The alternate Victorian London of Hodder's latest fantasy is stuffed with eccentricities: each fascinating in itself, but adding up eventually to a slightly stultifying overabundance (not to mention Hodder's tendency toward painful puns, like the "Folk's Wagon" made out of an actual Beetle). Mercifully these fade into the background as the plot kicks into high gear with explorer Richard Burton and his sidekick, masochistic poet Swinburne, sleuth out the truth behind a bewildering conspiracy of rakes, technologists, psychics, black diamonds, time travelers, and a butcher claiming to be an aristocrat. The investigation also leads the protagonists to different countries. Hodder handles these cross-cultural encounters surprisingly well. Furthermore, the overarching theme of being stuck down a wrong turn in history adds a touch of atmosphere both ominous and bittersweet. Ultimately though, the many characters, places, plot twists and turns fail to work together to keep the reader's attention. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Praise for the Philip K. Dick Award-winning Burton & Swinburne books:
"The usual superlatives for really clever fantasy (imaginative, mind-bending, phantasmagorical) aren't nearly big enough for this debut novel. With this one book, Hodder has put himself on the genre map."
-Booklist, starred review of The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack
"Hodder, with an encyclopedic grasp of period detail, tellingly brings these disparate, oddly familiar yet eerily different worlds to fecund life. Enthralling, dizzying, and as impressive as they come."
-Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Every once in a while I come across a book, or series of books, that totally yanks the carpet out from under me. Then it reaches out, smashes me in the face with its awesomeness, and says, 'You love me!' Leaving me with naught to do but obligingly respond, 'Yes. Yes I do.' [The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man] was every bit the book that I had hoped it would be."
-Elitist Book Reviews
"Whatever one chooses to call [The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack], it would be very difficult to deny its overwhelming brilliance. I can't remember the last time a novel has surprised, awed, and enthused me so utterly that I'm almost left at a loss for words for how to recommend it."
-Rob Will Review
Sir Richard Burton, the king's agent, and Algernon Swinburne, his companion and intellectual foil, realize that the course of their world has been altered because something has tampered with time. The discovery of a clockwork automaton in Trafalgar Square, the search for the missing Garnier collection of black diamonds, the media surrounding the grotesque person who claims to be the heir to the cursed Tichborne Estate, and the threat of class warfare in Victorian England confront the pair as they fight to right the history of the world and avert a shattering war. In this sequel to The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, Hodder continues the entertaining adventures of Burton and Swinburne as he depicts a bizarrely engrossing steampunk England in 1862 and introduces period notables, including Herbert Spencer, Florence Nightingale, and Charles Babbage. VERDICT Hodder knows Victorian history well enough to take delightful liberties in a darkly humorous adventure that should appeal to genre fans as well as those interested in alternate histories.