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Review: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. It’s got all the ingredients I normally like to feast upon, but, in the end, it just didn’t come together for me. Everything feels forced and cluttered with self-conscious cleverness. Steampunk has to be more than gadgets and repurposed Victorians if it’s going to hold my attention.

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3 comments to Review: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

  • This book is not perfect. There are many things about this book that are only excusable, because it is a first novel. That being said, I liked it better than you did, and I found many things in it besides gadgetry and cleverness.

    The themes of unintended consequences, placing self-interests ahead of the greater good, environmentalism and the role of government in regulation were not well developed, but then neither were they heavy handed.

    This book gave me a glimpse (not a good look, but a glimpse) at the role steampunk can play in the literary canon. It has made me interested in investigating more of this genre, maybe even reading something with zombies — please, tell me I didn’t say that.

    The long and the short of it is that this book is a much better first effort than it is a book. Still, I think the author holds real promise.

  • Lynn

    And it wouldn’t be the first time that a flawed creation proved more thought-provoking than one that sat a bit closer to perfection.

    I came away thinking that the story would have been much more interesting (and focused on the themes you describe) if it actually had been about the Spring-Heeled Jack. He could be an exemplary tragic character. But the story, from the title on, is focused on Burton who, in the end, whole-heartedly embraces existential anarchy and his fate as the lead character in a series of Holmesian/steampunk adventures. (I hesitate to call them mysteries, because mysteries require logic and, a priori, logic has taken a powder in this brave new world.)

    For a different taste of steampunk, I’d suggest going back to its roots with Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates or Gibson and Sterling’s Difference Engine. For contemporary steampunk, take a look at Cherie Priest’s series that starts with Boneshaker. And the Steampunk Scholar website is a good place to get a grounding in steampunk tropes.

  • Lynn

    Oh, drat…I see the comment code has lost its “space after comma” functionality again.

    A blog-owner’s work is never done…