Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Burton's return to Africa
If you have been browsing my blog over the last couple years you know how much I've enjoyed the alternate history steampunk Albertan era adventures of Burton and Swinburne and this third novel was just as good if not the best if the trio of books. Expedition to the Mountains if the Moon is a culmination of all the promises made throughout the series taking Sir Richard and his ever entreating cast of agents, metal men, bobbies and such back to Africa and towards that elusive source of the Nile and the source of the current and future woes. Though the other volumes were complete tales all of their own this one picks up on the dangling threads throughout and resolves questions I had in very satisfying ways and opening all new ones. This story is one of the roughest on it's players and though it's hard on them the overall tale is stronger for it. Of all the steampunk out there and I've loved all of it I've read this is the series that gets my most enthusiastic vote.
Expedition follows mainly Richard Burton and is broken up chapter wise between three separate time periods reading it is like piecing together obe larger mystery puzzle. The separate Burtons stories often foreshadow one another but for reasons that become pretty evident don't really reference each other much till the climax of the novel. Even though at moments you know the tragedy to come to one Burton the emotional impacts seem stronger rather then weaker for the foreshadowing. In the period closest to the other books events start with a botched assassination attempt prompting a Holmes-ish like little myster and chase tale and culminates in an expedition to Africa in a race with the continential forces allies against the British. The second era is an alternate Great War pitting the forces of the technologists vs the eugenicists, the continental vs the decimated remains if the British and involves another expedition across Africa and more famous historical guest stars then you'd expect going in both old friends and wonderfully new. The third I'll leave readers to encounter on their own.
Mark Hodder has been great about tantalising us with little details of real and alter history from the first volume on. In the first he gave us the urban mythic Spring Heeled Jack and in the second he played lots with the Victorian (well our Victorian) fad of mysticism, occultism, the hoaxes of the fairie pictures, the famous Madame Blavatski and the bizarre Titchbone affair. This time around is no different but he pretty much pushes all the envelopes to the breaking point. His creations make me jealous not just that he thought them up bur makes all his fun and fabulous concepts plausible and Lovecrafty horrible at the same time.
The gonzo travels and trials faced by the gathered agents, police, scientists, flying squad, and soldiers leave no one unaffected. This is as I said in the beginning a rough book for his cast and as in The Strange Affair Mark pulls no punches and the novel is stronger for it. I don't think it a spoiler to say major characters make very final sacrifices in Expedition and there are some shockingly tear evoking moments. I enjoyed the tragic along with the heroic, the great pulpy adventure along with the heartfelt moments. Mark as I said hits all the right notes with me by making the hard choices and giving a truly satisfying and dark finale to this novel.
Further I have read that Pyr have contracted Mr Hodder to write more Burton and Swinburne novels.... I want more.... eventhough I'm curious as to where things go from here....
I received my copy from Pyr for review...
And now the blurb from Pyr
CONTINUING THE HIT STEAMPUNK SERIES!It is 1863, but not the one it should be. Time has veered wildly off course, and now the first moves are being made that will lead to a devastating world war and the fall of the British Empire.The prime minister, Lord Palmerston, believes that by using the three Eyes of Naga—black diamonds possessing unique properties—he’ll be able to manipulate events and avoid the war. He already has two of the stones, but the third is hidden somewhere in the Mountains of the Moon, the fabled source of the Nile.Palmerston sends Sir Richard Francis Burton to recover it. For the king’s agent, it’s a chance to redeem himself after his previous failed attempt to find the source of the great river. That occasion had led to betrayal by his partner, John Hanning Speke. Now Speke is leading a rival expedition on behalf of the Germans, and it seems that the battle between the former friends may ignite the very war that Palmerston is trying to avoid!Caught in a tangled web of cause, effect, and inevitability, little does Burton realize that the stakes are far higher than even he suspects.A final confrontation comes in the mist-shrouded Mountains of the Moon, in war- torn Africa of 1914, and in Green Park, London, where, in the year 1840, Burton must face the man responsible for altering time: Spring Heeled Jack!Burton and Swinburne’s third adventure is filled with eccentric steam-driven technology, grotesque characters, and bizarre events, completing the three-volume story arc begun in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.
You can find Mark Hodders website here
and links to stores follow