The Affinity Bridge Paperback – 1 Sep 2008
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'Automata, clattering railway carriages, hansom cabs and 'pea soupers', gas lit streets and the doffing of caps, gruff policemen, mad scientists, arrogant industrialists, seances, pentagrams, addictions to laudanum and a few ravening zombies...Mann is at the forefront of the new generation of UK genre movers and shakers' --SFRevu.com
'Fans of Alan Moore's work will likely enjoy Mann's depiction of Victorian asylums, slums, aristocratic soirees and things that go bump in the night' --Strange Horizons
'An enormous pile of awesome'; Chris Roberson, World Fantasy Award finalist and Sidewise Award Winner. 'Mann's imagination has clearly run wild in this quirky and well realised version of the world, and this is no bad thing!It's fun, it's exciting, and Mann has a very agreeable hand that's easy to appreciate!He has a sharp talent for writing and a surplus of enthusiasm for the genre' SCIFI Now 'The author does a superb job of recreating nineteenth century London...a thoroughly engaging story!Excellent world building; captures the Sherlock Holmes feel; never a boring passage. Bottom line: A hugely entertaining book. 4.5 out of 5.' SF Signal. 'I absolutely loved it' Lou Anders --Various
Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where lycanthropy is a rampant disease that plagues the dirty whorehouses of Whitechapel, where poltergeist infestations create havoc in old country seats, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where nobody ever goes near the Natural History Museum.See all Product description
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However, the writing is very poor. The characters would suit a Conan Doyle parody.
A seriously underwhelming book when compared to, say Perdido Street Station, which sets a high bar for steam punk IMHO.
It's London under Victoria's reign, but ground trains and electric hansom cabs run along the streets, and airships rule the skies.........and a plague like virus is making people zombie like (although for those of you who aren't zombie fans- or revenants as Mann calls them - don't fear, it's not the dominant story. I really enjoyed the detective duo - neither of whom are perfect and both have their secrets and darker sides - and I loved the murky and dark setting of a slightly off kilter Victorian London. The author did a great job of setting the scene just enough for my imagination to fill the rest of it in.
I know this is fantasy - but there's a difference between creating a coherent, well-considered alternative reality and silly stuff which involves chucking your hero from being savaged by plague-ridden 'revenants' (and he just happens to be immune!), through a two day miraculous recovery thanks to an exotic medical potion, straight into to an Indiana Jones style train rooftop slugfest with an irrelevant villain.
The whole thing is just a bit 'untidy' There's a prologue which sets up the character Coulthard who then, literally, goes missing, then randomly reappears at the end (again mysteriously immune to the zombie creating Plague) - presumably to feed a future narrative arc later in the series or else why bother? It's just more confusing than tantalising.
Even the main characters are two dimensional cartoon-ish and not more than initially engaging.... I have started another in the series (free from the Library to see whether my first impressions are wrong) - but it's not winning me over....
The Affinity Bridge is an entry in the increasingly popular steampunk genre. It's 1901 London has airships, brass automata, a plethora of steam-driven inventions and an entrenched Queen Victoria, kept alive by numerous contraptions in a life-preserving chair.
Our lead character comes in the form of Sir Maurice Newbury. Whilst officially an authority on paleontology, working out of the national museum, he also happens to be a highly skilled expert on the occult and an agent to Her Majesty the Queen. Newbury has a flavour of Sherlock Holmes about him, even sharing the same opium vice as Conan Doyle's famed detective. Yet Mann's character does seem to make at least some effort to fit into the polite society of the time. Aiding him in his many endeavours is Miss Veronica Hobbes, a strong-willed and socially progressive young woman whose keen mind and determination make her the perfect companion for Newbury. There is a great deal of respect between them, as well as poorly-concealed romantic interest.
Completing the trio of principal characters is Sir Charles Bainbridge. Not only is he Newbury's best friend, but also Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard and another of Her Majesty's agents. He represents a more grounded and traditionally Victorian character in contrast to his friend's brilliant, but slight unstable, mind.
The story begins with them both looking into a series of attacks seemingly linked to sightings of a phantom policeman. However, Newbury's attentions are soon diverted elsewhere when he is commanded to investigate an airship crash on behalf of the Queen. Soon, he and Miss Hobbes find themselves dealing transport magnates, crazed inventors, dastardly machines and a revenant plague that is sweeping through the slums of London.
Whilst the investigation element to the story is not particularly complex, it still succeeds in holding your attention. You quickly find yourself caring for the characters (particularly Newbury and Hobbes) and the story has a pace that, whilst not incredibly fast, is steady and consistent. The action scenes are of particular note, and that are clearly a strength of Mann's. He expertly brings you right into the very centre of the action and these moments certainly have a cinematic quality to them.
Whilst the world in which these characters inhabit feels slightly small, its quirky take on a technologically advanced 'steampunk' society is thoroughly enjoyable and certainly has one hopeful of further adventures in which the scope can be broadened.
Most importantly, for me personally, is the fact that, in spite of a few flaws, this book was just damn good fun. It reflects an author who seems to have had an extremely positive experience in the creation of this novel.
I'd recommend this book to fans of adventures, murder mysteries or just those curious about the steampunk genre.
All-in-all, an entertaining read that shows great promise for the future.