Titan Books, 281pp paperback, £7.99 cover price
Reviewed by R A Bardy (@mangozoid)
Guy Adam’s second foray into the wacky world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson is called The Army of Dr Moreau and is by turns both wonderfully wacky and wildly bizarre, if not just outright wild and wonderful. I haven’t been fortunate enough to read Guy’s first Sherlock Holmes effort, The Breath of God, but if it carries a similar levity and playfulness to this it’ll be well worth seeking out.
Not being a massive reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I can’t vouch for how closely Guy Adam’s characters conform to the classic Baker Street characters of old, but no doubt this may well irk more discerning readers. For my part however, I came to this with a fresh pair of eyes, an open mind, and a willingness to let whatever came rolling down the hill run right over me: To taste it, feel it, and most importantly, enjoy it… And to be honest, this is probably the only way to take this barmy adventure yarn – a dazzling combination of pulp and schlock would be a good summary, I guess.
As any self-respecting genre reader can probably gather, this Sherlock Holmes adventure is based around the crazy idea that the bio-genetic experiments of H. G. Wells’ Dr Moreau were continued long after his perceived death, and just how and by whom is part and parcel of the tale, of course, so I’ll not spoil it for you here.
This scientific romp is narrated by Dr Watson for the most part, and I believe Guy Adams has done well to evoke the character and mannerisms of our main protagonists, if not capturing them completely. Holmes’ split personality, from petty and childish to astute and commanding in nought to three paragraphs, will come across as either remarkably observant or unfulfilling, and I think to a certain extent, the book itself is probably a tad like marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. Either way, I hope you’d at least take your hat off to the author for his efforts in demonstrating a healthy respect for some of speculative fiction’s so-called founding fathers.
The author does a good job of bringing the grimy streets and sewers of 19th century London to life, ensuring every trip through them feels authentic, and… well… dank… The action takes place at a healthy pace, and the breakneck speed and excitement can only be considered a bonus, dragging the reader through it so fast that there isn’t really too much opportunity to over analyze and think too deeply about the somewhat hazy premise behind it all. In terms of a mystery I’d have to say this would probably come in near the very bottom of Holmes’ toughest cases, but maybe that’s the pay-off and I’ve missed something along the way?
It’s a short tale too, and for me this proved both a strength and a weakness – a strength in that the tale is done and dusted remarkably quickly, a weakness because… well… the tale is over so quickly that the conclusion and ending felt rushed, even brazen, and the fate of one specific genetic mismatch is particularly hard to swallow.
What we have here, I believe, is Guy Adams writing something akin to homage, if not an outright love letter to the genre masters and characters of old. As can no doubt be ascertained from the title, we have H. G. Wells to thank for the marvellously conceited world of Dr Moreau and his nefarious activities, but on top of that, Adams has also managed to shoehorn Wells’ Edward Prendick and Professor Cavor characters, and Doyle’s own Professor Challenger (The Lost World) and Abner Perry (At The Earth’s Core) in here. Even Jules Verne’s wonderfully potty Professor Lindenbrook from Journey To The Centre of the Earth is here too. All of the supporting cast get an opportunity in the limelight, albeit briefly. And I guess in that sense, it’s a job well done…
To summarise, ‘tis probably well worth a read, but don’t expect your brain to get any exercise out of it. Three words? Pulp. Schlock. Fun.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society website here