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The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (A Burton & Swinburne Adventure) Paperback – September 1, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Then all hell breaks loose. In a good way. This version of 1861 isn't what we read in the history books. It includes steam powered flying chairs, insulting messenger parakeets, genetically engineered werewolves, robotic street cleaners and all sorts of goodies. Most of the characters are famous Victorians, or in this world Albertians given that Victoria was shot to death in 1840 (a real life attempt that was fatal in this alternate history).
The voice of the novel is third person, medium tight and usually riding with Burton. It does, however, jump over to some others occasionally like his side kick the Marquis-de-Sade-loving poet Algernon Swinburne and the title character. The tone is slightly flip, as the inventions and wackiness is just left of possible. Yet things remain consistently period and the characters are well researched and full of era-appropriate dialog, but also clever and engaging.
About midway, the book, already getting weird, goes totally off the the deep end. Enter Spring-Heeled Jack, crazy time traveler, and a host of steampunk altered villains including a double-brain grafted Charles Darwin and an Iron Golemized Isambard Kingdom Brunel. But this zaniness only makes the novel better. I'm reminded of one of my all time favorites, The Anubis Gates, but TSAOSHJ is less magical, more grounded in technology.
Bravo! This book really shows off tremendous world building and research while remaining fast paced and easy to read.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In the hope that the book would improve as it went along, I managed to force myself through Mark Hodder's "The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack" (the first novel in his... Read morePublished 2 months ago by illiandantic
A terrific tale of alternative history - Sir Richard Burton and his sidekick, the poet Algernon Swinburne, take on adventures involving time travelers, flying swans and amazing... Read morePublished 4 months ago by LucieFD
I really liked the idea of this book - Spring Heeled Jack and steampunk and a mystery - what fun! However, the writing just didn't work for me. Read morePublished 4 months ago by BookWyrm
Super book! This is one of the most imaginative and clever novels I've read in a long time. It's a steampunk novel that follows the adventures of the explorer Richard Francis... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jim Lester
Wonderful book! Hodder created a world you can easily get lost in. I can't wait to read more!Published 8 months ago by Scarlett Stewart
In the end… I only felt any real interest and sympathy for the "Spring Heeled Jack" character. The version of London portrayed by MH was only mildly compelling. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Janine M. Steiner
The plot felt dumb. I enjoy steampunk aesthetics, but does it have to be always connected to such idiotic stories?Published 11 months ago by Dan Svoboda
The title says it all- Strange. As in most time hopping books- there are instances of repeat and that slows the pace. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Jett1961