Guest Reviewer sqyiggle reviews the novel The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder, published by Pyr.
Its Steampunk. Its a reimagined Victorian London, complete with ludicrous fogs, steampowered bicycles, airships, mutant monsters, time travel, and rudimentary genetic engineering. It is almost as if Hodder has taken the entire genre and shovelled it, belts and braces, into this novel.
Its totally barmy, really nuts at times, but full marks to Hodder for melding a whole host of popular legends into something that is almost original. I say almost, because it doesn’t quite remake the mould.
What Hodder does do though, is utilise an impressive array of historical characters, subvert them to an impressive degree and then weld them into an intriguing narrative which really doesn’t make any sense until you get to the second half of the book. Which may explain why it took me a good while to properly read it. The first half does meander a little bit, almost as if Hodder had assembled such a varied and wonderful cast of characters that he then felt compelled to use all of them.
However, once we get to the crux of the matter – the true story behind Spring Heeled Jack, that is – and this has to be one of my all time favourite riffs on the time traveller idea – the story sheds its excess baggage and veritably hums along, finishing with a couple of glorious set pieces and an ending that shows Hodder is prepared to stick to his guns where the essential characteristics of his main protagonist, Richard Burton are concerned.
If I had to rate it, I’d give the first half 3/5 and the second half 4/5. Its nearly very good, but not quite.
But if you love steampunk, victoriana with a healthy does of everyone’s favourite mad scientist thrown in for good measure, you will like this book, and I would recommend it.