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Title: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Author: Connie Willis
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Year: 1997

In To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis continues with the time-travelling theme developed in Doomsday Book, but apart from some of the minor characters, the two novels do not have much in common and are not dependent on each other in any way. Doomsday Book is a fairly serious story about The Black Death, whereas To Say Nothing of the Dog is a humorous mystery adventure set in Victorian Britain.

The fulcrum of the intrigue is hilarious in itself, since it consists of the search of an old relic called the Bishop’s Bird Stump, which is supposedly necessary to inaugurate a new version of Coventry Cathedral (which was demolished during the Blitz) built in 2057. Time travellers are sent back through time to search for the Bishop’s Bird Stump, but something goes wrong and the Net, which allows time travel, begins to fall apart.

In this confused and chaotic setting, the time travellers Ned and his female sidekick, Verity, like so many protagonists in mystery novels before them, try to unravel the tangled mystery surrounding the Bishop’s Bird Stump and repair whatever damage the Net has sustained. To Say Nothing of the Dog is an homage to many things, but mystery novels in general is perhaps the most obvious one. References to Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others are frequent, both implicitly and explicitly.

As with Doomsday Book, the novel is expertly written and I cannot find many flaws or things I do not like, in language usage or otherwise. However, even if I am interested in Victorian Britain, the story is simply not interesting enough earn my whole-hearted approval. At places, it moves to slowly and I feel that I am way ahead of the characters in solving the mystery.

Steven Crossley’s narration of the novel is simply brilliant. I very seldom come across narrators who master the whole spectrum of skills needed, and even if Crossley do not score full points in all possible categories, he comes very close. His English is a joy to listen to and his carefully controlled and relaxed voice works excellently.

By way of conclusion, I think To Say Nothing of the Dog is a good read, slightly better than Doomsday Book, in fact, but not enough to motivate a different grade. However, if you are in the least allured by what I have said in this review, I urge you to have a look at this novel, since I am pretty sure that you will like it even more than I do.

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Title: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Author: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O’Neill
Year: 1999

Facing serious problems at the turn of the 19th century, the British government assembles a diverse group of people to serve the interest of the crown. The characters are Mina Murray (from Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Alan Quartermain (from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), the Invisible Man (from H.G. Wells’ novel with the same name) and Captain Nemo (from various works by Jules Verne). Together, they form The League of Extraordinary gentlemen to fight Fu Manchu (Sax Rohmer’s The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu).

The principal idea of using mysterious figures of Victorian fiction to create a unique setting is absolutely brilliant and I fell in love almost immediately. Not only do I like the Victorian era as such, but I happen to be interested in fantastic fiction from that time as well. I have a weakness for weird technology and this is certainly well-used throughout the story. Moore also uses a number of secondary characters, many of them from other famous authors of Victorian fiction (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for instance).

However, a comic book needs more than a brilliant idea to succeed, so let me turn to the actual performance of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, which is sadly not matching the eminence of the core concept. The former has done an adequate job in creating the intrigue, which is by no means marvellous in any way, but works just fine. The same goes for Kevin O’Neill; I cannot say that I am awestruck by his technique, but it works.

By way of conclusion, I have to say that this comic book could have been truly extraordinary, but since neither author nor artist excels, the end result is a bit disappointing. I still think it a good read, but the potential of the idea greatly surpasses the actual product.

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