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The Thunderbolt Affair
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2012
I am a very picky reader. I detest plot holes and other obvious over sights from author's. This book was a blast to read, and kept my mind turning. The characters have depth and quirks you become attached to as the story progresses. This is one of those books you can't put down and end up saying, "I'll stop after the next chapter" until it is 3 in the morning and you realize you have to be at work in a few hours. When you buy this book don't start reading until a Friday evening and don't make plans to do much else. I can't wait for the sequel!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2012
My love for Steampunk has often been tempered by my dislike of the implausible. Many authors start from an existing world where everything is amazing and fantastic, with no grounding in reality at all. I don't want a world where the only reason it is steampunk is a quaint manner of dress.

This book feeds my need. The world is rich but believable, the events are based in history not made of whole cloth, the characters behave in realistic ways, and are themselves amazed at turns of events. For a new author it is a surprisingly polished story, never slow paced, but not rushed. A ripping tale...

Please, sir, write on. I look forward to your next book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2012
I had the opportunity to speak to the author at a recent SF convention and decided to give his book a read. Two days later I was done. It was well worth my time. He developed his characters, had an engaging plot and well researched, plausible application of technology of the time. I enjoyed his characters, even their idiosyncrocies. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

A very happy reader! Kim S.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great book for those who love steampunk or have never heard about it. It has the wonderful gadgets and rich culture you expect in a steampunk novel but it also has believable characters. I agree with a previous reviewer that the world is plausible and has a nice mix of historical fact mixed with fiction. The characters will draw you into the story and by the end you are rooting for them to overcome the various attempts at sabotage.

The British's first attempt at a submarine is fraught with sabotage and good old boy network of sailors who want nothing to do with a submersible. The submarine is a chance for redemption for Ian Collins after a serious accident that almost ended his career. Add into the mix Nicola Telsa and a very talented but strong willed female cousin and poor Mr. Collins has his hands full with trying to keep his men safe from sabotage, his demons from the accident and trying to figure out how to rethink his notion of a proper lady.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2012
Superficially this appears to be a Steampunk book but after reading it I would categorize it more as an alternative history. Sure there's brass and gears but the latest advancements are in electric power, not steampower. There are no death rays, lightning guns or steam driven clanks. Everything is very grounded and as a consequence feels very familiar and "real". Dealing with the world wide race towards a working submersible and hence, superior naval power, it appears Britannia has the upper hand with Nikola Tesla and his gifted lady cousin working for them. Our protagonist, Ian Rollins, seeking redemption and a new purpose becomes commander of the secret project and seeks to unravel mysteries behind the sabotage attempts and the feminine enigma that is Danjella Tesla.

Nothing about this book is as outlandish as most steampunk books and the characters, plot and story feel real world. Well written with a nice sense of dry humor (whimsy?), "The Thunderbolt Affair" combines history with fiction for a book that will leave you hungry for a sequel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2012
When someone tells me a book published by a small press, I immediately have certain expectations about its content. I know I shouldn't pre-judge, but I'm only human and have been burned before in the small press realm. Allow me to clarify by saying it's not that the books I've read are bad, it's that this area of literature tends to be plagued by a bad habit of under-editing. As a fellow writer, I understand completely the urge to rush work out there, to declare it good enough and get on with the publishing process so as to finally be able to hold your baby in your hands, to flip its pages and see its cover in a place of honor on your own bookshelf. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm can lead to oversights in both story editing and copy editing that result in an uneven pace and a reading experience hampered by frequent typographical errors.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when The Thunderbolt Affair not only exceeded my expectations, it completely revised them! From his subversion of genre tropes to his sense of historical detail, Mr. Mandragora has crafted an engaging and worthwhile read.

This book is steampunk, but it's a take on steampunk not often seen. The history of this world is parallel to our own until the First Boer War, at which point it diverges when the British lose and are pushed out of southern Africa. With no land holdings, the British worry that they will be blockaded from sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, the aquatic passage linking them to their Asian colonies and trading interests. It is this fear that leads the British Navy to invest seriously in the research and development of submarine warfare, a decision which sets in motion the events of the book.

Commander Ian Rollins, the main character, is our narrator in first person perspective, and he has a strong voice and personality that come through in the narration. His character is developed, but not defined, by a missing hand and eye lost in an accident at sea, and the author takes care to have other characters react to the disfigurement, rather than just telling us about it and moving along. There is a suggestion that the sight is not so bad as Rollins believes, another subtle and effective bit of characterization.

The female lead is strongly defined as well. Her personality is at odds with what Victorians would deem "normal" for a woman, and watching Rollins have to deal with and adjust to her forceful nature is highly entertaining.

The supporting cast are copious, and you may find yourself flipping back occasionally to reference previous events or conversations, but this is nothing one wouldn't also encounter in dealing with George R.R. Martin or Tad Williams. The characters are well individuated and have unique habits and speech patterns that keep dialogue and action easy to follow.

Yes, my expectations of self-published books are now quite different. I've come to realize that, just like "real" publishers, small press publishing offers up a huge selection of works that cover the whole range of quality (quality being, of course, a subjective value based on personal opinions and experiences), from mediocre to fantastic and everywhere in between. Hidden among the flotsam and jetsam of stilted writing and formulaic tropes lies the occasional treasure, a pearl or a precious gem, and it is worth sorting through the rhinestones to find the genuine article. The Thunderbolt Affair is just such a treasure, and I highly recommend it to fans of steampunk, historical fiction, or espionage thrillers. You won't be disappointed!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2014
Do you like hard science fiction? The Thunderbolt Affair is hard steampunk. Like a lot of steampunk it is actually early electrical age, and Geoffrey Mandragora paints ca. 1900 England with meticulous love. Characters, social, and political issues are all presented in the context of the time, whether it's a poor naval officer forced to employ a butler or the personalities that ran European political intrigue.
Technology, of course, gets the most love and the most lavish descriptions. The crude limitations of real technology of the time is blended with the primitive yet superior science that is steampunk. Much of the book is the story of how this technology came to be, and Mandragora successfully makes the unreal seem reasonable and even technical in the process. The book was halfway finished before I figured out the real plot, involving the political machinations surrounding this technology.
Does hard steampunk sound like your kind of thing? If it is, no one does it better and you will love this book. I had a lot of fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2013
I'm a somewhat picky reader, but I just had a lot of fun with this one. It does a great job keeping enough of the Victorian mood to stay in period while breaking the mold just enough to keep things lively. Quirky and flawed characters make immersion so much easier than cardboard cut out ones. Worth the read by any measure.
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on October 1, 2012
This is a fun book, it reminded me of good old times when I was a kid reading Jules Verne. I thought they didn't write like that any more so I was nicely surprised. Wonderfully refreshing, with a fun and unpredictable plot and a very likable main character who is straightforward, human and easy to relate to. If you are not into the mechanics of how things work (e.g. Jules Verne and Larry Niven's books) you might find it to be somewhat heavy on technical side. But if you do like "science" in "science fiction" you will have a great time with this book. Ian Rowlins as a character has this classic timeless feel about him that makes the reader fall in love and keep wanting for more.
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on September 13, 2013
Picked up a copy at Worldcon and started reading it this week. Well formed characters, a plausible movement towards steampunk and it is plainly obvious that the author has put in an incredible amount of research into even the minor details of his work, yet does not fall into the trap of over-explaining things.

I'm looking forward to his followup work.
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