The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack. Mark Hodder.
Browsing in a bookshop unsure of what I wished to read next I picked up a new sci-fi novel by an author I had never heard of but which sounded interesting. “Piranesi” by Susanna Clarke and this book. Drawn by the rave review from Michael Moorcock it became my third choice and rounded out my purchase.
You can certainly hear the “Moorcock” influence and understand why Mr Moorcock enjoyed the novel. Little snippets of “Gloriana”, “Mother London” and “Byzantium Endures” both in form and ethos appear here and there.
Mr Moorcocks Influence aside, this is a Victorian steam punk novel.
Sir Richard Francis Burton (one of the great explorers, minds and adventurers of the age) is recruited by the (alternative) government and Crown to investigate a series of events centred around the mythical “Spring heeled Jack”. Burton, assuming you know of him, is all too willing to undertake another discovery rather than marry which would consign him to a life without discovery. The focus of his life up to this point. Wholeheartedly Burton throws himself into this new assignment, for king and country.
There is much to recommend this novel, Clunky at times but mostly well written in a style “Burton” would have accepted. I enjoyed it for what it was. An alternative, steam punk Victorian yarn.
There have been many before Mr Hodder that have attempted the same or a similar thing; Neal Stephenson, Susanna Clarke, Mr Moorcock and various others with differing success.
This to my mind is a great attempt and works to a certain extent but is overshadowed by other better works. Still, despite my thoughts; well worth a read in my opinion.