It is 1864, and London is a city in transition. The Constantine Affliction - a strange malady that kills some of its victims and physically transforms others into the opposite sex - has spread scandal and upheaval throughout society. Scientific marvels and disasters, such as clockwork courtesans, the alchemical fires of Whitechapel, electric carriages, and acidic monsters lurking in the Thames, have forever altered the face of the city.
Pembroke "Pimm" Hanover is an aristocrat with an interest in criminology, who uses his keen powers of observation to assist the police or private individuals - at least when he’s sober enough to do so. Ellie Skyler, who hides her gender behind the byline "E. Skye", is an intrepid journalist driven by both passion and necessity to uncover the truth, no matter where it hides.
When Pimm and Skye stumble onto a dark plot that links the city's most notorious criminal overlord with the Queen's new consort, famed scientist Sir Bertram Oswald, they soon find the forces of both high and low society arrayed against them. Can they save the city from the arcane machinations of one of history's most appalling monsters - and uncover the shocking origin of... The Constantie Affliction?
©2012 T. Aaron Payton (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
Steampunk that works on every level with alternate technology woven seamlessly into the plot (not just tossed in for effect) with a mash up of genres (melodrama, alternate history, paranormal, horror, romance) and flavored with a bit of everything (romantic comedies of the 40's, Dr. Frankenstein, Regency tales, etc.). The plot sizzles and steams until all these bits and pieces gel into a wonderfully fun and cohesive story that will have a permanent home in My Library. It would be a spoiler to detail anymore of the plot than provided in the Publisher's Summary, but the premise of a disease that causes gender change in a person during a era when genteel people would never mention the word gender much less sex and in a time when men held most of the property and power and women were not guaranteed basic human liberties obviously provides a setup for some interesting conflict. T. Aaron Payton (pseudonym for Tim Pratt) has used this terrific premise to lay out a very engaging story that is fun and funny while still providing some food for thought. I have liked some of Tim Pratt's previous books, but I'm glad I didn't realize Payton and Pratt are the same person before I read the book because The Constantine Affliction is a major cut above and I'm really glad this book is a "Book 1" because I want much more of this. The characters are well developed (I could so picture Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell or Katherine Hepburn playing the leads in this), the plot is crazy but coherent, the biological bent of the alternate technology is a nice new twist on steampunk, and John Lee's narration is truly great. Even if you have given up on steampunk (because, hey, there is a lot of it that isn't very good), I'd urge you to try this one - first rate entertainment!
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
I went into this expecting a steampunk mystery built upon a screwball, gender-bending premise. From there, the only assumption I made was that it would either be fun or absurd. I got both, and I got a few surprises along the way, which I won't spoil because that's part of the fun.
The characters are a blast. Oddly, as much as I like the two lead characters, it's the supporting cast that really makes this story tick. Kudos for the villain on this one. I love a good over-the-top "I'm the hero of this story" monologue in the classic style, and this one doesn't disappoint. As bizarre as the premise is, the story does offer some rather spectacular modern social commentary through the lens of Victorian society and its expectations. Explained through the villain's point of view... wow.
I'm looking forward to book 2 now. I'm curious to see what the author offers as an encore.
The unusual and unique ideas in Payton's plot, and Lee's narration. While the plot contained several familiar steampunk tropes, the premise was refreshing. The characters were interesting and vivid- and Lee's narration added to this with his ability to manifest their voices consistently.
If you enjoyed Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris' Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences tales, you'll likely enjoy The Constantine Affliction.However, Payton's plot doesn't get bogged down in romance (I sometimes lost patience with the romance elements in MPO stories). I prefer a plot that cracks along at a good pace and doesn't lose track with emotional conflict between principal characters. The romance that is there is lighthearted and enjoyable. It's also macabre and sometimes a touch gruesome in a similar way to MPO, but those elements of the story were campy enough that I was favorably reminded of some of my favorite classic black and white horror movies.
Lee is a talented narrator, maintaining his characters' different inflections and syntax in voices distinct enough from his narrator's voice so I had no trouble determining which character was speaking. He also did a superb job with the female character voices without lapsing into annoying falsetto. I think I would have enjoying reading this book as well, but Lee's narration created such an immersive atmosphere that my imagination was captivated utterly. Although my eyes were on the road and my hands were on the wheel, my mind was in neo-Victorian London.
Yes, and I did, just about. I purchased the audio book prior to making a very long drive, and the miles just drifted away hour after hour, and I found myself irritated at having to stop for gas and bio breaks not because I was losing drive time but because I had to pause the story.
This story has several steampunk, gothic and even sci fi elements that could have spun out of the author's control and turned into a muddled mess, but Payton kept it all tightly stitched together and never let the plot spiral away. Several unique surprises lifted this work out of mere genre fiction into a cleverly crafted and thoroughly engaging tale.
The narrator did an excellent job, and the author provided him some excellent tools to display his craft.
This is my first T. Aaron Payton (AKA Tim Pratt) book
He brings a great series of voices, and does an excellent droll rendering of some quite silly scenes
Victorian England is struck by a plague that converts men to women, and women to men... and this is the least of their problems
Owing much to old-time radio plays, The Constantine Affliction remains fresh even while playing homage to Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, and H.P. Lovecraft. Yes, some of the characters are superficial and one dimensional, but only when it's called for and they are used to great effect.
The narrator brilliantly depicts a wide range of characters. At first I was a little worried about his ability to do female voices, but it seems all part of the plot.
The setup for the story is two-fold. The actual Constantine-Affliction, an STD that reverses the gender of it's victims, plays more of a background role, and the story could have been made to work without it(although it would be totally bland). The main plot centers around a series of murders. The victims all being young women, all of whom are employed as prostitutes.
It does get a little silly towards the end, and Payton lets the plot get away from him at one specific point, but then he manages to wrangle everything back together. You won't learn anything from this book, and you won't find yourself thinking about it once it's over, but it's a fun relaxing romp, for anyone who's not afraid of a little gender-bending.
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