Mark Hodder's take on steampunk in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack was so fresh and entertaining, I couldn't wait to read the sequel. Pretty much in the same vein, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man is another fun read!
Once again, it's not easy to label this book. It is steampunk, no question about it. But much like its predecessor, it is much more than that. There are alternate history/alternate reality elements imbuing every single page of this work. The time-traveling facet brings an unmistakable science fiction touch. If you add to that various fantastical elements, once more you've got yourself an inventive melting pot of speculative fiction staples that should intrigue and satisfy genre readers everywhere.
As expected, Hodder captured the essence of this pseudo-Victorian Age perfectly with its myriad mannerisms and nuances. His colorful narrative once again creates an imagery that brings this tale to life. The dialogues remain witty and engaging, with most of the cast from The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack returning for Act 2.
The characterization remains my favorite aspect of this second installment. Sir Richard Francis Burton and Algernon Charles Swinburne are well-defined characters, with the latter getting more fleshed out in this sequel. Most of the men and women that comprised the supporting cast in the first volume return and are as endearing a bunch of protagonists as you're likely to find, chief among them Constable William Trounce. New faces are added to the mix, keeping things fresh. Even better, the presence of many historical figures such as Oscar Wilde, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Florence Nightingale, and especially Herbert Spencer, add a little something extra to an already satisfying reading experience.
The rhythm can be uneven from time to time. Add to that the many POV shifts with no clear breaking point within the narrative, and this one is not a more or less fluid read the way The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack was. But I truly enjoyed the way Mark Hodder connects the events from both novels, as well as how he linked the possible futures with the past. In the end, everything comes together, setting the table for what should be a very interesting finale.