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The Affinity Bridge (Newbury & Hobbes Investigations) Hardcover – July 7, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Newbury & Hobbes Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SF editor Mann (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction) sets this leisurely mystery, published in the U.K. by Snowbooks in 2008, in an alternate 1901 London where steam-powered taxicabs fill the streets and brass automatons have begun to replace human labor. Sir Maurice Newbury, British Museum anthropologist and occult connoisseur, and his Watsonesque assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, are summoned to investigate the crash of a cyborg-piloted helium zeppelin. Meanwhile, a plague is spreading through London's poorer quarters, turning everyday citizens into bloodthirsty, zombielike revenants and threatening the stability of the Empire. Mann's stiff-upper-lipped Victorians chat at great length over cups of Earl Grey and occasionally whack zombies and robots in arduous action passages, and the unnecessary details and painfully stilted dialogue bring nothing fresh to the steampunk subgenre. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—In this steampunk mystery, Sir Maurice Newbury maintains an office at the British Museum but actually works in a secret capacity for Queen Victoria, who is still alive, in late 1901, by means of an elaborate mechanical life-support system. Veronica Hobbes arrives to become Sir Maurice's assistant, and together the two investigate a series of incidents: a missing man, a crashed airship, automatons gone berserk, a string of murders apparently committed by a blue-glowing policeman, and a plague that is turning residents of London's Whitechapel into revenants (zombies). Mann may be trying to do a little too much here, but both Newbury and Hobbes are engaging characters and the world-building is done well. The last third of the novel is nonstop action, including a classic train-top chase scene. The author introduces some elements that are obviously intended to carry over into future books, and the epilogue reveals new information and clearly sets up the next episode. Fast-paced and well-written, this novel is likely to appeal to genre fans.—Sarah Flowers, formerly at Santa Clara County Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: Newbury & Hobbes Investigations (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1St Edition edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765323206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765323200
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #943,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harkius VINE VOICE on June 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )

Yep, it's a pastiche. Yep, it's Sherlock Holmes with airships and zombies (astutely quoted by Eric San Juan (although no one else seems to have put it quite this eruditely)). Yep, it features a spy for the Queen who gets in fistfights with robots and zombies. Yep, it's fun.

This book has no real literary pretensions, thank god. Otherwise it would have fallen quite flat. As it is, it is intended to be a fun little story and it is. It quite nicely achieves its task: to be a light-hearted steampunk mystery. As if Sherlock Holmes was somehow blended with Indiana Jones, and then had a female assistant who was more competent than he was.

As is, this story essentially succeeds at all levels of what it is intended to be. I would give it five stars, if only it intended to be something significant, rather than an entertainment piece.

A. Plot

The plot is not deep, unexpected, or clever. But it is fun.

As others have adequately pointed out, the story is, essentially, a detective story (not a police procedural! there are six or seven seconds, in the entirety of the book, where this is accurate) focused on a mysterious plague (something like rabies, but causing George Romero's utopia, rather than hydrophobia) in Whitechapel, a parody of the Hindenburg crash in downtown London with the concomitant fireball and death of all aboard (except the robot captain), and a glowing policeman who may or may not be involved in the other two mysteries.

The plot moves along at a fair clip, neither moving too fast for most readers' comprehension, nor too slowly to hold their attention. As this is the grounding of the book, and its most important aspect, we are required to ask ourselves whether it is successful.

It is, mostly.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The year is 1901 (which history tells us was the last year of Queen Victoria's reign.) London is teeming with all the elements of awesomeness: A spectral glowing policeman is strangling people in Whitechapel. Steam-powered cabs and trolleys ply the sooty streets of the Metropolis. Hydrogen-filled airships cruise ponderously through the sky. The Queen is a steam-powered cyborg, kept alive by the Royal Surgeon's scientific genius. Brass automatons with clockwork brains perform menial tasks in the homes and offices of the wealthy. And ... Ravenous flesh-eating zombies lurk in London's thick fog, waiting to devour any unfortunate souls whom they may happen upon!

In this revised version of Late-Victorian London, Sir Maurice Newbury and his "delectable assistant" Veronica Hobbes venture forth from their office at the British Museum as special agents of the Crown, investigating the "glowing policeman" murders as well as the unexplained wreck of an airship.

The ideas in this book are fascinating, the story is solid & simple, the action scenes are taut, visceral, exciting ... but ... I was momentarily dismayed by a double Deus ex Machina in chapter 19, in which two _terribly convenient_ details are suddenly introduced in a rather arbitrary way. This misstep was relieved by excellent action and suspense later, and a very intriguing epilogue.

That's the good. Now the bad:

The writing style is simply awful. The blurb on the back of the book says that George Mann is the "head of a major British publishing imprint" but I say there's no way this guy is British. This book reads like it was written by an American trying (not very hard) to seem British. I suppose if Mr.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fog-enshrouded Victorian London is hardly a safe city in this steampunk thriller. A "revenant plague" runs rampant through the East End, turning the infected into decaying cannibals. A mysterious glowing policeman is strangling people to death. And an airship carrying fifty passengers crashes, yet the clockwork automaton piloting it has vanished without a trace. To solve these crimes Scotland Yard turns to Sir Maurice Newberry, anthropologist turned Crown investigator. With the aid of his assistant Veronica Hobbes he apples his intellect (and the occasional fist) towards untangling these mysteries and defeating the Empire's enemies.

George Mann's novel is a mystery that evokes the atmospherics of a familiar setting refreshed by its steampunk elements. Yet the book is hampered by pedestrian writing that turns it into little more than a pastiche of familiar elements. The plot itself is primarily a rush of events, with character development implied rather than undertaken. The main protagonist comes across as a pale imitation of Sherlock Homes (must every Victorian detective be a drug addict?), while his relationship with his assistant seems to be little more than a Victorian derivative of the Mulder-Scully dynamic. It all makes for a book that, while an entertaining read, is not one that has much to distinguish it beyond the many other works in the field.
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Format: Hardcover
Sir Maurice Newberry is already deep in an investigation of a series of murders committed, supposedly, by a glowing ghostly policeman when he is summoned to Queen Victoria. Victoria is concerned about an airship crash involving a young Dutch royal. Meanwhile his secretary's brother has vanished and his secretary is concerned that he fell prey to the zombies plaguing London. Together with his assistant, Veronica Hobbes, Newberry goes to work, investigating the airships while keeping his thumb to the pulse of the serial murder investigation.

The airship investigation is complicated by the disappearance of the pilot--in this case a mechanical man. The airship manufacturers definitely seem suspicious, but it's hard to see what they'd gain by destroying one of their own ships. Meanwhile, Newberry battles his addictions and suffers an amazing series of injuries.

Author George Mann creates an intriguing steam-punk London with Queen Victoria kept alive through a series of valves and machines, airships everywhere, and land-trains and steam carriages battling with horse-drawn cabs for control of the road. Mann also plants the seeds for a paranormal element, with Newberry being an expert on the occult, but doesn't really follow up on this.

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE held my interest, but its pacing was uneven (zagging between slow and frantic), Newberry's ability to function in the presence of so many injuries more than incredible, and the coincidence of all of the mysteries somehow pulling together just a little farfetched. BRIDGE isn't bad, but it felt like it should have been a lot better.
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