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Monday, 9 May 2016

VALLIS TIMORIS Reviewed

Pauline Morgan has recently reviewed VALLIS TIMORIS for the Birmingham SF Group's newsletter, and she has very kindly allowed me to reproduce it here.

VALLIS TIMORIS by Mike Chinn and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Fringeworks, Kindle edition £3.86, £11.99 paperback, 289 pages.
ISBN: 978-1-909573-24-6
Copyright is a tricky minefield to navigate. Different countries interpret it differently. Once an author dies, there is a period of time before their works become out of copyright. It means that the publications can be reprinted without any royalties paid or permission required from the estate. It also means that characters created by the out-of-copyright author become available for further adventures involving them to be penned. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is out of copyright and his most celebrated character, Sherlock Holmes, is in the public domain. As a result, the BBC have created a modern version of Holmes which worked brilliantly.

Adrian Middleton has taken advantage of the situation by creating a series of books under the general heading of the Moriarty Paradigm. The brief for his authors includes using the original Doyle text and not only adding to improve the flow for a modern reader but to place the story in a parallel universe. The basis for this treatment by Mike Chinn is THE VALLEY OF FEAR.

The first thing to note is that this alternative Holmes is set against a steampunk background with a network of aerostats (dirigibles) across the world. Man has also reached the moon. Otherwise, it sticks very closely to the original concept for the first two sections of the book.

In both VALLIS TIMORIS and THE VALLEY OF FEAR, Holmes receives a mysterious letter from one Porlock. This is a coded warning which actually arrives too late since Holmes and Watson are shortly summoned to investigate the death of John Douglas of Birlstone Manor House. In both books, this investigation takes up the first part of the book. Chinn, however, deviates from the original script by adding a race across the English countryside between a train and an aerostat.

The next section in both is an account of how Douglas made the enemies who pursued his from America to his English retreat in order to seek revenge for a perceived betrayal. While Doyle’s account is set in a god-forsaken corner of America, Chinn has transposed the action to the moon. Same story, different place. Doyle finished his short novel with an epilogue. Chinn takes that and folds inside it an expedition by Holmes to the moon to seek the missing pieces of the puzzle.

The question is not whether this book is well written – it is – but whether it enhances the body of work that already surrounds Doyle and Holmes. The steampunk development works well and since the movement has its roots in Victorian technology it is entirely possible to envisage Holmes and Watson inhabiting this universe. For those who are not intimately familiar with Doyle’s stories, then his version is enjoyable. The purists may wonder why, since almost the whole of Doyle’s text has been incorporated into this volume. I have yet to be convinced that this is a worthwhile approach. Having said that, I did enjoy Mike Chinn’s additions.

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