What better time to review this particular Holmes #novel, than at the end of the year that brought back "#tarzan"(2016's "The Legend of Tarzan.") and before the year that will see BBC's "#Sherlock" return to our screen. On top of that, with the release of "Passengers and Arrival," it felt right to look at the world of a science fiction icon, Philip Jose Farmer (Riverworld).
Set at a much later point in their lives, an elderly Holmes and Watson are on the trail of the diabolical Von Bork (from "His Last Bow"), and end up in Africa, in the midst of World War I. As they make their way through the jungle, who should they meet but none other than Lord Greystoke, lord of the Apes...
Reviled by Holmesians, what is Farmer's crime?
Well, he has a considerable ball at the expense of Conan Doyle. Holmes and Watson get royally put through the ringer here: wildly flown about, shot at, dropped, sweating through dense jungle and hiding up trees for hours at a time, Holmes is in such an uncharacteristically bad temper for most of the book, that he even resorts to using a certain A word. Given Farmer's experience with the Ape Man (he authored the fictional biography, "Tarzan Alive" it should be no shock Tarzan is treated much better than Holmes, behaving like the stoic warrior we all know, and that's not even getting into the sheer amount of pulp cameos and references Farmer crams into the story (he was the father of the Wold Newton Family, after all)!
However, if I can play devil's advocate, it should also be painfully obvious that Farmer isn't trying to be remotely serious. The book's tone has tongue firmly buried inside cheek, and is unapologetically more pulp than detective story. Evidence? Try cartoony Germans, airship battles, lost cities, scantily clad Amazonian beauties, dogfights, gun battles, spies, death traps... it's like Indiana Jones in the hands of Mel Brooks or the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team. It's silly, indulgent and never tries to be anything else.
Not everyone's cup of tea
The book's sense of humour, playing fast and loose with classic heroes and adventure tropes, will and have annoyed some, but I can't deny that I enjoyed myself. Yes, it's a shame that one of the most famous fantasy authors of all time didn't give us a proper Holmes and Tarzan team up, but that doesn't mean "Peerless Peer" is anywhere near the tripe it's often branded as. Give it a whirl if you've been lacking a good laugh in your adventure literature.