Sunday, 14 February 2021

Books: The Literary Reflection, XXIV

Here we go again! Welcome back to Book-ville!

'Thank You, Jeeves' (Jeeves And Wooster) (1934) by PG Wodehouse

This is excellent stuff, and with more built into it than was in the coresponding 'Jeeves And Wooster' television episode. There is, in particular a string of three chapter endings that stun you with the comedic turns and backlashes. Could anything more have gone wrong for Bertie Wooster? Could it? He spends half of the book blacked up with shoe polish, being assaulted by his new valet, harrassed by the well-meaning constabulary, and paying for his new love of the banjolele by the absence of Jeeves. It's a wonderul sequence of events, and it's hard to imagine any actual person being able to string it all together. It's not quite up there with the masterpiece that is 'The Code Of The Woosters', but very few novels are. Wodehouse even manages to redeem the pompous Roderick Glossop, egad! I can't write any more without providing coherent spoilers (incoherent spoilers are admissable, after all), and so will stop at this point. Time to go back and start from the beginning with Mr Wooster, it seems.

'Death Of A Doxy' (Nero Wolfe) (1966) by Rex Stout

Much as with 'Some Buried Caesar', I'm still very confused on the Nero Wolfe series. 'Death Of A Doxy' is a straightforwardly (but very well) written crime story, with some unique touches, and is comparatively short. Archie Goodwin continues to narrate and drive the plot while Nero Wolfe himself potters around and thinks in between sessions at the dining table and with his orchids. I suspect this is an excellent novel, and yet... I wish there were a rough edge or two somewhere to make it less perfect. One of my longest-standing biases is that of being a little put off by things which are so glossy and flawless that they becomes inhuman, and this may well have fallen into that hole. The interludes with singer Julia Jaquette and Nero are fascinating, however, as is her ultimate path. She may be as close as we get to an Irene Adler for Mr Wolfe? I can't imagine anyone else calling him 'Big Man' in serious, or song, or jest and getting away with it. Apparently Rez Stout became an octogenarian just during the writing or just after the publication of this one, and you really wouldn't have known. The cold opening, 'en media res' in other words, in particularly solid. Very good. Maybe excellent. Probably excellent.

'Star Trek: Logs Nine And Ten' (Star Trek) (1977-1978) by Alan Dean Foster

Never during reading all these adaptations of 'Star Trek: The Animated Series', have they felt exactly like 'Star Trek', which is perhaps a sign of their accuracy as the animated series never felt that way either. In these last two instalments, Foster massively expands the two episodes 'Bem' and 'The Slaver Weapon'. In moving to this kind of expansion, we get even more crazy stuff. There are agglomerated monsters, symbiotic crowns, mass body swaps, enough Klingons to have a small party, and another prank by Scotty. As with the animated series, the characterisation is very different to the original series, which makes it problematic. Very problematic. Kirk in particular does some very un-Kirk-like things in resolving the major problem in 'Bem' and setting up a devious ploy in 'The Slaver Weapon'. as adaptation of the animated series, this concludes the series and is probably very good. As 'Star Trek' in general, I don't know. Is that wishy-washy enough?

In a big minus, there was a major problem with my copy of 'Logs Nine And Ten', where thirty-something pages were printed twice, the second instances overwriting a part of the story. That is a hideous oversight in the reprint and should be scorned. Scorned! I'm looking at you, Insert Publisher Here! Grrr.

'Sackett's Land' (Sacketts) (1974) by Louis L'Amour

Chronologically first, but published twelfth, 'Sackett's Land' is the prequel to and beginning of L'Amour's planned history of the pioneering American frontier, and is a fairly short and straightforward story of adventuring across the ocean while facing intrigue on the land. In fact, it's a story about many things. There are valuable antique coins, ship battles, Indians (the American kind), alligators, true love, sword fights, elements of intrigue, rough times living wild and more in 'Sackett's Land', and it skims over all those things in a flash. In fact, it feels as if it pays far too little attention to many of its plot elements, as we hop back and forth. One moment our protagonmist Barnabas is marooned amidst enemies, and the next he's saved, only to be threatened again, survive, and so on and so on. It's good, though, and is in fact one of the very first non kiddie books I ever read, although I remembered only the beginning parts, set in the Fens of the United Kingdom.

Let's belabour the point here: It's strange to think that in only one hundred and eighty pages we start with a Fensman discovering some coins, transition through five or six other subplots, voyage to America and back, and establish both a romance and the foundations of the chronologically following books in the series. However, it could have been so much more! The sequel to this novel, which will be read soon, is a much longer and thicker novel so L'Amour could be more elaborate when he wanted. In summary, good but very fast and packed. In many ways, it is difficult to fully evaluate this novel without having read the others in series. Time will tell.

'The Starship Trap' (Star Trek) (1993) by Mel Gilden

Oooh... a 'Star Trek' novel! You can't see it from wherever you may be, but there are a lot of 'Star Trek' novels here, most of which haven't been read for a long long time. 'Trek' was a staple of my reading while growing up, before even seeing much of the original series, but the simplistic and basic writing of quite a few of them can be offputting decades later. As a case in point, 'The Starship Trap' has a plot worthy of being an episode of the show, with a cool science fiction concept at its heart as well as a nicely defined antagonist, but the prose is very plain indeed. Fortunately the concept transcends the style, which itself improves a little as we proceed, and we ultimately get a decent to solid entry into the series. But my, what an episode it would have made! You see, there is this weaponry designer who goes rogue, and he invents a twist in the space-time continuum and starts to...

'Death Of A Ghost' (Campion) (1934) by Margery Allingham

Another excellent Campion story, and another one so similar to the television episodes that it is very difficult to disentangle. In fact, the only real differences are the elimination of a minor character or two and a small tag on the end. It's a very well written book, and highly recommended if you like this series of classical adventures or Golden Age stories in general. Oh, one major change is that there's no Lugg in this original prose version of the story. That's right, NO LUGG! To be fair, he's nowhere near as important in the books as he was in the television series, where Brian Glover made him a kind of treasure. What's it about? Oh, details! Campion becomes embroiled in a murder connected to the unveiling of a long dead artist's latest time released painting. There's a rather vivid sequence where Campion is... Oh, that would be too much. Warning, there are a lot of eccentric artistic types in this story.