The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man

Mark Hodder's take on steampunk in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Canada, USA, Europe) was so fresh and entertaining, I couldn't wait to read the sequel. Pretty much in the same vein, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man is another fun read!
Here's the blurb:

It is 1862, though not the 1862 it should be...

Time has been altered, and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the king’s agent, is one of the few people who know that the world is now careening along a very different course from that which Destiny intended.

When a clockwork-powered man of brass is found abandoned in Trafalgar Square, Burton and his assistant, the wayward poet Algernon Swinburne, find themselves on the trail of the stolen Garnier Collection—black diamonds rumored to be fragments of the Lemurian Eye of Naga, a meteorite that fell to Earth in prehistoric times.

His investigation leads to involvement with the media sensation of the age: the Tichborne Claimant, a man who insists that he’s the long lost heir to the cursed Tichborne estate. Monstrous, bloated, and monosyllabic, he’s not the aristocratic Sir Roger Tichborne known to everyone, yet the working classes come out in force to support him. They are soon rioting through the streets of London, as mysterious steam wraiths incite all-out class warfare.

From a haunted mansion to the Bedlam madhouse, from South America to Australia, from séances to a secret labyrinth, Burton struggles with shadowy opponents and his own inner demons, meeting along the way the philosopher Herbert Spencer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Florence Nightingale, and Charles Doyle (father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

Can the king’s agent expose a plot that threatens to rip the British Empire apart, leading to an international conflict the like of which the world has never seen? And what part does the clockwork man have to play?

Burton and Swinburne’s second adventure—The Clockwork Man of Trafalgar Square—is filled with eccentric steam-driven technology, grotesque characters, and a deepening mystery that pushes forward the three-volume story arc begun in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Once again, it's not easy to label this book. It is steampunk, no question about it. But much like its predecessor, it is much more than that. There are alternate history/alternate reality elements imbuing every single page of this work. The time-traveling facet brings an unmistakable science fiction touch. If you add to that various fantastical elements, once more you've got yourself an inventive melting pot of speculative fiction staples that should intrigue and satisfy genre readers everywhere.

As expected, Hodder captured the essence of this pseudo-Victorian Age perfectly with its myriad mannerisms and nuances. His colorful narrative once again creates an imagery that brings this tale to life. The dialogues remain witty and engaging, with most of the cast from The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack returning for Act 2.

The characterization remains my favorite aspect of this second installment. Sir Richard Francis Burton and Algernon Charles Swinburne are well-defined characters, with the latter getting more fleshed out in this sequel. Most of the men and women that comprised the supporting cast in the first volume return and are as endearing a bunch of protagonists as you're likely to find, chief among them Constable William Trounce. New faces are added to the mix, keeping things fresh. Even better, the presence of many historical figures such as Oscar Wilde, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Florence Nightingale, and especially Herbert Spencer, add a little something extra to an already satisfying reading experience.

The rhythm can be uneven from time to time. Add to that the many POV shifts with no clear breaking point within the narrative, and this one is not a more or less fluid read the way The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack was. But I truly enjoyed the way Mark Hodder connects the events from both novels, as well as how he linked the possible futures with the past. In the end, everything comes together, setting the table for what should be a very interesting finale.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

3 commentaires:

redhead said...

You're right, it's steampunk, but it's so much more. I've been describing it as "Steampunk goes Mad Science".

I appreciated all the set up for future novels/adventures that Hodder put in. His alternative England is getting even more off course, it's great fun!

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to tell if / when the book will be out for the kindle? I greatly enjoyed Hodor's previous book and want this one, but I'd prefer a kindle version.

Jamie Gibbs said...

Why the hell haven't i read any Hodder before? I need to get my hands on some of these :)