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The Affinity Bridge (Newbury & Hobbes Investigations) Hardcover – 7 Jul 2009


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  • Hardcover: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (7 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765323206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765323200
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,792,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By zeev wolfe on 27 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's 1901 and London is the center of the industrial revolution. Queen Victoria is still on the throne, there are steam vehicles on the street and Dirigibles in the air. Sir Maurice Newbury is a Crown investigator who works at the British Museum. He assists Scotland Yard in inquiries that his specialty can be of service to the Crown. His specialty is the occult, and archeology. He has recently hirer a woman assistant (he's very progressive) named Veronica Hobbs. Miss Hobbs is a modern woman who went to college and has a degree in anthropology.

There have been a dozen strangulation murders over the last few months and the only evidence is that people have seen a "glowing" policemen in the area just before the murders. There is also an outbreak of a virus that turns its' victims into Revenants, a type of Zombie. These Revenants attack during the foggy London nights and kill and eat their victims.

Sir Maurice gets a call from the Queen to come to the Palace. There has been a crash of one of the Dirigibles that fly over London with the death of all aboard. This is a very unusual occurrence, as a member of the Dutch Royal family was on the airship, a cousin of the Queen. So begins the first of the Newbury Hobbes Investigations. It's quite pleasant, don't you know, and Sir Maurice is handsome and daring, and Miss Hobbes in tenacious and steadfast. All of the Victorian cliches are here.

The story itself isn't any great shakes but it is a nice read and could easily be enjoyed on a plane or at the beach. It won't strain your intellect but will keep it interested.

Zeev Wolfe
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 93 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Sherlockesque Steampunk, Successfully Fun 3 Jun. 2009
By Harkius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Overview:

Yep, it's a pastiche. Yep, it's Sherlock Holmes with airships and zombies (astutely quoted by Eric San Juan (although no one else seems to have put it quite this eruditely)). Yep, it features a spy for the Queen who gets in fistfights with robots and zombies. Yep, it's fun.

This book has no real literary pretensions, thank god. Otherwise it would have fallen quite flat. As it is, it is intended to be a fun little story and it is. It quite nicely achieves its task: to be a light-hearted steampunk mystery. As if Sherlock Holmes was somehow blended with Indiana Jones, and then had a female assistant who was more competent than he was.

As is, this story essentially succeeds at all levels of what it is intended to be. I would give it five stars, if only it intended to be something significant, rather than an entertainment piece.

A. Plot

The plot is not deep, unexpected, or clever. But it is fun.

As others have adequately pointed out, the story is, essentially, a detective story (not a police procedural! there are six or seven seconds, in the entirety of the book, where this is accurate) focused on a mysterious plague (something like rabies, but causing George Romero's utopia, rather than hydrophobia) in Whitechapel, a parody of the Hindenburg crash in downtown London with the concomitant fireball and death of all aboard (except the robot captain), and a glowing policeman who may or may not be involved in the other two mysteries.

The plot moves along at a fair clip, neither moving too fast for most readers' comprehension, nor too slowly to hold their attention. As this is the grounding of the book, and its most important aspect, we are required to ask ourselves whether it is successful.

It is, mostly. The mystery is resolved a bit to quickly once everything falls into place. In the next story, in all probability, Newbury and Hobbes will encounter a more difficult mystery. It should feature their abilities a bit more clearly, and allow for some backstory, since we will already be familiar with the characters.

B. Characters

There are so many facets of the characters that are common and familiar that they almost don't need to be introduced. For example, Sir Maurice Newbury is a laudanum-addicted, formerly university trained anthropologist, who is a cross between Artemus Gordon and Indiana Jones.

Victoria Hobbes has hints of virtually every strong woman in literature, at one point or another. For example, she has a sister whose mental illness is confused with supernatural behavior (or vice versa), much like Angela Dodson in the film Constantine. She has a character that is somewhat like Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice. Essentially, she is a headstrong, self-assured, Victorian woman (what?).

There is the stalwart Bainbridge (likely named after William Sims Bainbridge), the token representative of Scotland Yard. Like the representatives in ACD's stories, he is not particularly bright, and can easily be perceived as a bulldog as easily as a man.

As Mark Klobas points out, the interactions between Newbury and Hobbes resemble little more than a Victorian version of Fox Moulder and Dana Sculley.

But, so? The characters are actually BETTER as they are, than if they were original. In a body of work as self-derivative and self-referential as steampunk, pastiches are not only expected, they are requisite. At least until the body of work attains a critical mass. In order for stereotypes to be broken and original characters to exist, someone has to put in the foundations so that there IS a stereotype. Mann is doing that work, and it is thankless, but enjoyable.

C. Setting

The story is set in Victorian London, sometime in the Nineteenth Century. The London we are given to imagine is . Other than the time and place (and the time is remarkably ill-defined, see below), there are few details about London that we really get. For example, we know that there are still hansom cabs, in addition to the steam-driven "Ground trains". We know that there are airships and mechanical devices of interesting provenance.

But, what of the social conditions. Whitechapel, naturally enough, is squalid and poor. But what are the socioeconomic and political conditions. As the Master of American Science Fiction (Isaac Asimov) pointed out, "Science fiction is at its best when the technological advances are grounded in the differences that they make in the humanity of the lives that they intersect with." And the lives of the humanity that they intersect with, too. But, that's my addition. Given greater attention to these conditions, even in allusive fashion, this could have surpassed its limitations and earned that fifth star.

I am simply astonished at how many people date this to the turn of the 20th century (perhaps because of A.J. Terry's nice review). I spent the entire novel, as an academic exercise, trying to determine the date that the book was set at. The closest I came to was a date range of 1842 to 1867. Certainly it seems much earlier than the dates of 1901 commonly used. (There are no mentions of Jack the Ripper in the Whitechapel portions of the book - this was a watershed moment in the late 1880's - and one would expect them to mention it if it had happened, since both incidences involve serial killings in this district.)

D. Theme

Uh, don't encounter cannibalistic zombies in the fog of London without a taser or a shotgun? There really ISN'T a theme in this. That is more a literary kind of thing. As I pointed out, this is not really a literary-kind of book.

E. Point of View

The point of view is generally told in a third-person voice of limited omniscience from Newbury's perspective. Occasionally, when he is out of commission, distracted, or absent, we get the perspective of one of the other characters. Nothing special here, but, again, that wasn't the author's intent.

F. Aesthetics

The aesthetics are good, but not great. London's mythical fog is out in full force, but it is not as interesting as the fogs in, say, "Johannes Cabal the Necromancer". The city is detailed, but not significantly so. The author seems to desire to ground his story in a few characters and a rapid plot, not the atmospherics of the Victorian thriller (such as Bram's classic).

Conclusion:

A nice little story, this one lacks pretensions that it fails to live up to. The author's seeming intent was to write a story that is fun and entertaining. He succeeded in this task, although not wildly. A book worth reading, if you are only looking for something to divert, particularly if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes or Victorian London. Some of the characters are a bit flat, and the setting could use some work, but the story is interesting and has its unconventional notions. Avoid this if you are looking for something literary or character driven, though. I expect that there will be a similar sequel, which may be even better, and that the Newbury and Hobbes books will extend to four or five adventures, possibly even further, given proper exposure.

B-

Harkius
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A pedestrian pastiche of a steampunk mystery 31 May 2009
By MarkK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fog-enshrouded Victorian London is hardly a safe city in this steampunk thriller. A "revenant plague" runs rampant through the East End, turning the infected into decaying cannibals. A mysterious glowing policeman is strangling people to death. And an airship carrying fifty passengers crashes, yet the clockwork automaton piloting it has vanished without a trace. To solve these crimes Scotland Yard turns to Sir Maurice Newberry, anthropologist turned Crown investigator. With the aid of his assistant Veronica Hobbes he apples his intellect (and the occasional fist) towards untangling these mysteries and defeating the Empire's enemies.

George Mann's novel is a mystery that evokes the atmospherics of a familiar setting refreshed by its steampunk elements. Yet the book is hampered by pedestrian writing that turns it into little more than a pastiche of familiar elements. The plot itself is primarily a rush of events, with character development implied rather than undertaken. The main protagonist comes across as a pale imitation of Sherlock Homes (must every Victorian detective be a drug addict?), while his relationship with his assistant seems to be little more than a Victorian derivative of the Mulder-Scully dynamic. It all makes for a book that, while an entertaining read, is not one that has much to distinguish it beyond the many other works in the field.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
A Good Story Poorly Written 12 Jun. 2009
By J. W. Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The year is 1901 (which history tells us was the last year of Queen Victoria's reign.) London is teeming with all the elements of awesomeness: A spectral glowing policeman is strangling people in Whitechapel. Steam-powered cabs and trolleys ply the sooty streets of the Metropolis. Hydrogen-filled airships cruise ponderously through the sky. The Queen is a steam-powered cyborg, kept alive by the Royal Surgeon's scientific genius. Brass automatons with clockwork brains perform menial tasks in the homes and offices of the wealthy. And ... Ravenous flesh-eating zombies lurk in London's thick fog, waiting to devour any unfortunate souls whom they may happen upon!

In this revised version of Late-Victorian London, Sir Maurice Newbury and his "delectable assistant" Veronica Hobbes venture forth from their office at the British Museum as special agents of the Crown, investigating the "glowing policeman" murders as well as the unexplained wreck of an airship.

The ideas in this book are fascinating, the story is solid & simple, the action scenes are taut, visceral, exciting ... but ... I was momentarily dismayed by a double Deus ex Machina in chapter 19, in which two _terribly convenient_ details are suddenly introduced in a rather arbitrary way. This misstep was relieved by excellent action and suspense later, and a very intriguing epilogue.

That's the good. Now the bad:

The writing style is simply awful. The blurb on the back of the book says that George Mann is the "head of a major British publishing imprint" but I say there's no way this guy is British. This book reads like it was written by an American trying (not very hard) to seem British. I suppose if Mr. Mann is the Big Boss at TOR, that might explain how his manuscript made it to press with no significant editorial review. This book needs some serious work done to it. The text is clumsy, the wording is awkward, and it is so full of cliche expressions that, by the time I was 20 pages in I was starting to count them, and by 40 pages I gave up, overwhelmed by the sheer number of lame chestnuts. The worst of it is that they were often used in such close juxtaposition to each other, or in such odd contexts that the actual sense of them was lost, and strange, irrelevant, unintentionally comical images sprang into the mind of the reader. If counting cliches had been a drinking game, I would have been completely PLASTERED before page 50. The relentless barrage of these over-used idioms distracted from the story and totally ruined the Victorian atmosphere. I'm pretty sure that at least 40 percent of them were modernisms, and many were Americanisms. I've read quite a bit of Victorian fiction (including the complete Sherlock Holmes) and Mr. Mann's dialogue is chock-full of things which I don't believe any Victorian Englishman would say.

The writing style was the main detriment to the atmosphere, but the book also shows a lack of research. I wasn't convinced by the setting; details were very vague, and I didn't get the impression that the author was at all familiar with London. All of his effort must have gone into creating the plot, leaving no time for historical research. Neither the style nor the setting come across as genuinely Victorian. I was extremely disappointed in this regard.

However, crippled as it is by incongruously modern language and acting, the story is interesting and original. Not everyone is as picky as I am .. If you don't care a bit about the technical _craft_ of writing, you can find plenty to enjoy in this fast-paced novel. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Nice Victorian London setting but not always convincing 10 Dec. 2009
By booksforabuck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Sir Maurice Newberry is already deep in an investigation of a series of murders committed, supposedly, by a glowing ghostly policeman when he is summoned to Queen Victoria. Victoria is concerned about an airship crash involving a young Dutch royal. Meanwhile his secretary's brother has vanished and his secretary is concerned that he fell prey to the zombies plaguing London. Together with his assistant, Veronica Hobbes, Newberry goes to work, investigating the airships while keeping his thumb to the pulse of the serial murder investigation.

The airship investigation is complicated by the disappearance of the pilot--in this case a mechanical man. The airship manufacturers definitely seem suspicious, but it's hard to see what they'd gain by destroying one of their own ships. Meanwhile, Newberry battles his addictions and suffers an amazing series of injuries.

Author George Mann creates an intriguing steam-punk London with Queen Victoria kept alive through a series of valves and machines, airships everywhere, and land-trains and steam carriages battling with horse-drawn cabs for control of the road. Mann also plants the seeds for a paranormal element, with Newberry being an expert on the occult, but doesn't really follow up on this.

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE held my interest, but its pacing was uneven (zagging between slow and frantic), Newberry's ability to function in the presence of so many injuries more than incredible, and the coincidence of all of the mysteries somehow pulling together just a little farfetched. BRIDGE isn't bad, but it felt like it should have been a lot better.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Holmes & Watson, meet Mulder & Scully 28 July 2009
By Richard Gazala - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a passably entertaining foray into steampunk and a good way to while away a few hours. The principal characters, Maurice Newbury and Victoria Hobbes, are shamelessly modeled on Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic Holmes and Watson, and they're even more blatantly reminiscent of the X Files' Mulder and Scully. The plot moves quickly as the heroes grapple under unreliable gaslight with an array of zombies, robots, and human miscreants in Victorian London at the seemingly incessantly foggy dawn of the 20th century. The story is engaging enough, and often summons compelling imagery. To his credit, author George Mann does a fairly good job bringing most of the handful of main characters to life.

The book cries for the touch of a voracious editor. Mann spends too much energy hammering home via overwrought symbolism the dehumanizing socioeconomic upheavals foisted on England as inevitable end products of Britain's rampant imperialism and industrialization. There are a couple of insubstantial subplots adding little but extra pages to the story. I suspect Mann included them to introduce characters for future novels. Mann has problems with points of view, switching haphazardly from one to another. Toward the story's end Newbury battles in quick succession a pair of zombies, then a pair of robots, then a serial killer on the roof of a train, and finally in a zeppelin against the evil mastermind, defeating them all with a brand of superheroism that reduces the likes of James Bond to effete incompetence. The last couple of chapters, and the epilogue, exist solely to ensure the reader knows all too well Mann has every intention of writing the further adventures of Newbury and Hobbes. With strong editing, those adventures may well be worth reading.
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