Scrooge and Marley by Karl F Hollenbach is a very impressive piece of fanfic. The author picks up where Dickens left off at the end of A Christmas Carol. Hollenbach describes in the preface that he has loved this book for seventy years.
We all know Dickens’ famous story, but the author recaps it quickly for us in the preface. So in chapter one, we see the new Scrooge at work and play, and a thoroughly nice man he is now. We fast forward to Christmas Eve, exactly a year after Scrooge’s transformation. And Marley is back. He has saved Scrooge, but now it’s his turn to be freed from his eternal torment. If Scrooge can perform certain tasks, then Marley’s chains will be removed, bit by bit. These tasks are all quite big and so it takes longer than one night for Scrooge to achieve them all, but he’s determined to do what he can for his friend so that he can find peace. They are all relatively straightforward so well within the capabilities of an elderly man with plenty of money to help him along. Thus it is we find Scrooge tracking down the certain people and righting old wrongs in order to redeem his wicked, greedy ex-partner. Does Marley deserve it? Probably not, but Christmas is a time of forgiveness, and the concept of redemption and second chance is clearly one that is important to the author. And it makes for a very good story! There is also an interesting twist at the end.
Hollenbach successfully adopts a Dickensian style of writing for this novel, but luckily avoiding any of the over-long, rambling Victorian sentences. Those were a feature of their time that contemporary readers took in their stride, but we go for more direct communciation these days. The author marries modern and nineteenth-century prose techniques to get the best of both worlds.
The ultimate way to judge a work of fanfic is by considering if the original author would have approved of what has been done with their ideas. Would Dickens have liked this book? He wouldn’t have written it, since Hollenbach has a very original take, introducing the idea of reincarnation for example, but I’m as sure as I can be that Dickens would have enjoyed Scrooge and Marley very much indeed.
This is an entertaining Christmas read for anyone who enjoys A Christmas Carol.