Bob Milne's Reviews > The Constantine Affliction

The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton
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Aug 20, 12

bookshelves: gender-fluid, steampunk
Read from August 10 to 20, 2012

Offering up an interesting mix of genres (with an abrupt change of course in the last act), The Constantine Affliction is a fun, engaging, imaginative read that manages to succeed despite the relative blandness of its main character. That's not to say Pimm isn't an interesting character on his own, but he lacks the quirks and personality traits that make the other characters leap off the page.

T. Aaron Payton, better known as T.A. Pratt, has put together a story here that is equal parts thriller, mystery, horror, comedy, and adventure. At the heart of it lies the aforementioned Pimm (an aristocrat who likes to play detective - when not drowning his sorrows), the far more engaging Winifred (his best friend turned spouse - thanks to the gender-changing Constantinopolitan Affliction), and the rather remarkable Syke (investigative reporter and feminist heroine - for whom the glass is always half-full). Facing off against the unlikely trio of heroes is an even unlikelier trio of villains in Abel Value (criminal overlord), Sir Bertram Oswald (the Queen's consort), and Mr. Adams (cousin to Frankenstein's monster). Throw in some clockwork courtesans and some extra-dimensional monsters, set against the backdrop of a London under siege from darkness and disease, and you have yourself one heck of a tale.

There is an awful lot going on here, but Payton manages to keep it all on track, all the while building towards a pair of key revelations that quite cleverly connect the dots between the mixed genres. At times chilling, amusing, and altogether fascinating, this is the kind of book where you just have to give yourself permission to settle in and enjoy the ride. It is paced exceptionally well, so much so that you never begrudge Payton the opportunity to explore a few bizarre tangents - and of those there are aplenty! Perhap's Skye's intimate investigation of the clockwork courtesans goes into a bit too much detail, but it is fascinating, and it does help to justify some plot elements further on. Similarly, Mr. Adam's researches into life-after-death may be a bit too grotesque for some readers, but you'll come away believing in the possibility for romance with a disembodied brain.

Where the story faltered a bit, for me, was in the Lovecraftian insanity of the final act. It almost seemed as if, having so deftly handled so many genres already, Payton simply couldn't resist the urge to go all the way with his monstrous finale. He manages it well, and the strength of his characters keeps it from becoming too fantastic, but it was so far removed from what I was expecting that I struggled a bit to keep my disbelief willingly suspended. It does give Winifred a chance to shine, and does allow for a fitting resolution to the character of Mr. Adams, but it also cast Pimm a bit further out of the limelight.

All-in-all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with enough plot lines to fill a trilogy of novels. Hopefully Payton will give us more adventures in his alternate London, and if he can follow through on Pimm's seeming revival at the end of the story, he may just be a protagonist worthy of both his wife and his girlfriend.


Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins
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