Authors We Love: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Born in 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle started life as a doctor, earning his Doctor of Medicine degree in Scotland, and practicing in the medical field for nearly twenty years. However, Conan Doyle is not known for his work in medicine, but rather for his incredible work in the literary field, which gave enduring gems to nearly every genre of literature.

Over the course of his lifetime, Conan Doyle created many different and complex characters for his stories. For example, his 1912 novel The Lost World stars the boisterous and occasionally insolent scientific genius Professor Challenger, whose radical opinions about strange locations and events are often proven true, much to the exasperation and secret admiration of his friends and his rivals. The title of this book may sound familiar, and it should – Conan Doyle’s work was the inspiration behind the movie Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

Conan Doyle also dabbled in other genres, varying from quasi-memoirs to historical adventure to horror. The Stark-Munro Letters, which were written and published in 1895, are a thinly-disguised account of Conan Doyle’s early years in the medical field. Seventeen short stories feature Brigadier Etienne Gerard, a French soldier who tells the tales of his adventures during the war, which are engaging to any and all readers, even without an in-depth knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars. Additionally, in the short stories The Case of the Lady Sannox, The Brown Hand, and The Brazilian Cat, Conan Doyle harnesses his eye for the macabre to deliver quick but lasting packages of terror and mystery that the reader cannot easily forget.

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

 

Of all the products of Conan Doyle’s pen, perhaps the most well-known is the reclusive and eccentric yet brilliant consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, along with his less-intelligent comrade and biographer, Dr. John Watson. The first adventure starring the dynamic duo, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1886 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It was an instant national success, and it was followed by another novel, The Sign of Four, and twenty-four short stories.

 

 

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Eventually, Conan Doyle became tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes, who he believed was “standing in the way” of his greater works, so he killed off the great detective in 1893’s “The Final Problem.” However, public pressure convinced Conan Doyle to continue writing about Holmes, with a new novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and the resurrection of Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” In the end, Holmes and Watson are featured in sixty stories – all of which are beloved by both the avid crime critic and the casual reader. 

Sadly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930. Interestingly, his last words were spoken to his wife: “You are wonderful!” In the end, over the course of seventy-one years, Conan Doyle’s work has imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of all who read it, and “the father of the modern detective” will not be forgotten even in the farthest of futures.

-Mahak M.

Character Resume Project: Ford Prefect

Recently, I reread Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and since Ford Prefect is clearly the most awesome character in the book, I decided to write a short career resumè for him, in case he ever gets tired of hitchhiking.

Ford Prefect (a.k.a. Praxibetel Ix)

Current Address: 000 UFO Avenue, Cottington, West Country, England

Permanent Address: House of Ix, Betelgeuse 5, The Universe

Phone Number: (123) 456 – 7890

towels4life42@gmail.com 

OBJECTIVE

To create custom, expensive towels for the people of Earth, and to teach them the importance of always carrying a towel with them in case of planetary explosions. 

EDUCATION

B.A. Towel Weaving and Care (1834) 

Minors: Journalism, Star-Tracking, Acting 101, Creepy Smiling 102, History of Towels, Cooking for Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts of Traal

Vniuersitatis-13 University, Betelgeuse 5, Betelgeuse Sector, The Universe

GPA: 3.6 

EXPERIENCE

Researcher/Resident Hitchhiker for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to to the Galaxy (1857 – 1964)

  • Explored and documented the galaxy to provide succor to all competent hitchhikers wishing to explore the enigma that is the galaxy for less than thirty Altairian dollars per day.
  • Attempted to discover the legendary supercomputer Deep Thought (located on the sublime planet of Magrathea) in order to find the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Survivalist (1964 – 1979)

  • Travelled to Earth for one week, but ended up being stranded on one of the most hostile yet picturesque planets in the Plural sectors for nearly fifteen years.
  • Chose the excellent, obscure name of Ford Prefect to use during time on said planet, and befriended a common specimen of the Homo Sapiens, Arthur Dent.

ACTIVITIES

* Drinking the ineffably fantastic beverage, Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, with semi-half cousin, who is the exceedingly august president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox.

* Honing already-impeccable gastronomical skills to improve his hitchhiking meals

* Driving first and only car, a blue Ford Prefect.

* Searching the stars for spacecraft to hitchhike. 

* Playing the violently-originated game of Krikkit cricket.

HONORS

* Ix Award, which translates to “boy who is not able to satisfactorily explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven” Award (1832)

* Tricky Traveller Award, for using a towel to create a mini raft to float down the torrents of water of the Wikiwiki River (1967)

* Hitchhikers’ Honorable Mention, for being the only hitchhiker to ever remember where his towel was while on the planet Oblivioni Tradita (1972)

AVAILABILITY: January 1979

Willing to relocate to anywhere in England, but should be allowed to suddenly call in sick on Thursday, October 11.

-Mahak M.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is available to all hoopy froods at the Mission Viejo Library

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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The year is 736 PCE – over seven hundred years after the former colonies of Earth across the solar system rebelled against their mother planet and won. Now, the world has been divided into rigid social classes that depend on the color of one’s skin, from the ruling Golds to the slaving Reds. 

Darrow, a Red Helldiver who risks his life daily to procure helium-3 from the bowels of Mars to make its surface habitable for human life, does not suspect what truly lies above the surface of the planet. But when circumstances force him to fake his own death and join the rebel group on Mars, Darrow quickly realizes that his entire life is a lie – there is already a city of Golds on Mars, and the Reds are merely slaving away beneath the surface to provide a life of luxury and comfort for the higher colors.

Furious at this deception, Darrow agrees to infiltrate the Mars Institute for Golds as a student by changing his skin color in an arduous and painful process called the Carving. However, once the now-Gold Darrow arrives at the Institute, he quickly understands that to become the best of the best requires courses of action .that he would not have dreamed of taking while he was a Red. As Darrow progresses on his journey to become the Primus of House Mars, he unearths the deep corruptions within Gold society, as well as the horrifying truth behind the power of the Golden people.

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising holds a slight resemblance to The Hunger Games, but it is only a slight one – this novel takes the idea of colonization to an entirely new level, and questions the idea of a “perfect” society of social classes. This book is definitely recommended to fans of science fiction and adventure novels.

-Mahak M.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

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A dark shadow looms over the seemingly-picturesque world of Alagaësia, where humans roam alongside elves, dwarves, and werecats – the wicked and powerful emperor Galbatorix, who rules with an iron fist. For nearly a century, the innocent inhabitants of this mythical land have suffered under the evil king, but all of that is about to change with the birth of a boy named Eragon.

Born as a simple, illiterate farm boy in a small village, Eragon was raised by his uncle alongside his cousin, unaware of anything beyond his home in Palancar Valley and, occasionally, the deep forest known as the Spine. It is in the Spine, however, that his life is changed forever when he comes across a peculiar sapphire-like jewel. After he sneaks it home, though, he quickly realizes that the “stone” that he found was actually a dragon egg, and that he was now a Dragon Rider, who were fabled peacekeepers, scholars, and healers during the Golden Age – the era before Galbatorix. 

Unfortunately for Eragon, being bonded with a dragon is one of the most dangerous occupations in Alagaësia, so he and his newly-hatched dragon, Saphira, are forced to flee from Palancar Valley with the help of Brom, the village storyteller who knows more than he tells, to find the mysterious rebel force which is known only as the Varden.

All in all, Eragon, written by Christopher Paolini, is an intriguing book containing new ideas imbibed with the same adventurous atmosphere featured in other popular series such as The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson. However, it can be said that the writing is rather childish, and so takes away from the overall excitement of the book. Nevertheless, while Eragon may not aspire to the same heights as Harry Potter, it is certainly a classic in its own right. 

-Mahak M.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

“The Outsiders” Remains Outside the Classics

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Based on the book of the same name by S.E. Hinton, Francis F. Coppola’s The Outsiders, originally released in 1983, is a movie that desperately attempts to capture the ideas and morals of the original novel but falls conspicuously flat in movie magic.

Featuring C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane, this coming-of-age drama touches on the starkly contrasting ideas of violence and hope, dark and light, poor and rich. The soon-to-be-famous actors and actresses starring in this film lent it potential, but it was quickly squandered with a weak script, courtesy of Kathleen Rowell, and egregious directing.

Ultimately, a combination of horrible camerawork, awful acting, and mistimed music, create The Outsiders, a movie that even the inspirational message cannot improve.

Ponyboy Curtis (Howell), the movie’s protagonist, is a fourteen-year-old orphan who lives with his older brothers Darry (Swayze) and Sodapop (Lowe) in the poorer north side of town, the “wrong” side. Known as the “greasers” for their greased hair, they and their gang, which consists of Dally Winston (Dillon), Johnny Cade (Macchio), Two-Bit Mathews (Estevez), and Steve Randle (Cruise), have a bitter rivalry with the Socs (short for ‘Socialites’), the rich kids on the south side.

For as long as anyone can remember, these two groups have been at each other’s throats, always jumping and getting jumped by the other, but there were always limits, an unspoken line never to be crossed – until the day that the life of one is weighed as more than the life of another, and Johnny murders a Soc to save Ponyboy’s life.

The Outsiders is the kind of movie that has the potential to either become an all-time classic or an all-time flop and after one watches it for the first time, it is obvious that this film strongly inclines to the latter. Some things that immediately stand out to the viewer are the lack of proper filming technique and a distinct dearth in emotional acting, but the most pressing issue with this movie is the background music. Not only do the pieces performed not fit the mood of the shots at all, but they also appear at the most inopportune moments, blocking out what the actual characters are saying at the same time, which can become rather tedious to the audience.

All in all, The Outsiders is a film which had promise, but did not take advantage of it to leap to great heights. Though some fans may enjoy the film for its accurate events compared to the novel, even the most dedicated of followers may not be able to sit through this train wreck of a film, with atrocious acting and misplaced music. Out of five stars, this movie deserves a two, because while it did maintain the novel’s message and plot, it failed in all the aspects that make a movie a classic.

-Mahak M.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Image result for to kill a mockingbird book cover

Published in 1960 and never forgotten since, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a dramatic coming-of-age tale about a small Southern town poisoned by prejudice during the 1930s, only about half a century after the end of the Civil War.

Told through the eyes of eight-year-old Scout Finch, this novel appears to merely be the story of a small-town girl, but if one observes carefully and makes connections, one will discover the twisting and turning threads of racial segregation lying just underneath the surface. Atticus Finch, Scout’s father and a man who believes that justice is blind, faces the most dangerous trial of his life when he attempts to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, from a rape charge.

In the background of all this, however, is a quaint depiction of Maycomb, a tiny village at the heart of Maycomb County. The reader watches Scout Finch grow from a young tomboy to a slightly older tomboy, as she loses her innocence in the face of the hate brought on by racial prejudice.

All in all, To Kill a Mockingbird is the kind of book that will stay with the reader long after they have finished it. Combining delightfully accurate prose with an undercurrent mocking the idea of segregation, this novel is an extraordinary one, pulling any and all readers into its pages and holding them there from the very first page to the very last word.

-Mahak M.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Though often overshadowed by its fellow stories, such as Goldfinger and Dr. No, Ian Fleming’s first novel, the action-packed adventure novel Casino Royale, is an incredible escapade not to be missed for the world.

As a double-o agent, 007 James Bond is licensed to kill, and has taken advantage of it on multiple occasions. However, his new assignment at a French casino may be his greatest challenge yet. Tasked with bankrupting one of the richest European paymasters on the planet (and one working for the rival spy organization SMERSH to boot), Bond must enamour lady luck long enough to win eighty million francs at the baccarat table – a pure game of chance.

And yet, good fortune is far from the only romance Bond has on his mind. Attracted to his beautiful companion, Vesper Lynd, Bond must balance his love for her with the importance of his mission, but when misfortune befalls Vesper, the carefully-built castle of cards may come crashing down.

Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale is a classic novella that combines love, luck, and logic in a twisting and turning plot with a startling conclusion that is practically impossible to see coming. Pages turning, plot thickening, no reader will be able to put down this exciting book about one man who has to risk everything he has to save it.

-Mahak M.

Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library