Showing posts with label Arthur Conan Doyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arthur Conan Doyle. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Lost World by Arthur Doyle

Rating: WARTY!

Although it was read reasonably by Paul Hecht, this one ultimately disappointed. It was another audiobook experiment from my local library, but it's also available for free from LibriVox. This book was a DNF because it was taking so ponderously long to go anywhere that I lost patience with it! We were very nearly half way through the entire novel before these guys ever got to their 'lost world'. Everything prior to this was a slow set up.

The lost 'world' is really a high plateau in South America, and the idea is that this was so cut off from everything else that what killed off the dinosaurs elsewhere on Earth didn't affect those guys living up there. Of course, Doyle could not have known what we know now: that an asteroid destroyed them, and along with them very nearly the whole planet, so no dinosaurs, and none of what people popularly, but mistakenly lump in with them, such as the pterosaurs and the Sauropterygia, would have survived whether they were on plateaux or wherever.

There were things Doyle could have known, which I shall discuss shortly, but the problem here for me was that Doyle took an entire chapter with these guys parading round the plateau trying to find a way to get up there. The solution was obvious, but it took them a while to figure it out, and it was boring. This where I started skimming and skipping, and before very long decided to give up on it altogether.

The first problem is that the lost world as Doyle depicts it couldn't have stayed lost! There were pterosaurs living up there and while those animals which depended on legs to get them around would have been trapped up there, the flying animals would not have been so confined, and would have been discovered living in other areas long before the lost plateau was ever discovered, so this rang false.

The same thing applies to plant life. Why were none of the plants up there spreading to the areas around the plateau and becoming discovered? Doyle lived in an era where it was known how organisms get around. Darwin himself, a half century before, had made that clear, so Doyle cannot have been ignorant, yet still he wrote approached this story as though his little enclave atop the plateau would have remained entirely hidden. It wasn't credible.

Nor was it credible that this plateau could have risen so high so quickly that it preserved an antique set of species that never changed in over sixty million years! And held apemen! I'm sorry, but no. Anyone who thinks hominins and dinosaurs ever occupied the planet at the same time - anywhere - is an ignoramus, period. Doyle also knew of evolution, but failed to realize that it would have been going on up there on the plateau just as it was everywhere else.

Even if I were to overlook all of this for the sake of the story, the story itself was boring and entirely predictable. The encounters Doyle depicts, for example, between animal and human are all of the typically gory and violent kind that we find in every single story of this nature ever told, whether it be in book, in movie or on TV, about prehistoric animals - which are exclusively and savagely predatory. Predators do not behave like that in real life.

As I mentioned in a review yesterday, predators are not constantly hungry, constantly on the prowl, or constantly hunting. They do very little hunting (unless they're unlucky enough to be in a place where there's little prey or great competition). Neither do they obsessively track prey which they normally either do not encounter, or simply don't bother within real life. Yes, a really hungry predator will go after pretty much anything that might make a meal, but most of the time, predators - even warm-blooded ones - are doing quite literally nothing but sitting around until they get hungry!

When they do get hungry, they get on with it. They give up in short order if they can't catch their prey, and they try again later. When the hunt is done, they go back to their sedentary life until they're hungry again. That's it! When they're in that mode, their usual prey can saunter past them all the time and the predator really doesn't care. So for Doyle to depict the dinosaurs as constantly chasing down food, especially when they've clearly just eaten, as evidence by fresh blood on the beast's maw, is not only wrong, it's stupid and boring. I can't recommend this book at all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating: WARTY!

This was an awful dramatization by the BBC, which was so melodramatic and pretentious, with screeching skin-crawling violin randomly inserted, and they were, for the most part so absurdly overblown that it was really a parody. There were twelve episodes which are listed in order below with my comments appended:

  • A Scandal in Bohemia
  • Reviews to follow.

  • The Red-headed League
  • A Case of Identity
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery
  • The Five Orange Pips
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip
  • The Blue Carbuncle
  • The Speckled Band
  • The Engineer's Thumb
  • The Noble Bachelor
  • The Beryl Coronet
  • The Copper Beeches

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Valley of Fear by Arthur Doyle

Rating: WARTY!

The Valley of Fear was the last Sherlock Holmes novel to be written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and was published as a serial in Strand Magazine running from September 1914 through May 1915. I have to say I was disappointed in it and quit it half-way through. I'm not sure what Doyle thought he was doing here, but he told the entire story in the first half, and Holmes of course solved the mystery, which wasn't much of a mystery. The second half of the book explains why the main character did what he did, and this wasn't at all interesting to me.

Holmes has been receiving messages from a man who is known by the pseudonym "Fred Porlock" who evidently works for Moriarty. The most recent message is a book code which doesn't so much reveal as gives an extremely vague hint, that something bad will happen at Birlstone manor. Unfortunately, the hint is too late - or Holmes is far too laggardly in solving it, because the next thing Holmes learns is from inspector MacDonald, and it's that John Douglas of that same address was found murdered the previous night. Holmes and Watson accompany MacDonald to investigate.

Douglas was shot when making his nightly security rounds of his home. His face is blown away and in this era of no DNA testing, it's assumed that the body is Douglas by everyone except Holmes. Meanwhile, Baker, a friend of Douglas's and Douglas's wife both appear to be intimate and sharing secrets which they do not reveal to the police or to Holmes.

The clues seem to indicate that the murderer arrived on a bike, but abandoned it in his escape, leaving a bloody shoe print on the window ledge, fording the shallow moat which surrounds the property and making good his escape on foot. There appears to have been a card left at the scene with the initials VV and a number, and the body has a tattoo branded on his arm - just as Douglass did, which looks like two-thirds of the Deathly Hallows symbol! All that's missing is the wand.

I have to say that this story dragged on and on, with Holmes being completely insufferable, not revealing a single thing to the police, which in this day and age would have had him charged with obstructing an investigation at best, and as an accessory after the fact to murder at worst. It was this, and the poor mystery and stupid clues, together with the unnecessary length of this novel which made me dislike it. I cannot recommend it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Yellow Face by Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: The Yellow Face
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Publisher: Bompa Crazy
Rating: WORTHY!

This Sherlock Holmes novelette was published in 1894. Most who know of Sherlock Holmes tend to picture him as solving every case, but real fans of the great detective know that he did not solve them all. Typically the ones at which he failed were, by John Watson's own admission, suppressed, evidently because without a conclusion, they were unsatisfactory cases: "...where he failed it happened too often that no one else succeeded, and that the tale was left forever without a conclusion." He did report one or two, however, such as The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, and this particular case, The Yellow Face, although in this particular case, it's not so much that it went unsolved as that it required no work on the part of Holmes for its resolution.

How it ever came to be titled The Yellow Face (and also known as The Adventure of the Yellow Face) is the only big mystery here! There is no yellow face in it (unless you count the reference to yellow fever)! The only other face that's remarked upon is first described as white.

The story begins with the visit of a man, Grant Munro, who has very recently had cause to doubt his wife, Effie. For three years they have had the perfect marriage, but now she is behaving oddly, first asking for a large sum of her own money, which she had put into his charge upon their marriage, and later leaving the house at odd times visiting the newly arrived neighbor, across the field from their cottage. When Munro confronts her about it, she begs her husband not to pursue it. Effie reassures him, but offers nothing concrete, instead asserting that she cannot tell him what’s going on and asks only that he trust her. This he cannot do, which is why he consults Holmes.

The story which is delivered to Holmes and Watson of Effie's history suggests some possibilities. She was, for a while, resident in the USA, in Alabama (no word on whether she sported a banjo on her knee), married to a fine man named John Hebron. Together they had a daughter, but subsequently, husband and daughter became ill and died of the illness, whereupon she returned to England. About six months after that was when she met and fell in love with Holmes's visitor.

The solution to this simple and pleasant story is itself quite simple, but out of several possibilities, the ones I had in mind were wrong. I felt slightly annoyed with Doyle that he didn’t give me quite sufficient clues to determine the answer more accurately! But I rate this positively, because I did enjoy the story and thought it a remarkably forward-thinking tale.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles by John Green and Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Author: John Green (and Arthur Doyle!)
Publisher: Dover Publications
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new novel is reward aplenty!

Set on the moors of Devon in 1887, this is one of the most famous and loved Sherlock Holmes adventures. I read and enjoyed a previous graphic novel by this author (note that this isn't the John Green of The Fault in Our Stars whom I find obnoxious. This is a different, talented John Green), titled Dracula, and found it to be quite wonderful, unlike the original, so I was really glad to get a chance to review another by the same writer in the same classics series, and I wasn't disappointed. Note that he's also written a graphic version of Frankenstein.

This graphic novel cuts to the chase pretty quickly, with Holmes and Watson meeting with Sir Henry Baskerville, newly arrived to take over Baskerville Hall. He is the last surviving heir to this fortune and is concerned about a note he received warning him away from Devon moors. He's also, curiously, missing a shoe, stolen from his hotel room.

Having discovered that Sir Henry is being followed, Holmes claims to have prior business which he needs to take care of, and dispatches Watson to travel with Sir Henry and his close friend Doctor Mortimer, to Baskerville hall, to see what he can stir up in Holmes's absence. Watson's first discovery is that there's a wanted criminal, name of Selden, loose on the moor. His next is that Barrymore, the male servant in the house, is signaling to someone out on the more by means of a candle in the window. Selden is evidently his wife's brother.

Despite having been requested by Holmes to keep an eye on Sir Henry, Watson takes to strolling the moor alone each day for exercise. It’s on one of these trips that he meets with Stapleton, a local. Though they hear a loud moaning noise, Stapleton dismisses it as swamp gas! Watson is invited to the Stapleton home, and is warned off staying on the moor by Stapleton's sister, who initially mistakes Watson for Sir Henry.

When Sir Henry meets Miss Stapleton later, he decides that she's charming and attractive, but her brother seems to disapprove of this attraction between them. Selden is found dead on the moor, wearing clothes which Sir Henry had donated to him. Before he died, Selden passed on a tidbit of information regarding a burned letter, only a fragment of which remained, signed "L. L.". This is took to be Laura Lyons (Lana Lang and Lois Lane anyone?!), the daughter of a mean man named Frankland. Laura lives in Coombe Tracey and becomes the next person on Watson's list for a visit.

Watson soon meets up with Holmes, who has been living in the wilds on Devon moor conducting his own investigation in secret. based on the likeness of the portrait of Hugo Baskerville, in Baskerville Hall, Holmes deduces that Stapleton is actually in line for inheritance of the Baskerville wealth, but Sir Henry must die before it becomes his.

When Lestrade of the yard shows up, he, Holmes, and Watson lie in wait outside Merripit House, which is Stapleton's residence. They have arranged for Sir Henry to stroll across the moor, and when Stapleton unleashes his trained hound, it is shot before it can harm its target, who is now pretty much Sir Henry Basketcase.

I really liked this graphic novel and I recommend it. And while this has nothing to do with this novel or with this author, I have to mention that it reminded me of a Peter Cook - Dudley Moor comedy take on the story The Hound of the Baskervilles", which was hilarious!