Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Vanishing Man (Philip Purser-Hallard)

One of the beautiful things about Sherlock Holmes–the character–being out of copyright is that publishing houses like Titan Books can keep bringing us licensed adventures of Arthur Conan-Doyle’s iconic detective from an array of different writers.

The Vanishing Man is one such tale. Conan Doyle’s stories often were novellas or even short stories as Dr. John Watson, erstwhile partner to the unique and maddening genius Holmes, would recount their ‘problems’ to the reader, and Philip Purser-Hallard gets a full novel sized plot for the detective duo to unravel. In doing so, he doesn’t remotely reinvent the wheel. This is a classic, traditional Holmes & Watson case, set in their heyday during 1896, which could slot perfectly well amongst Conan Doyle’s canon. The Vanishing Man has a solid central mystery, a litany of garish and exuberant Victorian characters, and the joy of a conclusion in which we see Sherlock putting it all together in front of our eyes.

In short, The Vanishing Man is going to scratch the Holmesian itch for fans of these stories nicely.

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Book Review: Green Valley (Louis Greenberg)

From time to time, Titan Books are kind enough to send me advance copies of upcoming novels I express an interest in. When they do, I’ll be reviewing them here on Cultural Conversation.

Dystopian fiction has long been the province of novelists projecting into the future but Louis Greenberg presents a fascinating, contained version in Green Valley of how technology may consume us.

His first solo novel, after having written as part of a team with fellow novelist Sarah Lotz under the name S. L. Grey, Green Valley hinges on a key choice made by society in the not too distant future about how we interface with technology in our lives. The so-called ‘Turn’ saw humanity reject the penetration of advanced virtual reality projecting an existence before our eyes which played out on a technological playing field in exchange for an older, slightly rougher and defiantly more *real* world… except the community of ‘Green Valley’; protected behind a huge wall, flanked by largely abandoned real world communities, and driven by their own laws and systems – an entirely autonomous community significantly more advanced than the rest of the world. Greenberg’s novel is all about the intersection between these two intentionally different worlds.

Green Valley could easily have ended up as an episode of the Netflix TV series Black Mirror, holding up as it does a mirror to our relationship with technology and finding darkness, confusion and terror in the reflection.

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Book Review: All My Colors (David Quantick)

From time to time, Titan Books are kind enough to send me advance copies of upcoming novels I express an interest in. When they do, I’ll be reviewing them here on Cultural Conversation.

You may have heard the name David Quantick over the years.

You may indeed have seen him as a talking head on more than a few clip shows providing a comedic or acerbic bent, but in reality he is one of the most quietly esteemed comedy writers in the UK of the last thirty years, from the influential and dark work of Chris Morris such as The Day Today, Brass Eye and Jam, through to a fruitful union with Armando Iannucci on The Thick of It and most recently in the US, Veep, which has seen Emmy Awards coming his way.

The latter two projects are mentioned on the cover of All My Colors, a title itself handily Americanised as this sees Quantick—in his first slice of prose fiction—playing in the American cultural wilderness as he brings to bear a caustic, snappy slice of satirical, melodramatic horror. The story of Todd Milstead feels like what would happen if you threw H.P. Lovecraft, The Twilight Zone, Stephen King and 80’s Richard Briers-starring comedy Ever Decreasing Circles into a blender.

Naturally this is, in no way, a bad thing.

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