February 25, 2020

Review: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder.

Sir Richard Burton is becoming quite the steam-punk action adventure hero. This week, we review The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, the ongoing adventures of Burton & Swinburne, written by Mark Hodder and out from Pyr Books . Fans of this space will remember our review of the first book in the saga, The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack last summer.

Clockwork Man picks up where Spring-Heeled Jack left off, in an engaging alternate world based on British Victorian society. From wind-up servants, to genetically-modified swearing messenger birds, to flying roto-chairs, it’s all here in this alternate timeline that never was.  This particular slice of history remains altered by the actions of the time traveler that our heroes chased in Spring-Heeled Jack, and centers around the heir of the Tichborne estate. This was a real case in the 1860’s as a man claiming to be the legal heir of the wealthy estate & became the media sensation of the era. Clockwork Man looks at the tale and gives it a Steampunk twist.

This second installment also enriches the universe of Burton & Swinburne beyond the environs of 19th century London as they search for the mysterious fragments of the Lemurian Eye of Naga, a series of black meteorites with weird vibrational properties. Thus, adventures in South America, the civil war torn U.S., and the czarist Russia of the “Mad monk” himself, Rasputin are all given their Steampunk due.

A helpful dramatis personae reference is also given in the book, as many characters and events such as Charles Babbage, Florence Nightingale, and Henry Morton Stanley were all real historical figures. We even learned a thing or two… for example, have you ever heard of the Trent Affair? This row nearly drew in Britain on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War… quite plausible, when you think about the history spanning up to the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the barely averted Aroostook War. In Clockwork Man, a genetically engineered famine that far dwarves the historical one proves to be the tipping point. The novel precludes with a showdown at the Bedlam Asylum that will leave a fan of Steampunk zombie-dom crying for more.

It’s worth pointing out that The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man does stand on its own. It’s definitely worth reading The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack to gain the background to this alternate slice of history, though we wouldn’t say it’s a prerequisite. The Clockwork Man stands on its own and gives you a fascinating history lesson besides… could a Steampunk tale of the Aroostook War be a theme waiting for some author to breathe it into Steampunk-life? Just a random thought.

Next week, it’s back to our familiar timeline with a look at science in a time of gravity waves and a review of Gravity’s Ghost!


  1. [...] that’s begging for a TV series. Book 2 in the Burton and Swinburne Steampunk series entitled The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man made its debut; expect our review of book 3, Expeditions to the Mountains of [...]

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