Sun Nov 13 13:46:57 EST 2011

A Sherlock Holmes Omnibus

There is a character trait I like to call "intellectual godmode". It is a feature where one character operates at a level far beyond that of his peers, but it's more than just being smart. It's an ability to see details, understand motivations and race through deductions in a way that looks plausible on paper, but the other characters (and the reader) have little hope of keeping up. When done well, it creates a feeling of "I could do that, if I thought faster/observed more/knew more". When done poorly, the reader cries foul and loses suspension of disbelief. Ender Wiggin has it. Sherlock Holmes has it. On that note, I have finally finished reading the A Sherlock Holmes Omnibus. (I don't remember how I got it into a format that my Kindle liked, so it's just the HTML version.)

The stories are extremely formulaic. Holmes often has everything figured out right from the start, calling the problems "simple" and "elementary" (although he never says "elementary, my dear Watson"). Because the stories are almost entirely written from Watson's point of view, he never sees the details or draws the inferences that Holmes does. The reader, therefore, doesn't have a fighting chance of puzzling things out until Holmes reveals all, and the result can feel like a cheap trick. Even in the two stories written from Holmes' perspective, the details are kept from the reader until the end.

Even so, the stories are enjoyable. When Holmes reveals what he has deduced, the inferences look plausible. It's an entertaining world that he lives in, where even the villains act like gentlemen. Once cornered, the criminal will usually tell all and go away quitely. Very few stories end without a tidy resolution.

The verdict? Read three or four, and keep going only if you enjoy them as much as I did. You'll have a good enough idea of what happens, anyway. Then go and play Evil Sorceror's Party, as knowing the source material makes the Cyroq Ohms/Watt-san dialogue even more enjoyable.

Posted by Jack Kelly | Permanent link | File under: readings