Sunday, April 15, 2012

Page 54: The House of Silk

Sherlock Holmes is back and as good as ever.  The Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. has authorized Anthony Horowitz to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel.  The House of Silk returns the reader to Victorian London with all of its wealth, poverty, and crime.  Sherlock and Dr. Watson are back, and as brilliant as ever.

Watson is writing this as his last Sherlock Holmes story while living in an assisted care facility after World War I.  Holmes has died and Watson misses him terribly.  The story he writes is of such a sensitive nature that he has given orders that it not be published until long after his death.  He wants it published in a future age that will be able to deal with the depraved nature of the events that reached into the highest levels of English society and government.  I guess the second decade of the twenty-first century may be seen as a most fitting time for the publication.

The setting is London in the winter of 1890.  The weather is cold, foggy, and filled with the smells of Victorian London--smoke, soot, horse manure, garbage, unwashed bodies, and good old dirt.  I dare say if you picked up this book and the author was listed as Conan Doyle you would not be able to tell the difference unless you were a die hard Sherlock Holmes fan.  The story is that good. Holmes is in his intellectual prime as a detective and amazes everyone with his deductive ability based on clues he easily sees, but others do not.

Watson refers to both the adventures of The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk in this story.  In the Preface to the book he writes: "They (sic) were, in some respects, the most sensational of Sherlock Holmes's career but at the time it was impossible for me to tell them, for reasons that will become abundantly clear."  After you read this you will know what he means.

The book has all the hallmarks of a Sherlock Holmes story as well as the characters.  There is, of course, Holmes and Watson, 221 B Baker Street, Inspector Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson.  Watson even recounts how he met Sherlock Holmes by chance through a mutual acquaintance.

This book is very good!  If you like the Sherlock Holmes novels of Conan Doyle you must read this one.  Once again "The game's afoot."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Page 53: A Song of Ice and Fire Continued

On Page 51 I reviewed the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, and promised more.  I must confess I have been reading a lot since my last post, but have not written about them.  I hope to catch up a bit in this one.

I have now read the first five books in the series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons.  This is not the end.  Two more books are scheduled to complete this seven book series.  The last two are: The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring to be published at some future date.  Those of you who have read any or all of these know they are long books, but well worth the journey.  In fact, they are so long that it requires two credits to purchase them from Audible.  I have not used Audible for any of the books and some of my friends tell me this is a mistake.

The mythical world of Westeros and all the other lands in this series are set in a medieval-like world that is thousands of years old.  It is as if the characters are trapped in a version of the Middle Ages, but a unique one that includes magic, dragons, giants, mammoths, skin changers, and an Ice Age version of the walking dead.  The plots and sub-plots continue to play out chapter by chapter and book by book using the perspective of one character for each chapter.  I think this is a good technique, but sometimes it gets confusing since the author, George R. R. Martin, does not write in a linear time frame.  There are so many characters and houses (families) that two books will occur within the same time period, but deal with different characters in each book.

These books are subtle in their plotting yet contain a great deal of brutality and bloodshed.  Some of the best characters are multidimensional.  For example, some I considered more evil than good early in the series reveal themselves to have a good side later in the series.  I don't want to be a spoiler, but be prepared for some of your favorites to be killed off by the author.  This is my one criticism of this series.  I don't like the author's penchant for killing off characters I have come to like reading about.  In spite of this, A Song of Ice and Fire is a great series.  It is very broad in scope, ambitious in the number and crafting of characters, has outstanding plots and sub-plots, and is a great read.  I still think it is one of the few series in this genre that compares with Tolkien.  I'm still liking this series and can't wait for the next two books to come out.  If you have not read any of these books, what are you waiting for? If you have started the series, keep going.  George R. R. Martin is a genius and he never fails to surprise and entertain the reader in the first five books of the series.