Saturday, July 14, 2012

Steampunked Holmesians.

My paper-and-ink copy of the much touted Steampunk Holmes Kickstarter project arrived today.

The box it came in was book-sized, about two inches deep. The book itself wasn’t filling up that space more than the packing peanuts around it – the total page count, including illustrations, blank pages, credits, and ads: a slim 144 pages of non-justified type. An envelope might have served the slim tome as well, but I suppose I appreciate the care in getting it through the mails intact.

The slender feel of it was a daunting enough start, but when I started reading it and went, “Hey, this is Bruce-Partington Plans!” . . . that was when my first glimmers of disappointment started. (There is even an acknowledgement that it’s an adaptation of “Bruce Partington” on the copyright page . . . and yet that fact was none too plain in the Kickstarter proposal.)

The first fifty pages were an extended “Bruce-Partington” with a name or two changed to protect the innocent original, and B-P was never my favorite Holmes tale. In fact, it's one of my least favorites. When it suddenly became a comic book without pictures, full of overblown action and cannon-embedded bionic arms, I was already starting to doze, and the action-chaos didn't really help.

At some point the phrase “over-produced fan fiction” came into my head and just wouldn’t leave. I realize that the whole point of the Kickstarter project was to create a nifty iBook for the iPad, and not an actual nifty book for the bookshelf. But after the steampunkish success of two Sherlock Holmes major motion pictures and the modern day success of Sherlock on the BBC, we’re starting to expect better things from this new wave of Sherlock, and  I don’t think this was it.

We always expect great things from Sherlock Holmes. He's a great character, whatever sort of universe he's in, and I suppose that's why we develop such a distaste for bad pastiche. If you go into a lame vampire book expecting lame vampire drama, how can you be disappointed? But if you're expecting a fresh new take on Holmes and find "Bruce-Partington Plans" with a few motors and weapons of mass destruction thrown in . . . well, there's further to fall.

Here's to better Sherlock days ahead!

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