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The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by…
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The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

by Mark Hodder

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Burton and Swinburne (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7094013,323 (3.51)68
  1. 30
    The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (souloftherose)
  2. 10
    The Native Star by M. K. Hobson (glshade)
    glshade: MK Hobson's first novel is a surprising Weird Western that fits in well with the other excellent alternate historical fiction of this season... The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Bookman. All three are well written and well envisioned by the authors.… (more)
  3. 10
    The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (simon_carr)
  4. 00
    Soulless by Gail Carriger (GirlMisanthrope)
  5. 00
    The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar (glshade)
    glshade: Readers who enjoyed the alternate historical creation of mark Hodder will most likely enjoy another alternate view of the the Victorian era... this time with more outright Weird, steam and tesla creations.
  6. 01
    Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard (GirlMisanthrope)
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» See also 68 mentions

English (39)  French (1)  All (40)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
I'm still processing what I think about this gonzo approach to the steam-punk/Victoriana shtick, on the whole I like it but the story takes awhile to get in gear as Hodder creates his reality from the ground up; imagine a cross between Tim Powers and Charlie Stross. I think I'll be reading more books in this series. ( )
  Shrike58 | Mar 22, 2017 |
Sir Richard Francis Burton thought his reputation was ruined after his friend betrayed him, but unknown to him certain things happened which changed the course of his life and the history of the Empire.
He gets an unexpected job offer from the Prime minister to be a king's agent who would investigate the things Scotland Yard wouldn't or couldn't. He accepts, of course.
He is not alone. A lot of people want to help. Some of them die because of it (Monty, the cab driver gets killed by werewolves).
And there is his friend Algernon Charles Swinburne, who might be an unsuccessful poet, but Burton couldn’t have wished a better, more courageous and crazier partner.
I like the fact that the author did not use a romantic plot to make the story. Burton has a fiancé, though they part ways later.
The world is beautifully depicted. There is a chapter, The Cauldron, which describes the poorest areas in London and, I swear, I could have smelled the stench and felt the fear while reading it.
The honeycomb of narrow, uneven passages, bordered by the most decrepit and crowded tenements in the city, was flowing with raw sewage and rubbish of every description, including occasional corpses. The stench was overpowering and both men had vomited more than once.
They passed tall houses-“rookeries”-mostly of wood, which slumped upon their own foundations as if tired of standing; houses whose gaping windows were devoid of glass and patched, instead, with paper or cloth or broken pieces of wood; windows from which slops and cracked chamber pots were emptied; from which defeated eyes gazed blankly.

Or, another disturbing picture:
Time and again the two men were approached by girls barely out of childhood, who materialised out of the fog with matted hair and bare feet, smeared with excrement up to their knees, covered only by a rough coat or a thin, torn dress or a man's shirt which hung loosely over their bones; who offered themselves for a few coppers; who lowered the price when refused; who begged and wheedled and finally cursed viciously when the men pushed past.
Time and again they were approached by boys and men in every variety of torn and filthy apparel, who demanded and bullied and threatened and finally, when the pistols appeared, spat and swore and sidled away.

But, not everything is horrible. There are hilarious things. One of these are parakeets they use for messages. One of the downsides of using them is their language.
“Message from the stinking prime minister's office,” it cackled. “You are requested to attend that prattle-brain Lord Palmerston at 10 Downing Street at nine o'clock in the morning. Please confirm, arse-face. Message ends.
Both horrible and great things are depicted with great detail. I loved the writing. I tried not to say too much and I think I've managed it, but those who like steampunk and time-travel themes, will not be disappointed with this book, nor with the way it is written. The events go kind of backwards, then they jump from one point in time to the next and it is masterfully done. ( )
  Aneris | Feb 15, 2017 |
While this book starts well it seems to lose its way towards the end.
There is lots of action and it does a good job of introducing the main characters while settin up nicely for a sequel. ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 2016 |
Sir Richard Burton is called in to deal with odd events in London. Meanwhile, a time traveler is hopping around London attempting to 'fix' things, but only making them worse. ( )
  majkia | Apr 29, 2016 |
Very good alternate history and steampunk mix. The story rollicks right along until it has to step off to the side and explain Jack, which I think hurt the pace a bit, but the ending was as cinematic and action-packed as one could hope for. ( )
  tigerb | Apr 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
A steampunk extravaganza set in an alternate Victorian England where Queen Victoria was actually killed in the 1840 assassination attempt and Prince Albert now rules as regent. Much like Scott Westefeld's Leviathan series, technological creations compete scientifically with the genetic enhancement of creatures and new species. And Sir Richard Francis Burton, the great explorer, is asked by the Crown to investigate a series of strange assaults which witnesses report were carried out by the legendary Spring Heeled Jack.

I really, really like the steampunk genre; there's something about the mix of alternate history and strange steam powered inventions that I find really appealing. And yet, I found it really difficult to engage with this book despite my love for the genre as a whole.

This is Hodder's first novel and there are certainly some good ideas in his book. It's a more than a little unfortunate that Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy makes Hodder's Eugenics/Technologists divide seem slightly unoriginal, but the overall feeling I got from the book was that there were too many good ideas crammed into its 500 pages. As an example, instead of just one famous Victorian scientist featuring as a main character we seem to have every one the author could think of. I also struggled to like any of the main characters and although I realise that Victorian women were not generally encouraged to live a life of adventure it would have been nice to have one main female character.

So, overall, a just about ok read for me. I would guardedly recommend this book if you are already a fan of steampunk novels but otherwise I would recommend other steampunk novels like Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series and George Mann's The Affinity Bridge first (in fact George Mann and Mark Hodder are both published by the same publisher, Snowbooks)
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mark Hodderprimary authorall editionscalculated
Doyle, GerardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hiscock, KateIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to my father Michael John Hodder
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"By God! He's killed himself!"
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Charles Darwin had killed God but she and her family, like so many other, still clung to the delusion. pg 33
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Sir Richard Francis Burton investigates a strange apparition called Spring Heeled Jack that has been assaulting young women around London.

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