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on 23 June 2011
Following on from his first two hugely enjoyable Newbury & Hobbes Investigations (The Affinity Bridge and The Osiris Ritual), George Man bring us his latest offering in his steampunk-flavoured series; The Immorality Engine.
Once again focusing on the exploits of occult expert, and agent to the crown, Maurice Newbury alongside his assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, we find Sir Maurice at a new low. He is despondent and introverted, hiding away in a seedy opium den, slave to his desire for the drug. He has been consumed by addiction, his duties as Her Majesty's agent as much neglected as his own welfare. However, all is not lost: enter Miss Hobbes and Sir Charles Bainbridge, Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard and best friend to Newbury. The pair have come to rescue Newbury from his self-destructive anaesthesia and give him purpose once more. Thus, they bait him with the prospect of a tantalising new case: a series of robberies are being committed. Ordinary in of itself, were it not the fact that the perpetrator continues to ply his trade after his own death, his corpse residing in the police mortuary.
With this intriguing basis for a story in place, Mann goes on to lead us through a tale of mad doctors, crazed cults, sickly prophets and clandestine societies, all of which is injected with his usual, boundless energy. Action sequences crackle with electricity, visceral scenes burn with bloody horror, characters radiate with a sense of truth and the pace steams through every chapter with a focused vision of what shape the story will eventually take.
The cast are also granted more room for development than in previous instalments, much to their credit, and the relationship between Newbury and Miss Hobbes is afforded some much deserved exploration, which helps to shed more light and their thoughts and feelings, and on the kind people they truly are.
The villains are also tremendously enjoyable and it feels as though Mann had as much fun writing them as he did from writing his heroes and heroines. Their motivations add depth and colour to the world in which they exist, broadening the story's scope. It also aids in revealing the true nature and motives of one of the key players in Mann's universe.
I really can't recommend this book enough. I enjoyed every page as it whisked me through the story at break-neck speed as I found myself hungry for the next revelation the story would bring. There is an all-encompassing sense of advancement, of progress, that pushes the characters further and enriches them with new-found depth. You find yourself constantly fascinated and wishing for more.
George Mann has managed to create a work that he should be immensely proud of. It bursts with an enthusiasm that can not fail to pull you in and hold you in its thrall. He is unquestionably one of the most prominent and talented writers in the steampunk genre and I greatly anticipate more from this extraordinarily talented writer.
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on 2 October 2012
Finished reading this on Saturday, on the train back from the British Fantasy Society Convention. One of the panels asked if Steampunk was on the way out - if this is anything to go by, the answer is a resounding no. This is the third volume in a series. Newbury and Hobbes are an interesting pair - a Sherlockian dilettante and his capable female assistant. The love affair between them is a little obvious, but the author has built it up over the three books and it works well enough. The plot itself is a little wild and woolly, but it's fun and fast-paced. I enjoyed it; I will be interested to see if the author thinks he can take the sequence any further.
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on 21 August 2011
This is the third Newbury and Hobbes investigation, and it's good to have them back. After the slightly disappointing Ghosts of Manhattan, it's also great to see that Mann has his mojo back.

It's immediately apparent from the first view chapters that Mann's writing skill has come on in leaps and bounds; his previously sometimes stilted prose now flows, and his characters are beginning to have distinctive voices of their own.

This time around, the plot revolves around the mystery of a burglar that has died twice, and takes in a pro-chivalry society and Veronica Hobbes's clairvoyant sister. The steampunk elements of the setting are perhaps not as omnipresent as in the previous books, but are great when they appear, such as automaton horses and armoured exoskeletons.

The book is largely told from Veronica's point of view, and is much the better for it. Her distress at Newbury's opium addition, the plight of her sister and her own nature as a spy of sorts is well portrayed, and adds a great deal of humanity to the tale.

There are definite developments in the overall plot, as well, as Victoria's agents finally begin to realise that their monarch is perhaps not as altruistic as they would like. The ending promises dramatic repurcussions for the setting in the next installment; I for one cannot wait.
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on 17 August 2011
Sadly this book just didn't live up to the promise of the previous two, lacking the evocative descriptions of 19th century London and concentrating on all-out action. It's also not been properly proof-read, or the author doesn't know the difference between "flaunt" and "flout", rendering the motives of several parties nonsensical (why punish someone for flaunting, rather than flouting, the rules?). While it somewhat develops the relationships between the main players, it's lightweight and reads like a rushed job.

On the positive side, as well as the technological staples and 19th century sensibilities of the genre, there is an amusing touch in the form of be-suited, bowler-hatted knights of a Masonic society. However, the truth surrounding Amelia's death was far too predictable from very early in the book. For some reason, I hear Dame Judi Dench's voice speaking all of Queen Victoria's lines!

Hopefully the next volume will have more substance and more atmosphere and a return to the style of the first two books rather than reading like a 350-page formulaic roleplay-spinoff action novel, otherwise I won't be bothering beyond book 4.
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on 22 August 2012
Victorian steampunk action mystery thriller stuff. It's not unusual for me to come in on book 3 of a series, but for once I felt like I was being given enough information not to feel left out. Newbury and Hobbes are a truly symbiotic crime-fighting team, and I look forward to reading their further adventures.

In an alternate England where Queen Victoria is a vicious cyborg clinging to life, and outlandish experiments are performed by men in goggles in mental hospitals, Newbury is has succumbed to drug addiction, spending much of the adventure fighting off withdrawal symptoms for opium. The frank depiction of his illness gives a dark note to what could otherwise have been very uncomplicated gung-ho Victorian adventure. Really enjoyed this book, and while I can't see that there's a fourth volume yet on the shelves, I shall certainly go back and investigate the first two.
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on 2 January 2014
Liked the first two, this was a total waste of time. The author seemed not to be bothered writing it. It is all a cliché of characters, endless action with scant evocative descriptions which are at the core of a well written alt hist/adventure/steampunk story. The only parts I got interested in were those with, albeit brief, descriptions of inner feelings (the opium addiction for example); but there were too few and more than once I was tempted to skip pages. Female character is not convinving and Newbury is still roughly sketched. Pity.
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on 23 January 2012
Another blinder from George Mann. Steam punk meets bys own in this the third and possibly final story in his Newberry and Hobbes stories (though I hope not!) has the al but Terminator-esq Queen Victoria scheming to create a successor and Hobbes sister in peril as her visions come to the attention of people in high places. A great read, well written and a worthy continuation to the trilogy. Recommended. More please!
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on 29 July 2011
The third in the series of Newbury and Hobbes investigations, The Immorality Engine, is the perfect summer read. If you like a good page turning mystery then this will be right up your street. The series gets better with each book as the characters become more nuanced and Mann's finely crafted steam punk world more vivid.

It can only be a matter of time before Newbury and Hobbes make it on to our screens as Mann's visual style begs to be translated into film.
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on 14 September 2011
Having read the first two books in the series and being a big steampunk fan I thought that i would give this one a try.

Overall i felt that the book was a bit of a disappointment. perhaps its because i've been pretty l;ucky with some of my recent new finds (Stephen Hunt, Mark Hodder, etc) but this story just never really seemed to catch me and increasingly I'm struggling to care about the two lead characters as the series progresses. It sort of feels a bit like steampunk by numbers but lacking the imagination that really makes the genre so enjoyable.

I'll probably try the next in the series but for other prospective readers i would recomend that they try Mark Hodder's "The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack" or the even better sequel "The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man" in preference to this. For some real rip roaring character driven Victorian steampunk my recomendation woudl be to go for the Glass Books of the dream easters - which really puts this to shame.

That said, it's worth noting that whilst I didn't particularly enjoy this book, the first two in the series are ok - particularly for thoise new to the genre. Also the author's "Ghosts of Manhatten" is worth a go.
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on 30 December 2013
Well done the author with this the 3rd installment of Newbury and Hobbes adventures in an alternate Victorian England. In my mind the strongest story so far, and very enjoyable.
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