Sir Richard Francis Burton is an explorer, linguist, scholar, and swordsman. His reputation has been tarnished, his career is in tatters, and his former partner is missing and probably dead. Algernon Charles Swinburne is an 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 epicentre 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 labour; and Libertines oppose repressive laws and demand a society based on beauty and creativity, while the Rakes push the boundaries of human behaviour 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)2012 Audible Ltd
Wow. What a story, what a series!!
Mark Hodder spins a brilliant yarn. He winds real historical characters into a complex evolving steampunk tale of time and fantastic technology in a world where Victoria doesn’t survive an assassins bullet. This is the first book in a series of three and it’s a ride all the way to the finish. Nothing here is obvious and the twists kept me on the edge of my Galaxy S3 until the last paragraph. Get the series and shut yourself away for the weekend.
Not so much.
The world is greatly conceived, the idea of using real-life characters (Victorian explorers, engineers etc.) is fine, the plot is none too shabby (though time travel? again?)... and yet...
Here is the problem.
The characters -- all of them -- are dumb. Stupid. As in, behaving stupidly, making idiotic decisions, not thinking for themselves, playing roles assigned to them by the author.
OK for a teenager fantasy.
For an adult? Not so much.
None of them. See above.
Doyle is OK - not *the* best, but certainly deserves a strong "B".
It needs a rewriting.
HPMoR. Look it up.
Great setting and very well described. The time-travel idea was pretty obvious from the start. Loved the fact that the bad guys were well known personalities from science.
"Steam Punked and Loving it"
I stumbled across this book after doing some research on Spring Heeled Jack. I fell in love with it and could not stop listening. The characters are wonderful and brought to life by Gerard Doyle's fantastic narration. The plot weaves in and out of time and it all comes together beautifully, leaving you wanting more. Fantastic creations and ideas, some that were actually made and others that have been Steam Punked into glorious gothic inventions.
A great listen.
"excellent all round innovative and gripping"
A very unusual mix of storyline which is believable in most parts, the script is very descriptive producing elaborate mental imagery. The narration is awesome and compelling, I really struggled to stop listening, a really great job and I was straight on to part 2.
"Odd, Original and Memorable"
An entertaining story that hangs together pretty well. It has some dark moments but it also has moments that did make me smile. The author writes well although sometimes he is a little repetitive on a particular point.
It is mainly a time-travel story in which a man from the 23rd century, keen to reinstate the family's good name, tries to stop his ancestor from killing Queen Victoria and in the attempt dramatically changes the course of history. During the course of the book there is a bit of confusion about the paradoxes that the storyline sets up, but it is all lost in the enjoyable silliness of it all, including a Charles Darwin with two brains and a mechanical Brunel!
Spring-Heeled Jack is a real Victorian phenomena and is worth a look in Wikipedia, but read this after you have listened to the book! Hodder has carefully followed the 'real' myth and speculation in the story he has woven.
The narrator also does a fine job.
"Not for me"
I really like the sound of this story, however I was left disappointed. The plot is clunky and awkward, and the narrative is rife with Americanisms which is a real pet peeve of mine. If you are setting a book in England, use English!
The narrator did a good job, and I would probably listen to something narrated by him again.
Overall I can't recommend this book and I certainly won't be bothering with any of the others in the series.
"interesting, but slightly strange"
not sure about this. I haven't read any steam punk literature before and have to confess to barely knowing what it is. And yet there's a strange academic challenge here - and a lot of hmm yes, what if?
the book took me longer than usual to listen to and then it finished. Hmmm ....
A superb match of narrator and material, Gerard Doyle's telling of this highly original and fast-paced adventure captures the 'Boys' Own/ Flashman' sensitivity of the story while giving it a dry irony and wit that makes the characters feel authentic and yet doesn't take itself too seriously. Can't recommend this book highly enough... looking forward to the next in the series.
"A very interesting imagining"
Yes, it was an interesting foray into a past quite different from the one recorded in the history books. There were so many different characters it will probably take another listen to fully appreciate them.
I loved all the scenes with Algernon Swinburne. Although he claimed to be utterly depraved he was a likeable character with a strong sense of loyalty.
The voices selected brough a warmth and likeableness to many of the main characters and he made those who had bodily modifications sound so very different it really made them come alive.
It had some elements that made me smile but it was most interesting for the world described in such great detail in the novel and for the unfolding of the twists and turns of the plot.
"A rip roaring romp through an alternate history"
I loved the fact that the characters were real, the fact that people I had considered heroes turned out to be the villains of the piece and the inventiveness much of which felt as if it so could have been true.
Favourite character? Has to have been the various parakeets, and although silent, Fidget, who always managed to lighten the moment.
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the park...
Can't wait to start listening to the rest of the series!
"One section too many?"
Steampunk meets genetics
Burton is an engaging central character and his Robin/Watson sidekick, the decadent poet Swinburne, provides frequent comic relief. I liked the usual steam-driven devices but also the entertaining products of genetic engineering - especially the foul-mouthed parakeets.Nice climactic battle.
Gerard Doyle was uniformly excellent at voicing all the characters, male and female. Burton was probably the best written character with most of the others, including Swinburne, a bit two-dimensional.
Too long for that and the exposition sometimes a bit too dense. The central section dragged a bit and could have been considerably shorter.
I shall certainly try the second volume and hope that it will have a little bit less exposition and explore the character of Swinburne more deeply.
"An excellent listen"
I had never read/listened to anything from the steam punk genre until giving this a go. I'm glad I did. It now has me hooked. Not only is it an enjoyable story but you also learn of people from history you may otherwise have never discovered. Can't wait to start the next in the series. Dread finishing the final instalment, though.
The narration was very strong. Tended to feel weak at times, but those times were very rare. High marks all around.
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