Review: The Consulting Detective Trilogy Part I: University

The Consulting Detective Trilogy Part I: University
The Consulting Detective Trilogy Part I: University by Darlene A. Cypser
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Won on First Reads! and I can’t wait til it arrives—I’m a great fan of Sherlock Holmes and am definitely crossing my fingers.

Final Review:

3.5 Stars

Maybe I should round up, but I’m trying to be as scrupulously honest as possible, and I think I liked it less than ‘really’.

The Consulting Detective Part I describes the university years of Sherlock Holmes (I’m sure you never would have guessed). It is less of a standalone novel than I’d supposed. Though The Crack in the Lens was described as a prequel, TCDpI continues directly after the events of that novel, and there’s little catch-up for new readers.

As a long-term fan fiction reader, I’m not sure how much this will throw off the average reader.

To sum up as best I can without spoilers, Sherlock survived a traumatic event back home, that left him ill and mentally fragile. By the time TCDpI takes place, he’s mostly recovered, but his convalescence is long, and he needs to decide what to do with his life.

The ‘in media res’ beginning cause some confusion for the reader, mostly in the lack of description: for instance I didn’t know Sherlock’s servant, Jonathan, was only 13 until chapter 4.

I’m not sure this book should be described as a “trilogy”. While it covers only one era of Sherlock’s life, there’s not a strong plot thread—it’s more an overall plot arc, told through an episodic structure. For the most part, I enjoyed the breadth of his experiences, as all these different events do show the growth of his character effectively.

The characters were fun. Sherrinford, Sherlock’s mother and father, Jonathan, all felt rather thin. However, I loved Mycroft; every time he showed up he right on point, exactly right. Since many writers seem to struggle with his character, I especially appreciated his few brief appearances. One character, a Lord Cecil, is the standard bully in any school story; though he and Sherlock rarely interact, so it doesn’t overwhelm Sherlock’s story. Cecil is also a self-aware jerk, and frankly I liked him better than way, but then he’s reformed.

The prose was workmanlike, for the most part. Cypserstruggles with integrated dialogue and exposition into the story. However,she clearly did her research, and there were several surprising details. I did notice a few problems with typos and run on sentences, but not too disruptive.

Sidney Paget: Sherlock Holmes

Sidney Paget: Sherlock Holmes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite part is that in some ways, Sherlock makes some dumb decisions and lots of mistakes. He lacks much of his later self-control. Knowing Sherlock almost entirely through Watson (who, honestly, is my favorite), that sounds a little odd, but it makes sense for such a young man, and it’s never out of character, especially for the back story we’re given. Sometimes he veers toward melodrama, but not for long, and especially as he recovers and events pick up, most of that goes away.

Overall, if you like Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and are interested in a logical Sherlockian back story, I’d definitely recommend this novel!

View all my reviews

Fan is Short for Fanatic, You Know

Not that it’s inherently a bad thing, of course, given that I’m a fan of a great many things.  I often cross the line into obsession, just a little bit. That doesn’t mean I blame other people for liking things I don’t. And that the creators probably have a different agenda than I do.

For an example I didn’t plan on using, Hawaii 5-0 (the new one) has decided to jump genres from quasi-police drama to extreme Super Spies! (this choice I don’t get so much).

However, many fans are complaining about the season premier of NCIS because they blew up the building last season’s finale and then wrapped up a plot line taking at least three months in less than an hour. While I missed the potential for character development and hurt/comfort, the writers aren’t thinking about it from a fan’s perspective. I also wonder if they understand fan angst after such a dramatic event: like that TV show that shot a main character and made the entire season a dream. It’s kind of a cop-out.

In the case of NCIS, though, a lot of time wrapping up last season’s plot probably would distract and tedious for regular television watchers. If you don’t obsess over a show, how are you supposed to keep all the necessary back story straight? The generally episodic nature of NCIS probably explains much of its longevity (and lack of on-screen shipping—offend no one, engage everyone!).

Have you heard the term ‘shipping’? I could link you, but you may want to preserve your innocence.

English: Shipping dock in Hawaii

Not this kind of shipping [Shipping dock in Hawaii] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suffice to say, it’s the point where many fans start slipping the line to fanatic. People get passionate about which characters have relationships and who they have them with. I find the intensity odd, but since I read primarily non-relationship works (called ‘gen’), I don’t bother with it. More insidiously, some less than level-headed fans direct their attentions to just one character. Of course, they’re writing fan fictions, or participating on forums, and they are incapable of sympathetic reasoning toward any other character, cannot under any circumstances recognize on-show teasing, and refuse to recognize their character could possibly have any flaws.

Perhaps this explains Twilight. Despite all the flaws written into both Edward and Bella’s characters, when viewed objectively (snobbery, jealousy, possessiveness), because they are never explicitly stated in-text as flaws, and indeed, are written as virtues, people who enjoy the series can’t stand to hear that anyone dislikes what they  love.

Clearly there is a failure to teach critical thinking.

Just because I like McGee, for example, best of the characters on NCIS, doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that all his flaws are non-existent. Like all the characters, he suffers from inconsistencies  what with all the years and all its producers, NCIS isn’t a show built for canon purists.

But so many people can’t seem to accept this at all. They attack other fans, other fan-works and they can’t believe their prejudices aren’t supported by evidence: to the point where they can’t even participate in a reasonable discussion. For instance, NCIS takes little seriously, it’s a funny show. But Tony fans take every single joke as an assault on his character, regardless of whether the character takes any particular notice. I should also note this trend holds steady with any show, any character.

Fans can be the best at the ‘question anything’ mentality, coming up with wild theories to make sense of plot holes or reused actors playing different roles. Critical thinking begins with asking questions, but when fans find a pet theory and stop asking, it defeats the purpose. It’s not ‘thinking’ anymore, it’s delusion.

Refereeing Sanity

If the referees who made the bad call at the football game—which I know nothing about, as I don’t follow sports—aren’t getting death threats, I will be flabbergasted, flattened by shock.

What a terrible thing, this lack of surprise. How has it become acceptable to wish death on complete strangers? And for something, as dare I say, as useless and pointless as a sport game.

Some time ago, I read that, with all the movement of modern life, and lack of geographic and family connections, the college is the new hometown. That’s the place to which you swear allegiance. Perhaps sports are the same? We carve niches for ourselves, our identities, out of these fragile things like sports, or books.

On Goodreads today, I read several negative reviews of The Name of the Wind. One commentator wished the reviewer to die in a fire—it’s a common expression on the internet, though not one usually said ‘face-to-face’ in even that most figurative sense. But for that Rothfuss fan, did he truly believe the reviewer deserved that level of rhetoric? for disagreeing over a book?

And what about the commentator who offered cancer as an appropriate punishment, though more sardonically.

I’m sure, were these people actually interviewed, they didn’t mean it. What’s online isn’t real, after all.

Sports seem to bring more sincere anger though, more passion, more savagery. A bad call at my high school football game (an honest injustice) also lead to death threats, to the point where the referee had to be escorted from town by police. My aunt told me a story about substituting for a mail carrier, when something went wrong: “She said, ‘I hope you die,’ right to my face.”

I can’t claim full innocence myself. Driving exposes me to stupid people without any filter (unlike the internet) and when I’m nearly sideswiped (and alone) I’ll shriek aloud and think I hope you get in an accident (though more likely profanity-laced because I can’t seem to stop myself) but am immediately after shattered with guilt. I have to pray for their safety and happiness—which is almost worse, because I would rather they learn their lesson and not do it again.

As I hope is obvious, this is a trend that bothers me tremendously.

What little I know about the football bad call came from Good Morning America. Now I suppose I can’t blame them for giving it priority—the show isn’t designed to actually give anyone important information, just the highlights of what’s popular for ratings (although people could just go online and see all these memes for themselves). Still, when they joked about the referees hiding in the dark in their homes…I was taken aback, to say the least. People can be violent, and when you’re being threatened anonymously, likely by others who can find out far too much about you, it’s just not funny. Given that the GMA hosts have been pushing the problems with online bullying, I’m surprised no one thought to warn them that this is exactly the same problem.

I touched on the idea that all of this is due to misplaced passion. Because our modern lives have so much upheaval and so little stability, and so rarely prioritizes self-knowledge, society pushes worth based on exterior markers. With so many people in the world and the idealization of ‘individuality’, never defined of course, people latch on to anything they can to create smaller communities: things that make them unique, but not too unique. In The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhayanathan calls it the “local cultural movement”, and details its causes and effects.

And I have so much else to say about that: see these bookmarks?

bookmarks

The downside of library books is that I’m not allowed to write in them.

In other words, people get irrational and won’t accept any criticism because they are insecure. No one has taught them how to learn who they are—and while this is a cultural thing, education should be a solution. But since we’ve turned schools into nothing more than a standardized test factories, people don’t even have the chance to learn it anymore (the real learning was always optional, because it can’t be forced).

I keep touching on other posts I want to do, so before I get too off track: please try to take yourself less seriously. If you love something and hear someone else talking about how much it sucks? Take a deep breath. It’s not you, I promise.

In fact, difficult as it is, try reaching out specifically to those who disagree. Don’t attack them, just listen. Try to understand.

Maybe you’ll learn something.

I feel like I’ve said this before…

Ideas and Imaginings

 

Waking up slowly in the morning is one of my favorite times, though I rarely have the luxury. It’s just too easy to stay up late, and wake up to the alarm.

But I do hate falling asleep slowly. Not so much a problem with insomnia, but I suffer from a surplus of ideas I simply can’t get down anywhere as they don’t come when the lights are on.

And they’re always my best ideas. I write very well in my head. The ideas just come to quickly to write down, especially since they’re mostly images and untranslatable, and they work best when I don’t slow them down. Once I try writing (or even typing) them, they’re nowhere near as vivid, as engaging.

This is clearly, in part, my brain just tricking me.

I just wish I could get them out of my head to confirm it. Because they seem to be good ideas. I can even edit them as I’m lying there, revising for characterization and flow. That’s not something I’m good at when awake.

And it happens when I nap too.

I don’t actually like napping, but lately I get home from work, make it to my bed, and crash until about 7. I don’t sleep well during these periods…just sort of hover in a mostly asleep state that still produces somewhat controlled dreams. Admittedly, these dreams have weaker logic and more surreal premises. But they always feel like they could work, if only I could keep them in mind enough, completely enough to write them down.

Like most dreams, though, they fade as I wake up. And with so many other things going on late at night I forget to even try to remember.

Ah well. Perhaps someday I will bet my discipline in line with my desires. I do love writing. There are just too many distractions. And while reading provides inspiration and is somewhat easier, television and the internet require much less and are so easy.

Anyone know a cheap writer’s retreat? Or even a box without internet access.

Yes. A box might work (especially if it’s dark).

 

Bear Baiting

Sorry for the late post, but for most of the day I’ve had a big, bulky bandage on my thumb and it felt strange to type with.

 

You see, when we went to the wedding, both dad and brother decided to go with formal cowboy hats, rather than civilized wear. Mom and I did our best, but they wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise. Even the extended family now refers to us as ‘the clan’.

On the way home, we had to ensure we had the proper credentials to don such attire.

Therefore we stopped to wrestle bears.

As I’m sure you know, such things are highly regulated, even for rednecks and there is no significant risk to either human or bear. Lots of behind-the-scenes choreography, you might say. You may have guessed this isn’t my kind of thing, but given it was wrestle or walk home, I was nevertheless compelled.

So annoying.

Despite everything, I managed to get my thumb caught on one of the claws. He (the bear) did offer his apologies, which I told him were entirely unnecessary, given I hadn’t wanted to wrestle any bears in the first place and so let myself be rather careless.

Before you worry, no one else even got a scratch, and I’ve already graduated to your standard band-aid. We all made it home, and the guys got to keep their cowboy hats.

what is this I don’t even

Family Politics

 

Okay, I’m not actually going to blog about my family. I don’t particularly like people (specifically my brother) tagging me in everything on Facebook—not for any particular reason, but for as much time as I spend online, I’m generally concerned with my offline privacy. The recent trend toward trending has blurred the two. At any rate, I don’t want to put anyone else in that position, just in case.

Suffice to say, I’m glad we have a generally easy-going family. Like any family, undercurrents are everywhere for the unwary. But also we all know the triggers. I don’t think it’s too unpleasant.

And yay for weddings! If you have to gather for anything, a wedding is the best.

It’s the first time I’ve seen most of the family in years…and years. And getting out of town is a great benefit. Even if most of Idaho has pretty much the same climate and ecosystem I’m familiar with (traveling north or south or west from home gets much more variety).

I honestly love staying at hotels, too. This was my favorite part so far:

They had complimentary items, yes, but they didn’t carry multiple brands of each item. Not sure why they doubled up, but I’m sure the copy writer was simply enthusiastic.

On the other hand, this Holiday Inn just gave me quite the nicest razor I’ve ever owned.

 

It Turned Into a Meditation

 

Didn’t mention, but probably should have, mentioned I’m going to a cousin’s wedding this weekend. After all, it’s eating up two of my usual blogging days.

Despite all previous evidence to the contrary, I though on this trip, I would have been able to keep up with all my self-appointed tasks. That is in part, after all, why a laptop with extended battery power was so desirable. When you grow up in the middle of nowhere, you’re always anticipating long trips.

It may have happened. But just as I’d decided to pull out my computer and write about something—I’m not sure I remember anymore—we heard some terrible news from home.

Not personal news, as though that means much. It’s a small community. Small enough that “things like this don’t happen here” to apply, simply because people are too scattered to be prone to the kind of random violence cities suffer from.

This wasn’t random violence in any way, except that it happened victims just as innocent.

It’s the story you hear all the time in the papers and on the scroll bar of television news: nothing that makes the front page except locally, and nothing to develop an entire segment of precious TV space . Trust me, you’ve heard it before. I know it bothers me to see so little attention to such stories, since it’s often overshadowed by any celebrity doing anything.

I hate to say it, but it’s not much more or less shocking to hear than any of those other stories. I’ll think about it longer, it will be impossible not to, in such a small town. I don’t regret that. Often you never hear the follow-up as though it’s not important. But it’s harder to hear this story with names I know, people I’ve met. Not that I could change anything, have made any difference.

What is there to say? I don’t want to name anyone, focus the story. Give the family what privacy they can have. I don’t know details, and I almost wish I wouldn’t ever have to know more. That’s easier, of course, and why no one wants to talk about it.

Not long ago, my brother sent me a link to a list of stories to “restore your faith in humanity.” I love those stories. Just not so soon after something like this.