Book Review: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds by Manly W. Wellman and Wade Wellman

Title: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds

Author: Manly W. Wellman and Wade Wellman

Format: Paperback edition by Titan Books

Published: originally 1975, Titan Edition 2009

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As this is my first review for Book In The Bag, I should probably explain a thing or two.  I never go into a book looking to hate it or looking to love it. I have been reading as long as my conscious brain can remember and I enjoy it more than I do even breathing, even though the latter is more necessary, some would argue.  I go into every book I read with little expectation of anything except whatever may come.  Having said that, I tend to review positively more than I do negatively, and I think that has much to do with my absolute love of reading.

Secondly, a bit of why the heck I should be a reviewer anyone reads and/or listens to. Well, I probably shouldn’t, as all of us have our own tastes and such. Having said that, I am a Publisher (www.prose-press.com) and have been an author, published since 2010.  I also have an academic background that supports review and critique and that sort of thing.  Plus, it must be noted that I am quite opinionated and am not bashful about sharing such.  So, none of that may prove why you should read and follow my advice, but it at least hopefully explains why I feel like I’m someone who can do book reviews.

So, with all that out of the way, let’s get to the first review, which, you’ll learn, will completely go against the comment above that begins with ‘Having said that, I tend to review positively more than…’  And, in terms of this particular book, that actually sort of breaks my reader’s heart.

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds was written by Wade Wellman and his well known author father, Manly W. Wellman.  By the title, the book obviously blends two iconic concepts- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  What is not so obvious by the book’s name is that it also heavily focuses on another classic character of Doyles, Professor Challenger.

The premise of the book is that Holmes, Watson, and Challenger are all present in London when Wells’ War of the Worlds unfolds. As a matter of fact, we are told in the opening pages that Holmes and Challenger are in possession of an object that allows them to see across the vastness of space to what they deduce is Mars.  What happens next is essentially a travelogue of sorts of what Holmes and Challenger do leading up to and during, and even after the invasion from Mars.  Told initially in an omniscient way, the Wellmans halfway through the book, which started as a series of short stories, give a view of the actual ‘War’ first from Holmes’ perspective, then the same days from Challenger’s perspective, allowing us later in the work to hear a bit of Watson’s experiences over the same time frame as well.  The book carries through Holmes’ and Challenger’s study of the other world prior to the invasion, the actual landings, and the siege of London, all the way through the end of the war.  There are bits of action throughout, but largely this is a book of observations and summations by two of literature’s most exciting characters.  That is, until they were used in this book.

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds is not only boring, but it is a complete and utter misuse of all of its source material.  The Holmes portrayed in this work is not anything like the Holmes of Doyle or most who have deigned to utilize Holmes since his creation.  Actually, the Wellmans go out of their way to illustrate that the Holmes we are all used to is nothing more than a mask, a parlor act hiding a man who is actually quite normal and prone to usual passions, one in particular.  We see a very cardboard version of Holmes in this book, one who in the very beginning makes a leap of logic that makes me want to eat my deerstalker cap, were I to own one.  Holmes’ ready acceptance of what the object he has shows he and Challenger is not only hackneyed, but it shows absolutely none of the deductive processes that I hoped I’d see.  It would have been absolutely wonderful to watch Holmes work through, deduce, and even struggle with what would have been the obvious result of his investigation into what the object revealed. But, no, he instead readily jumps to the conclusion and accepts that he and Challenger are seeing another world.  What happens following concerning Holmes leaves me positively riddled with boredom and is a complete waste of character.  And to top it off, the authors attempt to tie the end up by connecting something directly to Holmesian canon that really doesn’t belong and is obviously a sloppy ‘we need the fans invested in Holmes’ moment.

It is also quite obvious that the Wellmans based their interpretation of Doctor Watson solely on the Nigel Bruce portrayal, and not even the moments when Bruce was actually allowed to play Watson well, but all the moments of buffoonery.  Watson in this book is not only not intelligent, but he spends much of the time talking about his abject fright and fear and is no way a companion suitable for Holmes.  Add to that the amount of time that Holmes and Challenger both spend literally picking on him for being a dullard and you have everything anyone who has hated the awful ways Watson has been portrayed previously in the pages of this book.  One major issue I have is that there is a secret that exists that Holmes is keeping, one Challenger is privy to, and yet we are led to believe that Watson is in no way aware of this secret and is not smart enough to pick up on clues dropped by Challenger’s actions, including continually getting Watson away from Baker Street or yelling louder than necessary when the two approach Holmes’ door from being away.  I was not only disappointed by the portrayal of Watson. I was outright disgusted.

And then there’s Professor Challenger of The Lost World fame. In aforementioned book and other Challenger appearances written by Doyle, his creator does a wonderful job of showing us not only how intelligent Challenger is, but also of illustrating his high opinion of his intelligence.  Doyle does it like a surgeon, with a cutting comment here and there, a well placed scene showing Challenger’s superiority every now and again.  The Wellmans instead decided to hammer the reader with every chance given with just how arrogant and pompous and self inflated Challenger is.  The character portrayed here is so overly misogynistic, so entirely convinced of his nearly allegedly untouchable level of intelligence, that there is no way to invest in or like Challenger. Not only that, but every character in the book, including Holmes, seems to bow and genuflect at Challenger’s feet, taking him at his word that he is simply smarter.  The Challenger the authors present here would have been more an enemy, or at best a sparring partner with Holmes, and much of the book would have been spent with the two doing mental gymnastics with each other, which would have been much more enjoyable than what was put on the page.

As I read this book, I really hoped by the end of it I would be able to say that had the Wellmans written this with original characters, not using Doyle’s creations, then maybe it would be palatable.  But no, that’s simply not true.  The characters, original or not, are not likable, are not enjoyable, and have very little for readers to connect with.  The only linking factor is that they are Holmes, Watson, and Challenger, and the portrayals fail miserably here.

Lastly, the use of Wells’ Martian Invasion as a backdrop should have been something that invigorated this book, that made it more interesting, regardless of the characters.  Except that the Wellmans decided to cherry pick what they wanted from the original story, even going as far as Watson writing a letter pointing out what Wells got wrong in his version.  To be honest, the authors of this work seem quite angry at H. G. Wells and that is evident through the statements made by the characters.   The invasion of Mars was yet another point that the Wellmans could have just made up their own alien race, their own invasion, and nothing would have been lost from the work they produced.

I was first going to give this book a 2 of 5, the whole ‘if you must read, be warned’ thing, because it does have an appeal being about Holmes, Challenger, and the War of the Worlds.  After thought, though, I really, really can’t.  The complete misuse of the concept and characters, the lack of action and total reliance on almost monotone reporting of a rather lackluster event as they paint it, and the general overall style of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds makes it nearly impossible to read, especially for a fan of Wells or Doyle.  1 of 5 most assuredly.  Or, using my own scale, utilizing bullets rather than numbers or stars, I wouldn’t even load my gun for this waste of time.

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