• The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

  • Burton & Swinburne, Book 1
  • By: Mark Hodder
  • Narrated by: Gerard Doyle
  • Length: 14 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 01-24-12
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.7 (1,720 ratings)

Regular price: $24.95

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Publisher's Summary

Sir Richard Francis Burton: explorer, linguist, scholar, and swordsman; his reputation tarnished; his career in tatters; his former partner missing and probably dead. Algernon Charles Swinburne: unsuccessful poet and follower of de Sade; for whom pain is pleasure, and brandy is ruin! They stand at a crossroads in their lives and are caught in the epicenter of an empire torn by conflicting forces: engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier, and dirtier technological wonders; eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labor; libertines oppose repressive laws and demand a society based on beauty and creativity; while the Rakes push the boundaries of human behavior to the limits with magic, drugs, and anarchy.
The two men are sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when Lord Palmerston commissions Burton to investigate assaults on young women committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack, and to find out why werewolves are terrorizing London's East End. Their investigations lead them to one of the defining events of the age - and the terrifying possibility that the world they inhabit shouldn't exist at all!
©2010 Mark Hodder (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"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.... 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." (Booklist)
"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." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Robert L. on 02-08-12

Fun Steampunk but on the outlandish side

Good:
-- a sweeping vision of steampunk fantasy with a whole range of technologies and factions clashing amidst 'stiff upper lip' Victorian England
-- characters are fun and well rounded for this kind of fiction
-- does a surprisingly good job at both tying up the plot lines of this particular story and simultaneously establishing characters and plot lines for the the follow on books
-- good narration

Bad
-- didn't bother me much but it may bother some: this is steampunk fantasy. It's not just an alternate technological development line, it's the 1890s with things that couldn't be done today. In fact some of the tech is probably just impossible, or at least 50 years out from now, but Victorians are being it with wood and brass. If this bothers you, large chunks of this book, especially the last third, will really grate on you
-- similarly, while the coverage of Victorian speech patterns and mannerisms is often a strength of the book, the speechifying in the action sequences (again in the last third) is just ridiculous. It's kind of like professional wrestling where you have to listen to a lot of nonsensical talking to set up a fight and then during the fight people will just stop to talk and showboat for awhile because it fits their character as opposed to making any sense at all.
-- sometimes plot convenience just overtakes common sense even if you suspend disbelief for the steampunk aspects: at one point a character who has been stabbed through both thighs with a spear gets up and outruns healthy Somali warriors. Really? Not just stabbed in one thigh but in both thighs? Really?
-- it's a common failing of action heros in the last twenty years or so, but if you add up the amount of damage the hero takes it's probably enough to kill 3-4 guys and put two more in the hospital

Overall the good stuff was things I like and the bad stuff was the kind of things I can gloss over so it was 4 stars for me but if the you have read any of these bad points and thought to yourself "it makes me nuts when they do that" this will probably be a 2 star or even a 1 star book for you.

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92 of 97 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Aerindel on 01-28-12

Fantastic!

For some time I have been looking for a book that could live up to the possibilities presented by the steampunk genre and have largely been disappointed. While books such as Perdido Street station, Terminal World and Boneshaker have all had promise each one has failed to to both convey the technology and culture of a steampunk world while also being a good story in regards to the fundamentals of storytelling such as narrative flow and relatable characters.

The curious case of Spring Heeled Jack however is THE book that steampunks have been looking for and the perfect introduction to those new to the genre. It is both original and historical, filled with fantastic machines and creatures on par with the best alien worlds of fiction. There are characters of surprising depth and exciting action scenes both all set in an alternate "victorian" era. Unlike most alternate history fiction the changes in history here are not merely to suite the authors convenance but are an actual result of the story itself making this not so much an alternative history as it is a time travel epic. It manages to be fanciful without being too bizarre to relate to and unlike many authors of this genre this author remembers that no matter how interesting the world you create may be the characters must be the foundation of the story if we are to care at all about the plot.

The story unfolds first from the perspective of an man hired to investigate some of the stranger happenings in what from our perspective is a radically changed and bizarre world and then later from the point of view of a man from our future trying to deal with his own past and the changes that occurred to the timeline. It is in this second part of the story that this book truly shines when we listen with growing horror and fascination to the sequence of events that have lead to a 19th century england so different from our own.

Any fan of time travel will love this story and the classic paradoxes it copes with as will anyone who has studied the social and scientific changes of the victorian era and wondered, "what if"

At last steampunks have a book they can be proud to recommend as an example of the genre without an excuses or caveats to the fantasy or sci-fi fan.

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26 of 29 people found this review helpful

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