Book - Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu


The game's a-tentacle? Tony Cross reads Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions by Lois H.Gresh...

Well, this is bad.

It’s not because it is badly written, because it isn’t. It is because you can’t just whack to fictional universes together and expect it to work. This is, apparently, the first of a trilogy but I can’t say I’ll be rushing to buy the rest.

I’ve said before that the first issue with novel length Sherlock Holmes stories is that I don’t think they work well. Holmes works best in bite sized chunks. But, of course, that’s just my opinion but then what is criticism if it isn’t a personal opinion shored up by the critic’s literary hinterland.

The second and most important thing is that Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft do not work when hammered into the same fictional universe. It’s two entirely different world views. Sherlock Holmes is – to a degree – an optimistic creation. Watson and Holmes live in a world of logic and solidity. A world where – mostly – the bad men are caught. Watson himself is a stolid example of a certain type of fin de si├Ęcle Englishman. The sort of Englishman whose end will come on the battlefields of World War One and be turned into Bulldog Drummond or Richard Hannay. Watson is calm, courageous and intelligent. He’s not prone to panic. And fundamentally Holmes and Watson is a warm and comfortable fictional universe even if the adventures are sometime dark and unpleasant. We’ve always got 221B to retreat to.

Then you have Lovecraft’s world, which is cold, ancient and infinite. A universe populated with madness. A world where heroes don’t get to be heroic for long before the truth of what they’re facing pushes them over the edge. Or leads them to make terrible mistakes.

Putting the two together results in an ugly mess. It results in a Watson almost broken by his experiences. It leads to Sherlock unable to make deductions because nothing he is dealing with makes sense. It’s one of those things that seems like a good idea when talked about in the pub but works about as effectively as a chocolate teapot when tested.

It might help if I hadn’t found the whole thing a bit of a drag. It’s too long and too repetitive. We meet one eccentric person after another or we attended one weird ritual after another without getting far. By the end of the book Sherlock’s victory seems to have been achieved by luck. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me.

It also reads like a book written in the 21st century not the 19th (or 20th). There’s no sense of Conan Doyle’s London here at all.

I was trying to think if any of the film/television Holmes/Watsons would have tackled such an adventure? Brett and Cumberbatch wouldn’t. But perhaps the Hammer Cushing Holmes might? Rathbone perhaps. So, am I being harsh? I don’t know. All I can say with certainty is that this isn’t my cup of tea and I think that’s because the two fictional universes can’t exist in the same place. I don’t want Watson on the brink of a nervous breakdown but nor do I want a Lovecraft story that can’t doom its leads.

Follow Tony on Twitter at @Lokster71

Image - Titan Books