Sometimes Steampunk is dark and frightening. Sometimes Steampunk is not set in a pleasant world. At times, marvelous technologies have horrific consequences. Welcome to Spring Heeled Jack, by Mark Hodder!
Mr. Hodder presents a bleak and toxic alternative London. Sir Richard Francis Burton, noted in our timeline for exploration of the Nile, takes center stage in this novel. He is set by the crown to investigate strange happenings in London: an odd, glowing creature called Spring Heeled Jack, the disappearance of several chimney sweeps, and general unsavoriness. The poet Swinburne jumps into the plot and helps untangle the mysteries despite Burton’s objections. There can be a bit too much conversation about philosophies or exposition at times. In addition, the revelation of the villain’s motivations strikes me as odd, perhaps contrived.
Nonetheless, Spring Heeled Jack presents a rich, dark, engrossing world to glory in and explore. The pages contain various snippits of information on the world and advertisements. One advertisement is for a broomcat, a darling kitty companion that also sweeps floors, which I would dearly love to have. I love cats and detest housework. It is a harsh London that Mr. Hodder gives us. For every wonder, there are a pair of terrors. For every broomcat, there is a killer fog and a snow of coal dust, every delight created by or framed in horror.
I give this book three point five out of five gears. It was a great book, but the exposition was oddly clumsy. Read it anyway. It’s worth sticking out the long-winded parts.
Your Correspondent From The Bookstore,
Penny J. Merriweather