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

sherlock
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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Writer Wednesday – Stephanie Osborn

Most people familiar with the con circuit of the southeast have seen Stephanie Osborn and her husband, Darrell (the Chief Mad Scientist at Doctor Osborn’s Magic and Balloons), and those outside of it are probably familiar with her in some way.  As the writer of several dozen books of various types, she’s got her tendrils (hey, she’s a sci-fi writer) in many different areas…

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m Stephanie Osborn, and I write science, science fiction, and science fiction mystery.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I am a former payload flight controller, a veteran of over twenty years of working in the civilian and military space programs. I worked on numerous Space Shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and trained astronauts too. I’m currently retired from space work and happily “pass it forward,” teaching math and science via numerous media, and working with SIGMA, the science fiction think tank, while writing science fiction mysteries based on my knowledge, experience, and travels. So I really am one of those rocket scientists you hear about.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve written Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281; co-authored several of the Cresperian Saga books; am co-authoring the Point series with Travis S. Taylor; am the author of the critically-acclaimed Displaced Detective series; and Travis and I recently wrote the top-selling science book, A New American Space Plan.

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m working on the 4th Cresperian book, Heritage; the sequel to Burnout, Escape Velocity; books 5-7 of the Displaced Detective series (well, book 7 is actually finished, I’m just polishing it). I have a steampunk book, the first of The Adventures of Aemelia Gearheart, that’s being shopped around. Travis and I are tossing around ideas and trying to get time in our schedules for writing the next Point book. So I’m keeping pretty busy.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
You mean other than Little Golden Books, and things like that? I guess discovering science fiction in mid-elementary school and launching into Bradbury and Asimov and the like. I read my first Sherlock Holmes novel about then too – somebody gave me a copy of Hound of the Baskervilles – but it scared me pretty badly, and actually probably delayed my entry into Holmesiana. I have a very vivid imagination, and have always dreamed in color. That, in a young child, is not always a great combo.

What are your three favorite books?
Ouch. You mean I have to choose? In what genre(s)?

I guess I would have to say the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes, The War of the Worlds, and…Lord of the Rings maybe. That’s closer to a dozen books really, or a couple really honkin’ big ones. And I could still list more.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Oh, pretty much as many as I feel like. I can swap up books readily enough.

Right now I’m reading a lot of reference materials. Celtic history, a biography and research notes for Nikola Tesla, rereading some Holmes stuff, Victorian – I found an electronic copy of Mrs. Beeton’s on a website, for Kindle no less! Now for those that don’t know, this was a mammoth text that was the Martha Stewart AND Oprah Winfrey combined, of the Victorian era. Plus Emily Post thrown in for good measure. It’s great reference material for someone writing steampunk and Sherlock Holmes!

Oh, and cookbooks. Because I just like ’em.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…lose track of my own spacetime and subsume into the world in the book.

If I have a cup of hot tea with cream, a snackie-something, and my cat purring in my lap, I’m gone. For a long time. Stomp when you come into the room, it won’t matter. I won’t know you’re there. Just don’t put your hand on my shoulder without yelling in my ear first or you’ll be peeling me off the ceiling fan!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
If it’s a book I really like, I read it until it’s worn out and then buy another copy. Ebook readers sort of help in that respect now…

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
If it’s a book I like the sound of, I’ll read it as soon as I find time – provided it isn’t in my own genre. I tend to avoid books in my fiction genres because I don’t want to inadvertently pull someone else’s idea into my own work.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
If it’s a book I think is worthy, most definitely I’ll recommend it. I do some free-lance editing in addition to writing, and have encountered several books that I consider noteworthy through that.

What do you look for in a good book?
A good plot (realistic if it’s that sort of fiction, though I do fantasy also), characters that make me forget they’re not real people. Something that sucks me in. It might make me think, it might be light reading. But it has to have enough depth for me to be THERE instead of HERE.

Why do you write?
I don’t know. I think if I could answer this, I’d win some major awards or something, because then I’d know what to do and how to grab my audience and wring every last emotion out of ’em. I just know that it’s something I have to do. I have things to be said and stories to be told. And I have to say ’em, I have to tell ’em.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Heh, I’ve already been them. I started off as a rocket scientist – for real. I worked for NASA and DoD for a couple decades. (I trained astronauts and worked on crew procedures and timelines, aka schedules.) I’ve also taught at university, tutored, substitute taught. I’m a licensed minister. A NWS-certified storm spotter. I was a reserve police officer. An ACE-certified personal trainer. I’ve been called Renaissance woman and polymath. I guess in some respects, I am.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
That’s another “I don’t know.” Sometimes it just seems to be there. In my Displaced Detective series, I postulate alternate realities (and science recently provided support for the concept of alternate realities!), and speculate that somehow writers like Arthur Conan Doyle unwittingly access these alternate universes when they write – so that what they are doing is not really writing fiction, but setting down the histories of these other spacetimes. It’s as good a theory as any, I suppose.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That there’s a whole lot more crammed into my cranium – more worlds, more people, more concepts, more adventures – than I ever dreamed. And that not only do I have the ability to write an entire book, I can write dozens of books!

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They’re very proud of me. My husband is a graphic artist and illustrator, and he’s become the go-to guy for most of my book cover art. I’d asked him for a piece of artwork for my first book, to put on my then-new website (www.stephanie-osborn.com), and my publisher liked it and it became the cover for the book, which was Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. The title of the art is, “Matchstick.”

My parents are very proud. I think my Mom got a Kindle just so she could get the works I have out that are ebook-only, frankly! Daddy likes to read the print versions.

My mentor, Travis Taylor, says I’m awesome and he likes my stuff. (I include him here because he’s kind of like a brother I wanted but never had.) I dunno about the awesome part, but I’m glad he likes it.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Ha! So far I haven’t encountered any! If you can come up with a stereotype, I can probably find it in myself or one of my writer friends!

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The economy. It’s really hard to break into the business when everything is changing – print, ebooks, both, what formats – and when people have less disposable income than they did only a few years ago.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, a few technical things here and there. I cringe at some of those when I read them. Most people probably don’t recognize them, but I do, having learned from Travis. Eventually I’ll have to go back and tidy up the earlier works and issue new editions, I think.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I have two film projects that are stalled at the funding stage, what with the current economy. We have people lined up to direct, act, do SFX, all that sort of stuff. We just need “angels.” I’m excited about them, and want to get them off the ground and rolling. One is a short – we want to enter it into some film festivals, and maybe use it as the pilot for an anthology series. We only need $7000 – but people either want to do big stuff, or not at all. The other one is a feature film version of Burnout, and that is more like $50 million. A bit bigger. If anybody is interested in being the producer for the short, contact me. My email is steph-osborn@sff.net.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Oh, I think my fans are cool! For all that I’ve been doing this for a few years now, it still surprises me to find I have a hardcore fan base. I love it!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
Well, I’m actually a very shy and sensitive person. Everybody thinks I’m really outgoing and an extrovert, but when I take the psych tests, I’m borderline extrovert/introvert. I get stage fright.

But years ago I sort of developed a character – like acting – that was a facet of my personality, that I used when I had to talk in public, to help me through the stage fright. Over time that character just developed more and more until I was comfortable with it, and now it really is me. It’s just like, I flip a switch and go from this homebody sitting at her computer to this vivacious, outgoing person at a convention. I still get stage fright, but I’ve learned to channel the adrenaline in more productive ways, like being energetic and upbeat, and thinking fast on my feet.

But I pay for it after. It’s not uncommon for me to come home from a convention and sleep for the better part of a day because the effort to be “on” for an entire weekend has worn me out. So if you come up to me and I look tired, I really am. If I seem absent-minded or slightly frazzled, I am.

Anything else we should know?
Um, let’s see. My first children’s book, StarSong, is out, through Chromosphere Press, and it’s available in paperback and ebook. I’ve gotten my second EPIC Award Finalist designation, the first one having been for book 2 of the Cresperian Saga, The Y Factor in 2010; my second is for the short story, The Fetish. (It’s set in the Burnout universe.) A New American Space Plan is doing really really well in sales! Book 4 of the Displaced Detective series, Endings and Beginnings, is being released this next week in print.
And I’m still going!

Book Review- A Study in Scarlet

Book: A Study in Scarlet

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Format: Paperback, Barnes and Noble Classics, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1

First Published: 1887

Current Publication: Barnes and Noble Books, 2003

 

Deep in the heart of London, England a man is found dead in an abandoned house. All the doors are locked, and the begrimed window shows no signs of having been touched in years. The only evidence of any other presence is a single gold ring and the word RACHE written on the wall in blood. Thus begins A Study in Scarlet, the very first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous master of deduction Sherlock Holmes.

I confess, this is the first Sherlock Holmes book I have actually read all the way through. I know enough about the other stories to have a general feel for Doyle’s writing style, so I was quite surprised to find such a different outline. The book itself is divided into three parts in two books: the set up, the completely out-of-left-field, and in my ever so humble opinion almost useless, back-story of the murderer and victims, and then a general rehashing of all the events leading to the conclusion.

As you may already be able to tell, this was not one of my favorite books. To be fair, I loved the first part. Not only does it lend some background and depth to two of the greatest characters ever written, it sets up a plot that keeps the reader guessing. As I read the first part, my mind kept looking for clues, trying to figure out what happened, all the while being distracted by the brilliance of Holmes. It was fantastic! Then came the second part of the book… and I will say it again: this section was useless. Perhaps I would have been more open to it if there had been some sort of warning about going off into a back-story, if, perhaps, one of the main characters had started talking about what had happened. Maybe it would not have been so bad if there had been some sort of date and location written at the very beginning of this section to inform me that I was now reading about an event from the past, in another country, and about completely different characters, instead of letting me figure that out as I read. But I digress. Part two of the book tells of the events leading up to the killers motives, and while I do enjoy a good back-story, this was too much information about characters that would never again appear in the series, built up my hopes only to crush them, and in the end, it actually just made me sympathetic toward the killer. After a seeming eternity as vicious as the arid wasteland that both begins and personifies the second part I finally made it to the third section. This part started off as a nice change back to an almost normal setting. I was once again beginning to enjoy the book, but soon found, to my great disappointment, I was having a hard time concentrating, as the material became quite redundant. While I enjoyed finding out how Sherlock Holmes came to his conclusions and was able to track the killer, I could have lived without the continuous recap of every single detail I had read before.

In the end, I really have no choice but to give my vote by section. I give the first section 4 pages. I meant it when I said I loved this part. Section two I give 2 pages, but ONLY because it does further the story a little. In fact, I encourage you to skim this section. Part three I give 3 pages, especially if you only skim part two. As I said, it is interesting to see how Holmes solved the case, and it does wrap everything up.

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