Shadows Over Baker Street – Various Authors

Shadows over Barker Street, edited by Michael Reeves and John Phelan, is an anthology of stories about Sherlock Holmes interacting with artifacts and creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos. The authors include Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan and Brian Stableford. My favourite story was Stableford’s Art In The Blood, which was about fish people living on the English coast. It genuinely creeped me out, which is rare for Lovecraft-derived fiction. The last story, Simon Clark’s Nightmare in Wax, was also very enjoyable. This anthology is well worth reading, if only to note the differences and similarities with which multiple authors deal with the same specific theme.

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Face of the Waters – Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg is an excellent writer, so it is hardly surprising that I enjoyed his book The Face of the Waters. Taking cues from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the Odyssey, Silverberg tells the story of a community of humans living on an inhospitable ocean planet, who must search for a new home after they are exiled from their island by their alien hosts. He excels in inventing weird and wonderful spectacles for his characters gasp at and be threatened by, such as seaweed disguised as nets that attack sailors and giant floating amoebas. Silverberg handles characterisation well, his characters including a doctor who is persuaded out of celibacy, a megalomaniac businessman and a cynical priest. The point of this review is that if you are given an opportunity to read this book, you should take it.

Fun fact: I own a few Robert Silverberg books. Including this one, they are Lord PrestimonAt Winter’s EndThe Queen of SpringtimeMajipoor ChroniclesThe World InsideSon of Man, and A Time of Changes. That’s eight books. I pick most of these up at op-shops, although I found the Majipoor one at a school fete. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Robert Silverberg is a popular author in my part of the world. He certainly should be, he’s good enough.

Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone – Daidolos

Next time someone asks you about Bono’s favourite pokemon, look them dead in the eye and say ‘Mewtwo!’ Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone is the autobiography of that artificial creature, depicting his origins, participation in criminal activities, rise to power and ultimate redemption.

Of all the things I’ve read, this fan fiction reminds me most of the sections of Frankenstein narrated by the monster. We’re presented with an extremely articulate protagonist who combines perceptive intelligence with infantile naivete, who later gets a monumental grudge against humanity after being mistreated. The comparisons don’t end there; like Frankenstein’s monster Mewtwo is a product of a vaguely described science experiment.

One notable literary technique used by Daidalos is narrating Mew’s thoughts in poetry. Each section begins with an account of Mew’s activities, whether that is flying around in a jungle or receiving instruction from a mythic pokemon, and that account is written in narrative poetry. As far as I can, it’s basically prose with each punctuation mark was replaced by a line break. It works excellently.

The author also introduces each section with a quote from a famous philosopher. You’d think such a thing would be a warning of pretentiously silly fan fiction, but it isn’t. That said, the only other example I have of this is the excellent Dragonball Z story Frigid.

It’s been a very long time since I cared about the narrative side of the Pokemon franchise, but I think that Striking Back covers most of the relevant plot points from the anime and the first movie. Even when I was sure what was going to occur next, the chief pleasure was reading Mewtwo’s reactions to events and how he rationalised his actions.

Fan fiction is a difficult thing to recommend, as the phrase is almost a synonym for writing that is both self-indulgent and unreadable. You’d also need to be familiar with Pokemon to fully understand this story. That said, if you enjoyed Frankenstein and like to see what happens when fans take cartoons more seriously than their creators, check out Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone.

(Besides, it’s free.)