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The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (A Burton & Swinburne Adventure) Paperback – September 1, 2010

4 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A historical figure already larger than life, Capt. Sir Richard Francis Burton, pursues a legendary and violent Victorian creature, Spring Heeled Jack, at the behest of the prime minister in this convincingly researched debut. Fans of steampunk will be intrigued by the alternate history setting, in which the queen dies mid-century; they will also enjoy following Burton and his sidekick, poet Algernon Swinburne, as they investigate the dark secrets of 19th-century England and recall Burton's legendary expedition to find the source of the Nile. Burton is an intriguing character, but the story might have benefited by more than token appearances of his intrepid fiancée, Isabel Arundell, and better integration of the fantastical elements--werewolves, time travelers--into the narrative before a wild ending that pulls everything together.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* 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. The time is 1861; the place, London, England. The country is besieged by loups-garous (werewolves), and Spring Heeled Jack, the notorious (and possibly mythical) creature who appears out of nowhere to accost young women, is causing a bit of a ruckus. To deal with these problems, the prime minister recruits Sir Richard Francis Burton, the noted explorer, linguist, and self-promoter. With the help of his friend, the poet Algernon Swinburne, Burton wades in with both feet and uncovers a frightening conspiracy and a (potentially) world-altering technology. And that’s just the bare-bones story of this wildly inventive—another insufficient superlative—novel. Hodder has brilliantly combined various genre staples—time travel, alternate reality, steampunk—into something you’ve never quite seen before. His mid-nineteenth-century Britain features steam-driven velocipedes, rotorchairs, verbally abusive messenger parrots, a pneumatic rail system, and robotic street cleaners. The book’s supporting characters include Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Francis Galton, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the revolutionary civil engineer (although Hodder uses them in excitingly twisted new ways). The book is incredibly ambitious, and the author pulls it off like an old pro: not only is the setting exciting and fresh, the story is thrilling and full of surprises. Hodder’s only problem now is to find a way to follow up this exhilarating debut, which will appeal not only to sf/fantasy readers but also to mystery and historical-fiction fans. --David Pitt

Product Details

  • Series: A Burton & Swinburne Adventure
  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616142405
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616142407
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Hodder is descended from John Angell, a pirate who sailed with Captain Kidd. According to family legend, Angell invested most of his ill-gotten gains in land, particularly in Angell Town near Brixton in London. Anyone who can provide irrefutable legal evidence that they're descended from Angell will inherit the land, which is estimated to now be worth at least 64 million pounds. Over the course of generations, members of the family, seeking to gain the fortune, have lost one in trying to prove the link, and hordes of people who have no connection with the family at all have adopted the name in order to make a claim. As a result, the family tree is extremely tangled and a legal connection to the pirate's treasure is almost certainly impossible to establish.

Mark's great-grandfather was Doctor Albert Leigh, who went to medical school with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The two men were great friends--they joined the Freemasons together--and Sir Arthur presented Albert with a complete set of Sherlock Holmes first editions, all inscribed: To dear Leigh, from your friend Doyle. They would fetch a fortune at auction today. Unfortunately, upon Leigh's death in 1944, his housekeeper, an actress, made off with the volumes and they've never been seen since.

Thus it is that two great fortunes have eluded Mark Hodder.

Denied money-for-nothing and the luxury, idleness, and indulgences it would bring, Mark lives in Spain and writes novels. His first Burton & Swinburne adventure--THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK--was published in 2010 and promptly won the Philip K. Dick Award. Sequels followed: THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN, EXPEDITION TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON (nominated for the Sidewise Award 2013), THE SECRET OF ABDU EL YEZDI (nominated for the Sidewise Award 2014), and THE RETURN OF THE DISCONTINUED MAN. The final book in the series, THE RISE OF THE AUTOMATED ARISTOCRATS, is currently in preparation.

In A RED SUN ALSO RISES, a non-Burton & Swinburne novel, Mark pays homage to his favourite childhood author, Edgar Rice Burroughs.

As creator and proprietor of BLAKIAN, the Sexton Blake Resource, Mark is delighted to be the first author in nearly half a century to have written an official new Sexton Blake story. THE SILENT THUNDER CAPER tells of Blake's newest encounter with his old foes, The Three Musketeers.


Mark has a short story--THE LOSS OF CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE--in the anthology ENCOUNTERS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, and another--THE BLOOD OF OUR LAND--in ZENITH LIVES! He's also written for Polish and German anthologies.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mark Hodder, please write more, ASAP!

Okay, moving on. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is currently my absolute favorite book of the year and is going to be a tough one to unseat. This mystery steampunk action/adventure alternate history story is tight. Hodder's writing style is crisp and even and easily navigated. Other than a few sections where I bogged down in the science-y alt. history stuff, I blew threw this like it was air. Burton and Swinburne feel authentic as characters and every surrounding aspect is put together in such a way that nothing seems totally out of place even if it obviously is.

What's even more impressive is how Hodder takes a cadre of authentic Victorian personas and blends them so well together, even if they never/rarely met in real life. I learned a lot about the characters both their real selves and alternate fictional selves, as well as the era since we see the diverging paths as one thing after another is affected by the decisions of others. Because decisions matter in this book so it's not just pulp fiction. There is a point to it, but I'll leave that for you to find out as you read. But other than there being a point, the book is all grand fun. Burton is swarthy enough to appeal to action/adventure types while also being a human being. And Swinburne, whom I now poetically seem to have developed a crush on, is a nice balancing character. He needs to live unlike Burton who seems to not need to live as much as he is throughout the book.

As far as plot goes, I could barely believe how well the loose ends were tied up in the end. Even some of the smaller details in the plotting and characterisation come to be important for the climax which is at times utterly surprising. As a standalone title, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is outstanding. I can only hope it serves as a platform for more Burton and Swinburne in the future. A Must Read book for any steampunk or alternate history reader.
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Format: Paperback
First-time author Mark Hodder pulls out all the stops in his revisioning of a Victorian England cursed with mysterious attacks by the quasi-supernatural creature known as Spring Heeled Jack. Based on the real tales of the mysterious assailant known to bound away from his crimes, and featuring a host of famed Victorians as well as the history of Jack's assaults, this ambitious novel will either tickle your fancy or mangle your suspension of disbelief.

Hodder imagines Spring Heeled Jack as a future historian/scientist who attempts to undo his family's sullied reputation by "fixing" the past. That historian/scientist, Edward Oxford, journeys back through time via a sophisticated time-travel suit to convince his ancestor of the same name to forgo a failed attempt to assassinate the young Queen Victoria. Wishing his lineage something better than being known for their own John Hinckley, Oxford instead creates a far worse outcome that alters all of history and traps him in the past. His many attempts to undo the damage to time prove more and more disastrous, his sanity slipping away even as the authorities attempt his capture.

Commissioned by King Albert to be his age's version of Agent Fox Mulder of _The X-Files_, former African explorer Richard Francis Burton pursues Jack. In the course of unwinding Jack's mysterious story, Burton encounters man-beasts created by the new breed of geneticists, robots with human brains, flying ships, and a timeline that he senses has gone awry. Poet Algernon Swinburne joins the creature hunt, and the story hurtles through mayhem, mystery, and one bizarre historical and technological re-imagining after another.

It's good--if highly unlikely--stuff.


* Inventive.
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Format: Paperback
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack takes the more traditional definition of Steampunk with a Victorian setting, an altering of history, and the use of historical characters as stars and supporting cast. In fact, Hodder makes use of historical characters more than any other Steampunk novel I've read using everyone from famous explorers of the Victorian era to its Scientific geniuses and even poets of only low note and a spate of references to people, places, and events of the time. There is also an index which covers the true historical happenings of many of the people mentioned, which was a nice touch.

At its core The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is a time travel mind bender mashed up with a pulp. The beginning was a bit all over the place, but it quickly turned into a very entertaining romp with adventurer extraordinaire Sir Richard Francis Burton and de Sade follower and poet Algernon Swinburne. Like Westerfeld Hodder chooses to innovate with not only technological wonders, but also genetic using Darwin as a keystone. Everything from giant swans, coal-driven horses, odd chimney sweeps, and broomcats come into the fold in this well realized alternative England. And not since Dicken's have chimney sweeps been so well used. The Spring Heeled Jack mythos is used to great effect as Hodder unveils this mysterious hopping bogey monster. There are many groups all vying for power. Nearly too many with political, technological, and anti-tech groups all jumping into the fray as well as their offshoots.

Despite some quibbles with the first quarter of the story Hodder brings it all home and clearly shows how much fun he had writing this tale.
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