It might have all begun with Kim's 1994 book The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories. Or perhaps in the short story 'Clubland Heroes' that appeared iIt might have all begun with Kim's 1994 book The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories. Or perhaps in the short story 'Clubland Heroes' that appeared in Joe Lansdale's anthology Retro Pulp Tales in 2006 (reprinted in The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club 2007). Or even a vague element of his most recent novel An English Ghost Story. But while all are obviously contributing factors, the heart of the story, as noted in the acknowledgements, is an expansion, or extension, of the 2010 novella 'Kentish Glory: The Secret of Drearcliffe Grange School' as published in Mysteries of the Diogenes Club. For longtime Newman fans, this sort of cross pollination is exactly as it should be, and for this reader, the result is an utter delight. For readers not so well grounded in Newman's sort of linked worlds, or an utter newbie to Newman's writing, or even someone coming directly from An English Ghost Story, it may be a slightly baffling read, at least so far as to why he's writing 'Girl's Own' style fantasy adventure in 2015.
This is nothing like the sort of scholastic bait and switch SF philosophizing in a Kazuo Ishiguro-esque Never Let Me Go, vein, nor is it the beautifully horrifying apocalyptic little-girl-done wrong ala Mike Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts (although if you blended those two books with a Ronald Searles 'St. Trinian's' cartoon, or the associated cinematic stylings, you'd be on the right track), instead it is unabashedly pure Grade-A Kim Newman Brit-pulp, with all the usual nods to external influences (Sally Nikola is clearly the spawn of Guy Boothby's Dr. Nikola) and his own previous work (Janice Marsh of 'The Big Fish' makes an appearance, as does Catriona Kaye of numerous Diogenes Club stories). In short, this is a glorious return to Kim Newman's 'Diogenes Club' stories form.
In a spoiler-free nutshell, the plot (it's a superhero origin story of sorts, if you've read the two Diogenes Club stories I mentioned above)revolves around young Amy Thomsett, a girl with an 'Unusual' ability, who is sent off to the Drearcliffe Grange boarding school for girls, shortly after WWI, where she gets caught up in some almost Lovecraftian extra-dimensional hijinx while trying to fit in with her classmates. Sounds simple? Almost YA-like? Well, don't be fooled, it's creepy, funny, and with some downright nasty moments, and it all comes together to be greater than the sum of its parts with Newman nailing the period language and character types perfectly.
As I said, perhaps not the best book to begin with to enter the delights of Kim Newman's vaguely connected worlds, although not the worst either, given that Titan will be reprinting Kim's 'Diogenes Club' stories shortly, it's not the worst place to get on board. Me, I loved it and look forward to more....more
I've had this sitting on the shelf since its release in 2005, but decided I'd best read it before the film opens. It's a beautifully written, ultimateI've had this sitting on the shelf since its release in 2005, but decided I'd best read it before the film opens. It's a beautifully written, ultimately sad and reflective piece of work that attempts to breathe a certain degree of depth into the character of a rather elderly Sherlock Holmes dealing with age and memory loss. It's certainly a very 'original' take on Holmes, fairly engaging, which is down to the lovely writing style more than the story, but on completion I found myself wondering about the point of it all. As a study of aging, loneliness, isolation and and memory loss, it's fascinating, but as a Holmes tale, well, I don't think I really 'get' why Holmes was needed as the protagonist. If the goal was to show the hidden side of Holmes, the human side, laced with all the attached foibles and intricacies of human relationships, I guess it achieves that, but I was still left wondering 'To what end?' In any event, it was a fine read, just to my mind, a vaguely pointless one. Can't begin to imagine how this work will translate to the screen. Guess I'll find out soon... ...more
It's Sherlock Holmes...Hammer-Style! A fun little read that takes Holmes firmly into occult territory and pits the Master Detective against a coven ofIt's Sherlock Holmes...Hammer-Style! A fun little read that takes Holmes firmly into occult territory and pits the Master Detective against a coven of satanists determined to raise the Devil himself. Davies, a dab hand at the Watsonian voice, tells a cracking good tale that owes as much to Hammer films of the 50s and 60s, specifically The Devil Rides Out and The Witches, as it does to Conan Doyle. Enjoyable from the start through to the slightly wobbly finish. 3.5 stars....more
As I made my way through David Thomas Moore's anthology "Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets: An Anthology of Holmesian Tales Across Time and SpaAs I made my way through David Thomas Moore's anthology "Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets: An Anthology of Holmesian Tales Across Time and Space" I couldn't help but think 'I wish I had edited this book'. Not because I think it's poorly edited, needed work, or anything like that, but because I'm bloody envious of how good it is while being so far off the beaten track of a typical Sherlock Holmes anthology. Of the 14 stories presented, all of which are more or less 'alternate universe' takes on Holmes and Watson, there is only one clunker, which is mighty impressive given the ease with which most stories could have gone wildly off the rails. Be aware, in some stories you will not find anyone named Sherlock Holmes. This antho isn't about mimicry of ACD's writing style, or structure of stories; it's about characters, iconic characters whose bundle of traits are 'universal' in a literary, not literal, sense, and work in any place or time. I like this book. Its smart. It's challenging. It's an exploration. The concept behind it and the various ideas that drive it, work for me. Easily the best book of Sherlock Holmes related fiction I've read this year. ...more
Discounting last year’s ANNO DRACULA: JOHNNY ALUCARD (I do so hesitantly, but it was largely an assemblage of previously published novella pieces withDiscounting last year’s ANNO DRACULA: JOHNNY ALUCARD (I do so hesitantly, but it was largely an assemblage of previously published novella pieces with new connective tissue pulling the storyline together) it has been roughly 15 long years (LIFE’S LOTTERY 1999) since we’ve had a new novel from Kim Newman. Sure, we’ve had plenty of incredibly fun novellas and short story collections in the ANNO DRACULA and DIOGENES CLUB and MORIARTY vein to keep us occupied, and every one of them a pop-culture laden fanboy joy, but no full-length standalone explorations of theme. Happily, AN ENGLISH GHOST STORY has made the wait more than worthwhile. What we have in this new novel is a skilfully crafted piece of work from a writer who is clearly at the top of his game. Kim gives the traditional ghost story, specifically the haunted house theme - a fragmented family moves into what turns out to be a haunted house and weird stuff happens - his own spin. Familiar tropes? You bet. Kim hasn’t entirely eschewed the Victorian/Edwardian or 60s/70s pop-lit culture influences that characterize so much of his work. We are in a world where Catriona Kaye and Drearcliffe Grange (of the ANNO DRACULA and DIOGENES CLUB stories) are referenced in rewarding fashion, and there’s no escaping Henry James’ THE TURN OF THE SCREW, or the film influences of THE HAUNTING or LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, but it’s all explored and delivered with a surprising sensitivity, emotional depth, understanding of human foibles in relationships and a maturity of voice I’ve not seen in Kim’s previous work. There’s a hint of commonality with Neil Gaiman’s deft working of light in darkness and the late Graham Joyce’s nostalgic warmth that permeates and elevates this book. It’s the voice telling the story, as much as the story itself, that makes a read worthwhile. Sure, there are scares galore, a measured ratcheting up of tension and a creepy atmosphere that work beautifully throughout, but the underlying driving force is in exploring the human relationships, the love that binds us in our family relationships, about recognizing who we are, who we need, how we fit together to flourish as human beings. This is everything I hoped it would be, and was surprised to get what I wanted and more, which is to say this is Kim Newman at his best and it’s exactly what it says on the wrapper…it’s AN ENGLISH GHOST STORY. ...more