Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Erasing Sherlock


Kelly Hale Erasing Sherlock (2006)
Nosing around on the internet in search of Erasing Sherlock reviews for the sake of comparing notes in the event of there being some major detail of the narrative which I've somehow missed, I encounter:

The way Holmes is described I could not avoid imagining our modern day Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, in the role - although the novel might have been written with Jeremy Brett in mind as Sherlock was not even a twinkle in the eyes of Moffat/Gatiss at the time.

I suppose I'm not really entitled to my usual upswell of wrath given that I tend to picture Sherlock Holmes as Basil Rathbone - or Peter Cook at a pinch - and that while I'm almost certain I enjoyed whichever book it was I read as a kid, I more recently found the same author's The Lost World borderline abominable; but nevertheless, I like to think of Erasing Sherlock as a novel rather than as something which didn't quite get the funding to become a brill television show; and as for fucking Cucumber, give me fucking strength, and once you've given me fucking strength kindly fucking fuck the fuck off.

...and yes, that sound you heard was indeed my sneering.

Anyway, Erasing Sherlock began life as a time travelling Holmes novel which won an award of some kind, and justifiably so, and was then reborn as a Faction Paradox novel without, so I gather, too much tweaking given how it was already in that same thematic ball park. The story is roughly an expansion of that detail of quantum theory in which the act of observation changes that which is observed. Here we have a time travelling student observing the great detective as part of her doctorate, changing the nature of that which is observed specifically by shagging him; which turns out to be part of some larger experiment investigating whether or not it is possible to change the past, in this case by erasing the historical figure of Sherlock Homes, hence the title.

As may be apparent from the above, this all works on a number of layers. At one end of the scale we have the notion that the events of the narrative reduce Holmes to a merely fictional character - just as he is in the universe in which this novel was written - which might also be deemed to pertain to the macrocosm of how an author relates to her characters. One interpretation might be that Kelly Hale specifically wished to relate to this character in sexual terms, thus I suppose presenting further commentary as an aspect of fan fiction; although this isn't something which is made explicit in the text, and Holmes is far from an idealised fantasy figure, but it's there if you want to look for it. That said, I tend to dislike supposedly erotic fiction usually because it bears more relation to the clich├ęs of advertising than to that which it purports to evoke, but Kelly Hale writes it really well, focussing on the texture and poetry rather than peddling typically gushing crescendos. Thankfully this isn't Fifty Shades of Sherlock; and yes, I'm sure some loser has already engaged themselves with that particular pointless exercise, and there will be the inevitable dreamy picture of sodding Cucumber on the cover of the resulting shitty Amazon eBook.

If I have any criticism of Erasing Sherlock, it is only that it feels at times a little like characters waiting around for the massive explosions of the final chapter, in the meantime busying themselves with the intrigue of picking over various plot details to see what happens; but having said that, I've a feeling this may be more to do with me than the novel, given that I'm not predisposed towards an interest in either Holmes or detective fiction as a genre, and it has been quite difficult to read some of this one with all sorts of feline drama going on at the other end of the bedroom - Kirby producing massive lung-destroying human-size turds in the litter tray, Tony trying to roger the kittens and all sorts of stuff you don't really need to know about. The salient points are that Erasing Sherlock is a wonderfully observed and rendered piece of fiction which manages to do at least a little more than just have adventures and solve puzzles, and as everyone keeps saying, Kelly Hale should be a household name on the strength of the quality of her prose; and if you're incapable of reading this one without thinking ooh Cucumber, maybe you should stick to your beloved Jason of Star Command DVDs, or just cease to exist altogether. Either would be acceptable.

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