The Further Adventures of Sherlock Homes:
The War of the Worlds. 1975, 2009.
By Manly W. Wellman and Wade Wellman.
Titan Books. ISBN: 9781848564916
Okay. I was really looking forward to this. I’m not the most knowledgable fan of Sherlock Holmes... I’ve read about a third of the original stories, read a few modern takes on him, own all the Basil Rathbone movies and that’s about it. Nevertheless... I was definitely chomping at the bit to read this entry into the recent series of Titan Books reprints, and in this case expansion, of old Holmes crossover stories.
I was even more anxious to start my Holmsian adventure when I found out that another starring character in this novel is my favourite Arthur Conan Doyle hero, Professor Challenger.
Yes... that’s right... this novel pits Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Watson (absent from most the novel) and his “old friend” Professor Challenger against H. G. Wells' martians... being as it is an alternative “viewpoint” of the events that take place in Well’s famous novel The War of the Worlds.
I have to say, however, that I was very quickly disappointed with the whole affair. Holmes is much less the analytical and observant hero of the original stories in this one... he’s much more a common sense hero... and this doesn’t really sit very well with me given that I’m used to Holmes displaying almost superhuman powers of deduction in his quest to find the solution to whatever challenge stands in his way.
But worse than this was the really stupid change that the authors have chosen to make to the character. Everyone knows that Mrs. Hudson is Holmes and Watsons long suffering landlady... what everyone doesn’t know until they’ve read this book, the authors would have us believe, is that Holmes and Mrs. Hudson are lovers and are conducting their sexual affairs right under the nose, so to speak, of Watson without him even noticing. Why this terrible idea to humanise Holmes in this ridiculous manner? It’s completely unnecessary and if anything, further diminishes this “incarnation” of the character even more. They even go so far as to have Holmes and Mrs. Hudson’s husband “stand off” in a pub only for Mr. Hudson to be captured by a martian! You know, last year I read a really great novel where one of the central premises was that, since his “death” at the Reichenbach Falls, Holmes had been replaced with the Indian “Hiawatha” who has been successfully masquerading as Holmes for reasons I can’t quite remember. And I’ll tell you now... that doesn’t grate nearly as much as Holmes and Mrs. Hudson full throng in a sordid love affair. And Watson really was never a stupid character right? I mean, I love the old Nigel Bruce version of Watson (who doesn’t?) but he was never like the Watson in the original stories. Watson would have noticed all this going on... in this novel he’s made out to be more like a buffoon.
The saving grace of this novel is that the events of Wells' original novel are followed quite well (for the most part and any indescrepancies are dealt with in the conclusion of the novel... a nasty letter from Watson to the sensationalist reporter H. G. Wells). Also... to be fair... they’ve got the character of Professor Challenger pretty well... although he’s a bit of a broader character to begin with methinks and so he’s therefore a little harder to muck up.
I’d seriously love to recommend this book but I just can’t. It’s so much less than the brilliant premise promised. Fans of The War of the Worlds would do better reading the old 1970’s Marvel comic book series Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds if they want something which builds on Wells' Martian tripods in at least a more entertaining way than this. The novel, for this reader anyway, fails to deliver.