This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.
Next up we have Watson and Holmes, by E. B. Dawson.
I was honestly at a loss to review this story in my usual way, because I have been thoroughly immersed in the Sherlock Holmes universe (ie. London) for so long. While movies like the one with Robert Downey Jr. and TV series like the Cumberbatch one or The Irregulars aren’t exactly my cup of tea, I did enjoy them all in their own ways, and the original books as well as the Enola Holmes stories have long been favourites of mine.
Now please don’t misunderstand, I’m getting to the point here and the point isn’t that Watson and Holmes is unoriginal. It’s anything but. However, it is stretched very cleverly over the framework of Conan Doyle’s characters, settings and mysteries, and as such most of the “review” I could give boils down (or … Doyles down? No Edpool, don’t force it) to either listing the Sherlock Holmes references (Linden is London! That Leemex character is the pygmy! Lestrade is Lestrade!) or else listing the variations (Sherlock and Watson are women! Sharlotte’s violin is purple! Watson fought in a space war against shapeshifting [SPOILERS REDACTED] monsters instead of in Afghanistan which absolutely isn’t timely right now anyway so move on!) and that doesn’t do the story justice.
Because I really enjoyed the parallels, the divergences, and the Watson and Holmes narrative purely on its own merits. The sheer mass of human and alien cultures in Linden set the mega-city up as a character in its own right just as (see, here I go again) it is in the best Sherlock Holmes tales. The focus on Watson, who I (like many I’m sure) have always considered the more relatable and sympathetic character and therefore have always rather liked more than Holmes, was well done. I loved seeing Watson re-assume her army persona and resume the war she had previously left in turmoil and trauma. The plot twists and the action, all woven around a clever series of mysteries, were very enjoyable. The Falls, and Moriarty … it’s quite inescapable but damn it, it’s well done.
If you hate Sherlock Holmes with a passion, this book isn’t for you. Why would you even be looking at it? If you love Sherlock Holmes, or are otherwise kind of meh about the whole sub-genre but you like a good science fiction yarn with strong world-building, excellent characters and a rolling, highly entertaining plot, this is well worth a look. There’s just not much more I can say.
So let’s consult the meters, shall we?
There’s a little bit of match-making, and you can always depend on Watson to have a relationship befuddlement or two, but Watson and Holmes generally doesn’t have time for that sort of bullplop. There are mysteries to solve, dastardly plots to unravel and, in short, the game being afoot to worry about. A Mrs. Hudson out of a possible Irene Adler (the saucy adaptations version of Irene Adler) for Watson and Holmes.
Some solid battlefield, jungle and street mayhem in this story, a few grisly murders and such, as one would expect. But overall it’s not such a gory outing. Two flesh-gobbets out of a possible five.
Again, it’s hard for the WTF-o-meter to quantify the raw WTFs per million in this book because of the interference we’re getting from the high levels of Doylian radiation coming off the source material. *whangs the WTF-o-meter a couple of times with a violin bow* Yeah … nah, it’s just giving a consistent reading of “Basil Rathbone out of a possible Rathil Basbone” and that’s – to be honest that’s just not a thing.
My Final Verdict
Watson and Holmes was a very enjoyable read. What else can one say? I had a lot of fun recognising the references and geeking out over the sci-fi construct they were slathered over. Cool setting and backstory, great aliens and tech, this has everything I like in a sci-fi combined with a lot of what I like in a mystery. And Dawson’s next trick was apparently doing the same for Moby Dick, so fuck it all. Four stars.
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