Monday, May 21, 2012

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes

Not too long ago I won a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles from Alice at Reading Rambo. I tried reading this a few years ago, when I was trying out different ereader programs on my iPod Touch. (This was my iBooks test. A Christmas Carol was my Kindle app selection). I quit reading it not because I wasn't enjoying it, but because I couldn't get myself to read on such a tiny screen. Which is stupid, by the way, because whenever I was actually reading on it it was fine. Other than the fact that I had to turn the page ever sentence or so. But I had trouble getting past the idea of the tiny screen so I never finished. Now I had a new chance and this book counts towards my Classics reading challenge so, I'm in!

I've read some Sherlock Holmes before. Just the short stories, never a full novel(la?) and I enjoy them. Also I can't help but picture Holmes and especially Watson as the mice from The Great Mouse Detective.
Although Disney left out all of the opium. And made Basil/Holmes less of an insufferable asshole.

Anyway, a doctor shows up with a case that only Sherlock Holmes can solve and tells him about this evil hound that has been terrorizing the Baskerville residence. Sir Charles Baskerville was found to have died OF FRIGHT with a big paw print near his body. There's a legend that this evil dog has been haunting the family every since one of the Baskerville descendants kidnapped and planned to rape this neighbor girl. Now the new Baskerville heir Sir Henry is due in England from Canada and the doctor is afraid the guy is going to get killed by the hell hound. Holmes agrees to take the case, but then says he needs to hang around London so Watson should go hang out in Devon for awhile till he can get away from all his other important work. Watson is to get to know the neighbors, keep a close eye on Sir Henry and let Holmes know all that he finds. Will Holmes and Watson be able to solve the case? What is actually terrorizing the Baskerville family? And what is going on with that bog?

And as I've been doing lately because I'm too lazy to make a coherent post, here are some random thoughts

Holmes is an asshole. Not a charismatic one either, just a condescending one. Right on page 3 Holmes asks Watson to deduce all he can about their visitor based on a walking stick left behind earlier. Watson makes some pretty good deductions and even says he's proud of all he's learned from Holmes. Holmes's response: "I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth." The worst part might be Watson's reaction. It's along the lines of "My God Holmes, you're quite the genius and us morons are lucky to have you around." And the stories are all what Watson recorded, so you'd think there'd be a little more "Shut up, you ass" even if it was just mumbled under his breath.

*The rest of this will be sort of spoiler-y. I mean, this is a mystery and all*
Holmes is hardly in it. I know I just got finished talking about how he's an asshole, but I'd still prefer having him hang around being a patronizing shithead. Sure it turns out he was there the whole time hiding in the bog, but we didn't get to hang out with him. We were with Watson as he watched the weird neighbors and tried to keep Sir Henry from spending too much alone time with the naturalist's "sister".

After reading the first chapter when we hear about the dog haunting, I thought the whole plot would be more Scooby-Doo-esque. Cos really? Demon dog is scaring people away from a property. Jinkies! What I was not expecting was there to be an actual dog. Just a dog, bigger than normal but not hell hound size, with some phosphorus in his mouth to make it look like glowing (something that wasn't brought up until they mentioned the phosphorus). That's...that's it? The mystery was "There appears to be a giant dog terrorizing this family. No you fools, it's actually a slightly larger than average dog terrorizing the family." Well, thanks for the twist, Doyle. Yes, yes, that naturalist neighbor was setting the dog on the family so HE could get the house but there was something so unsatisfying to find out that was it. Maybe I'm too jaded.

I actually think I was so disappointed with the resolution because the stuff leading up to it was far more interesting. There was a very dangerous convict that had escaped! People were told to be on the look-out. And the butler seemed to have something going on. Creeping around while his wife spent her nights just bawling about something. And that crazy old guy that just kept suing everyone all the time. There was set up to have this be something more but it just fell flat.

There's a whole plot point about how dogs don't eat dead meat, which is why they didn't find any bites on Sir Charles. Cos he had already had a heart attack by the time the dog showed up. But really? I get that it's the idea behind playing dead with bears but does this work with dogs*? Especially dogs that have apparently been starved before being set loose.

*For that matter, does this even work with bears? Cos most of my wilderness survival tips come from Looney Toons.
*spoilers contained*

Summary: OK and entertaining but the short stories are better. Also I should probably see the new Sherlock Holmes, if for no other reason than Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, which might be the best name ever. He's really a wizard right?

Title quote from page 32

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. The Hound of the Baskervilles. Penguin, 2009. Originally published 1902