Sunday, March 18, 2012

Burton & Swinburne: Book 1 ~ The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Author: Mark Hodder
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!
My Review: I’m normally not one for this type of steam-punk plot line, but the cover had been standing out on the shelf for me for awhile now. So I decided to give it a whirl. Turns out, strangeness aside, I really did enjoy this book. I loved the writing style immensely, and the mystery feel to the plot. I love the Victorian era, and throwing in all these more science fiction qualities just made the ride that much more enjoyable.
Our story follows along as Burton, commissioned to become an investigator of the crimes of London. His main focus is the investigation of the strange appearances of werewolf like creatures kidnapping young chimney sweeps and the strange pattern of attacks of young women by a strange apparition, known as Spring Heeled Jack.
Characters: Hodder spent a perfect amount of time describing each of the many characters, unfolding their vivid personalities one right after the other. The good are good, and the bad are bad, and the evil are just that much worse. I love how he threw in well known historical figures (and some not so) and changed their qualities around so drastically.
Plot: I found this story very original. I loved how fact and fiction intermingled in this alternate Victorian era, where time travel has made history unravel quite a bit differently than it should have. There's a few bumps in the ride however, but as long as one is aware that this is in fact an adult book, there is in fact adult content...
Disclaimers: This book definitely has adult content involved, but I’d have to say that it is on the tamer side of this level of fiction. Nothing is ever down outright, with too much jaw slacking description. We skip along pleasantly, not being divulged in too much detail. Nevertheless, there is plenty of language throughout, some of which may have not been used quite in the right context. It is also quite violent, but according to my sensitivity, it’s never too violent unless there’s severed limps, so it wasn’t that awful. Over all. There is quite alot of mentioning of brothels and quite a bit of excessive drinking. There's a few minor "sexual" situations scattered throughout, between mentioning and happenings. We’ve also got a character suffering from algolagnia (desire for sexual gratification through inflicting pain on oneself or others; sadomasochism), but it’s more humorous than anything else... Well, it is!..... Lastly, there are a few cases of assault, but you can see it coming, and if you’d rather bypass it, you can. Nothing too explicit becomes of it.
Favorite Character: Swinburne/Oliphant(villain)
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Adult
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆
~ Darkitty

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