Book Review: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There were things about this book that I loved fantastically, but on the whole it was a slower read than I would like. It seemed to be all that was missing from The Girl in the Steel Corset, however it was missing everything that book did well, such as pulling you in from page one and keeping the story interest throughout the entire book.
The world presented by Hodder was meticulously researched, thoroughly crafted and well-written. It was consistent, believable, and all the character dialogue and descriptions were fitting with the style. It was fantastical and creative and weird and very steampunk. The alterations to Victorian history we usually see in Steampunk creations are steam and clockwork-driven machines and, though this book did showcase some great examples, it seems to focus on the biological creations of this alternate history, which is unique. Genetic experimentation and mutation are the showcase of this story and the author ties it in well.
I was moderately impressed with the characterization and though the characters are unique and interesting, they aren’t built up as much as I’d like. I did like the use of well-known historical characters from our world such as Oscar Wilde, Florence Nightingale and Charles Darwin as characters and even antagonists and it did add interest to their identity, but not enough to get me emotionally involved about any of the characters and at times felt a little like a gimmick (“Hey! I know who that is! I studied him in school!). I liked reading about them to an extent, but I didn’t really care what happened to any of them.
Mark Hodder manages to builds the mystery throughout the book, leading to a “tell-all” scene where the full truth finally comes out which really helps add interest (I love that part in a good story, where you finally find out what the hell is going on), but it was fairly easy to guess the large part of the truth before the great reveal. Still, it was enjoyable to read about the build-up, and the explanations did clear up a lot of questions I didn’t manage to guess the answer to.
What I didn’t enjoy about this book was the pacing. It was very slow at the beginning and I had to try more than once to start the story as I couldn’t get past the first few chapters on early attempts. The story does pick up later and the end is nice and action-packed, but it takes a while to get to that stage. It even took a while to get Algernon Swinburne involved in the story and I was wondering for a good part of the book why the series was called “Burton and Swinburne” if Swinburne was only around for a few scenes, and drunk in those few appearances. He did finally make a more substantial contribution to the investigation and a partnership (of sorts) was established, but it took much too long get to the interesting part and the only thing that kept me reading in the beginning was the very creative world Hodder planted his less-than-thrilling story in.