Doesn’t Quite Hit All the Notes, and Falls a Bit Flat at the End – A Review of At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon

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Lately I’ve noticed something in the book blurbs I come across on websites like Goodreads and Amazon: the “X Meets X” comparison, with “X” representing a popular book, TV show, movie, or video game. On one hand, I understand the prevalence; it is a very useful shorthand, after all, for describing the concept behind a particular book by using widely familiar media to give the reader some idea of what to expect. On the other hand, the comparisons can be (often are, rather) deceptive – I’ve seen these “X Meets X” comparisons, read the book in question, and wondered how in the world the blurb’ writer even thought the comparison was apt in any way except in the vaguest of terms.

Because of this, I’ve developed a rather healthy scepticism where it concerns such comparisons. I find it a lazy way of describing a book’s concept – useful when pitching a book for publication, perhaps, but far less useful once the book has already been published and is out in the wild. I have been burned far too many times by such comparisons to really want to believe them at face value.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes – A Review of London Falling by Paul Cornell

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Trigger warnings for this novel can be found at the very bottom of this review.

If there is a city that has a soul in the same way we humans think of a soul, then London would definitely be it. Though it is far from the oldest city that ever existed, nor is it the oldest city still standing, it is probably one of the most vibrant in the world. It is a city with its own unique pulse, its own unique personality – and if we can define a soul as anything, it is probably according to that sense of self, the idea of the self being unique and separate from everything and everyone else. And London, as a city, is very much that.

Because of this, London – and the United Kingdom as a whole – make the perfect setting for urban fantasy stories. Though some of the most well-known authors of the genre have been American, who often mix the aesthetics and sensibilities of mid-twentieth century noir detective fiction with the shadows of the supernatural, British authors have been catching up, and have been using London as the primary setting. And in a way, this makes a lot of sense: the United Kingdom has an immense weight of history to it, and when a place has that much history – history that is constantly cycling through stages of remembrance and forgetfulness – then there is sure to be magic somewhere in there.

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A Gimmick That Sort-of, Kind-of Works – A Review of Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions by Lois H. Gresh

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Trigger warnings for this novel can be found at the very bottom of this review.

When an idea becomes ridiculously popular, it is inevitable that the idea will be used in almost anything and everything, often melding with other, equally popular ideas. This is especially true today, when the Internet has made concepts and ideas easy to share, and easy to find. From out of this melange anyone could pull together bits and fragments of various things and put them together in new ways. Sometimes, that new thing is a fresh take on old material – something that revives interest in the originals, while simultaneously maintaining its own unique identity and appeal. Other times, it is nothing more than a gimmick, not anything truly fresh.

That has been the case with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Sherlock Holmes carries much cachet in any sphere of storytelling, since he has become the “quintessential detective”. There are innumerable homages, adaptations, and pastiches available out there, in all forms of media: from genre fiction to serious literary fiction, all the way to movies, television shows, and video games. The volume is such that it is possible to build an entire branch of literary scholarship dedicated to Sherlock Holmes alone – in fact, many Sherlockian societies are already doing just that.

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A Gangster, A Rapper, and Sherlock Holmes Walk Into the Ghettos of Los Angeles – A Review of IQ by Joe Ide

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Sherlock Holmes is a hot-ticket item in the world of popular culture. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s greatest literary creation has pretty much taken a life of his own in the years since he first appeared in The Strand Magazine in the 1800s, and remains popular to this day. Most recently, he has appeared in films (played by Robert Downey Jr.), television shows (played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the United Kingdom and Jonny Lee Miller in the United States), and video games. And of course, there are the many pastiches and derivative works in book format that continue to feed readers’ love affair with the quintessential detective.

However, times are rapidly changing, and while the appeal of certain aspects of Holmes – his unerring logic, his ability to unearth the truth from a series of seemingly-unrelated events and items, and so on – will never really stop being popular, certain aspects of him do need to be updated for changing times, and changing concerns. For instance: Holmes’ Victorian sensibilities have long since been set aside, especially in contemporary adaptations of him such as in the BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’ Elementary. His gender has also changed: for example, in Sherry Thomas’ A Study in Scarlet Women (a clear homage to Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet”), everything is still the same, except “Sherlock” Holmes becomes “Charlotte” Holmes. And then there are the many, many “Holmes-esque” characters that are not directly Sherlock Holmes, but who are nods to him anyway. Those characters can be found in practically single genre of media, and enumerating them all would likely require several years’ worth of research.

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The Books that Fell Through The Cracks: The 2017 Mid-Year Grab Bag, Part 1

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As happens every year, there is always a set of books that, for various reasons both valid and not-so-valid, I have chosen not to review at length. However, some of those books can be rather good – or rather bad, as the case may be – and it would not be right not to at least say something about them.

I am certain that the reader has also noticed that this post is coming rather later than it should, since it is coming out in August instead of July. To that, I can only plead the pressing business of work, and the oppression of a reading and writing slump. The latter also explains why there are more books on this list that usual – so much so that I had to split it into two parts – because right now I have no energy to write nonfiction reviews, largely due to some self-doubt I need to work out.

Nevertheless, here they are: the books that fell through the cracks, honest reviews and all – Part 1:

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