest detective -- mystery, fantasy, science fiction, horror, no genre can escape the esteemed detective's needle-sharp intellect and intuition. This reprint anthology showcases the best Holmes short fiction from the last 25 years, featur... more »ing stories by such visionaries as Stephen King, Robert J. Sawyer, Michael Moorcock, Tim Lebbon, Sharyn McCrumb, Stephen Baxter, Naomi Novik, Barbara Hambly, Anne Perry, Tanith Lee, and many more.« less
Though I infrequently read Sherlock Holmes pastiches, I am very picky about representations of the Victorian detective. I LOVE Carole Nelson Douglas' Irene Adler series and the recent BBC miniseries in which Holmes and Watson are modern day sleuths in modern day London. I'm not such a fan of the recent Robert Downey Jr. representation and don't get me started on Rachel McAdams playing Irene Adler! (Surprisingly, I loved Jude Law's Watson.)
So I was a little disappointed in how The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is advertised as the best pastiches of the genre. I thought several of them were just plain bad. All but one of the H.P. Lovecraft crossovers were more disgusting for the sake of being disgusting and disturbing. Laurie King presented a story that had very little to do with Holmes and everything to do with her Mary Russell creation. The story was hardly a mystery at all but just a way for her to hawk her series. Several more stories were just plain eh but the worst offender was "A Scandal in Montreal" in which the author, Hoch, takes the one strong female character to have ever canonically received the respect of Sherlock Holmes, and turns her into a hand wringing, pathetic, stupid, and defenseless stereotype who must call the great Sherlock Holmes from London to Canada to solve a rather dumb mystery. Remember that Irene Adler is the only woman to have ever outfoxed Sherlock Holmes. I doubt she'd need his help with a problem that requires more common sense than detecting skills.
Thankfully Naomi Novik does Irene Adler properly in all her diva, intelligent, and certainly independent glory in "Commonplaces." She also is the first person to introduce a homosexual twist to the Watson/ Holmes relationship that didn't make me role my eyes. It's a very short story but just perfect.
Michael Moorcock's story "The Adventure of the Dorset Street Lodger" was the only story that, to me, felt as if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could have written it. It must be a British thing.
Vonda N. McIntyre wrote a very amusing and intelligent story about crop circles in "The Adventure of the Field Theorems." Tanith Lee gave the readers another crafty and worthy female opponent to Holmes in "The Human Mystery." And, Neil Gaiman was the only HP Lovecraft enthusiast to write a homage that actually got my interest in that whole Cthulhu mythos. Robert J. Sawyer's "You See But You Do Not Observe" was very interesting and smart if not the best Holmes character interpretation I've ever read.
There are several gems in this anthology but you do have to read through quite a few so-so stories in order to reach them. I will say that on average the stories got better as you got further into the book, so that the last 3 or so were very engaging reads while the first 5 had not been up to my expectations. If you love Sherlock Holmes no matter where or how you get him, then you'll like this book. But if you are, like me, one of those people who expect authors who can truly encapsulate the Conan Doyle magic to take on the great detective, then you might be disappointed often. You are not going to receive Carole Nelson Douglas quality out of most of these pastiches. But I'd still recommend checking out some of the more noteworthy contributers I've listed above.
This is, hands down, the best overall collection of short stories I have ever come across. And that's quite an admission for me because up until now I have only been a so-so fan of Sherlock Holmes. I've read all of Conan Doyle stories years ago but never became a super fan. But after this marvelous collection by some extremely well know authors (and favorites of mine) like Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, Naomi Novik, Stephen King, Tanith Lee, Laurie R. King, and Stephen Baxter, I'm feeling all fanboy now. FYI, these are not the traditional Sherlockian-type stories but rather tend to deal with aspects outside traditional Victorian England...like alternate histories, time travel, Steampunk, and the supernatural. Very cool.
Short stories, in general have never been great favorites of mine, as I prefer to really get into my characters but since this is all about Sherlock, Watson, et al, it's more like reading separate chapters of a longer book. Altogether, there are 28 stories in this collection, most of which are re-printed from other collections. But that is what makes this group truly remarkable. It seems like most of the time when I try to read a short story collection of numerous authors, I find that the editor has selected certain stories that will make him/her look good. "Look readers, I've collected all the forgotten bits that have here-to-fore been neglected or otherwise failed to find an audience. And now, in one massive volume, you too can be exposed to the most elite, hi-brow crap that everybody else has not found worthy to re-publish." Well, there's often a reason that it has remained hidden. I usually only find 2 or 3 really good stories in the typical collection, a handful of mediocre stories, and a bunch that should never have been published in the first place. Not so with this collection as I literally enjoyed every single one and was absolutely blown away by at least half. Also of note, there are several stories here that are original to this collection.
I guess I just click with Mr. John Joseph Adams, the editor of this collection. I plan to seek out more of his collections pronto.