Jason Pettus's Reviews > The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder
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May 27, 11

Read from March 21 to May 27, 2011

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I always have to tread lightly when it comes to reviewing novels written in the steampunk style; because this is a genre I'm a real sucker for, which means that I will give even subpar books in this genre a higher score than a lot of people feel they deserve, simply because I enjoy wallowing in the tech-meets-Victoriana tropes that define steampunk in the first place. So, that said, let me confess that I enjoyed this latest "Burton & Swinburne" novel quite a lot, in which author Mark Hodder envisions idealized versions of real-life explorer Richard Francis Burton and real-life subversive artist and libertine Algernon Swinburne, then teams them up to solve action-packed mysteries within a mid-1800s London where (among many other inventions) scientists have discovered how to genetically engineer giant centipedes with rock-hard exoskeletons, that are then gutted and fit with steam engines to produce some of the funkiest public transportation you'll ever come across. Especially enjoyable for the dozens of minor what-if references to the real world that the author makes along the way -- for example, a preteen Oscar Wilde is a wisecracking newspaper boy and street-level assistant to our heroes in Hodder's universe -- this is the very definition of "guilty pleasure," a book that will have your non-steampunk-fan friends furiously rolling their eyes just from the copper-robot-battling front cover alone. It comes recommended to that specific audience, with all of these caveats firmly in mind.

Out of 10: 8.2, or 9.2 for steampunk fans
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