A quickie this week on a short story from the mind of Doyle: The Disintegration Machine.
As Cheryl recently posted, Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was a prolific writer of plays, poetry, novels, and this character named Sherlock Holmes. The bit I like best about the Holmes stories is that they all stand on their own – you can read them individually and enjoy the characters just as much as if you read the entire opus.
Doyle had another series, slightly less renowned, featuring Professor Challenger. Much like the Holmes stories, they feature a mild-mannered narrator (Malone) who is a friend to the vitriolic, egocentric protagonist (Challenger). The stories likewise stand on their own, or can be taken together as a sort of adventure series.
In The Disintegration Machine, Malone has been made aware by his editor of a scientist named Theodore Nemor who claims to have invented the titular object. He seeks out the Professor at his editor’s request in order that they might meet with Nemor and find out if the claims are true.
After some cajoling and pandering by Malone, and preening by Challenger, the pair set off to interview Nemor, who is wrapping up a meeting with some well-dressed Russians. Upon questioning, Nemor confirms the rumors and explains his machine with some rather outlandish analogies. The Professor proclaims,
“You cannot explain one incredible thing by quoting another incredible thing….I do not believe in your apports, Mr. Nemor, and I do not believe in your machine. My time is valuable, and if we are to have any sort of demonstration I would beg you to proceed with it without further ceremony.”
Ask and you shall receive – Nemor brings them in to his lab, shows them what appears to be an electric chair on steroids, demonstrates how it all works, and generally impresses the heck out of them with his ability to disintegrate, and then re-condense (coalesce?) them at will. Beam me up!
Ah, but Nemor has to go full-on Supervillain, detailing how he could make a bigger version and wipe out battalions of troops, war ships, and even all of London’s slums.
Insert maniacal cackle and thunder claps.
The Professor makes an offhand comment which causes Nemor’s potential nefarious plans to fall to bits. I won’t give away the ending, but you can probably guess it has something to do with petards and hoisting.
You can find The Disintegration Machine available for FREE on Feedbooks. It’s a quick read at roughly 15 pages.
You may have guessed that we’re big Doyle fans around here:
Cheryl just did a wonderful roundup of Doyle last week.
She also has a more thorough look at A Scandal in Bohemia.
Dileas covered another Professor Challenger story, When the World Screamed.
Havilah has an excellent write-up of The Lost World.