Yeah, it’s not good

So on the Baen publishing house website they have in their free library section selections from “The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, a collection of the best Holmes pastiches of the last 30 years…at least supposedly. I hope that’s not the case, because the first story, “The Horror of the Many Faces”, by Tim Lebbon, is bad.

I’m barely into it, to be fair, but it starts with Watson walking down the street when he sees Holmes savaging a corpse. From the story:

As I turned a corner into a narrow cobbled street I saw my old friend, my mentor, slaughtering a man in the gutter. He hacked and slashed with a blade that caught the red twilight, and upon seeing me he seemed to calm and perform some meticulous mutilation upon the twitching corpse.

Okay, Watson is watching this take place “in the gutter” so I’ll suspend my disbelief that SOMEBODY should notice this going on – Holmes/monster thing must have found a side road or something.

What I CAN’T get past is Watson calling Holmes his mentor. His MENTOR? Watson is a doctor. Holmes is a DETECTIVE. Holmes is not Watson’s “mentor”.. He is his friend.

We move on to see Watson’s absurd reaction:

Holmes the thinker, the ponderer , the genius, ran faster than I had ever seen anyone run before. I could not even think to give chase, so shocked was I with what I had witnessed. In a matter of seconds my outlook on life had been irrevocably changed, brought to ground and savaged with a brutality I had never supposed possible. I felt as if I had been shot, hit by a train, mauled. I was winded and dizzy and ready to collapse at any moment.

Imagine this scene: You walk down the street and, shockingly, spot your best friend – let’s up the ante, your brother – savaging a body in the street. You are so shocked you don’t chase him when he runs. You feel sick to your stomach.

But I sure hope these few seconds haven’t been enough to “savage your worldview with a brutality you had never supposed possible”. Hopefully your reaction is the reaction of all sane men, namely, to wonder why your loved one just did that or to question whether or not you watched the right person. And then to immediately contact them, instead of go to your room and hide, vowing to avoid them and cutting off communication forever, as Watson the pansy-assed coward did.

I suspect the reaction also stems somewhat that for this author, Holmes is Watson’s mentor. Thus a betrayal upsets Watson even more than it normally would. Such is the cost of portraying a character incorrectly.

Oh, but now it gets really absurd. Remember, Holmes/monster has just ripped out this man’s heart. Watson witnessed it. Watson’s reaction?

The victim was surely dead, but being a doctor I had to examine him to make sure.

“Guys! This man’s heart has been ripped out! DOCTOR, CHECK IF HE’S STILL BREATHING!!!!”

Soon after, Wason makes this keen observation:

And dead, of course.


So: Not good. I’ll finish it, and if it ends better than it starts I’ll duly record it. But a combination of some really stupid shit (“As a doctor I had to double check that the heartless and mutilated corpse was dead”) and egregiously bad characterization makes me question how much it can be salvaged.

UPDATE: It gets more absurd. After a day Inspector Jones of Scotland Yard shows up…at Watson’s house. Why? Who knows. Plot?

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3 Responses to Yeah, it’s not good

  1. For someone who had actually been shot in Afghanistan, and first started practicing medicine on the battlefield, he doesn’t seem to handle a crisis very well, does he?

  2. Ilíon says:

    Maybe this Watson knows about zombies, and needed to check that the dead guy really was totally dead? 😉

  3. Syllabus says:

    a collection of the best Holmes pastiches of the last 30 years

    To be clear: this is a collection of Holmes pastiches mainly in the realm of horror/fantasy/sci-fi. There are a couple more mundane one (like one where he has an affair with Adler in Switzerland during his hiatus, which I suspect you will severely dislike), but they’re not just general pastiches.

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