April 10, 2020

Friday Review: The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi by Mark Hodder

On sale this month!

One of our all-time favorite Steampunk series is back in action this month.  In a sub-genre that cries out for a flagship franchise, Mark Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne series more than answers the call. Fans of this site and Mr. Hodder’s work will remember our review of the first three novels in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, and Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, all out from Pyr Books. Also worth checking out from Mr. Hodder and reviewed at this site was the recent A Red Sun Also Rises. This week, we look at the fourth book in the series out this month, The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi.

We love how the alternate timeline of the Burton and Swinburne series mirrors our own. Every novel by Mr. Hodder has sent us to Wikipedia and beyond, reading up and learning of fascinating but little known events of 19th century history. Good steampunk and alternate timeline fiction gives us a context, a reason for all those high-powered Gatling guns, brass-dialed Victorian age computers and metallic butlers. Hodder does this in spades, along with a meticulous attention to actual historic detail.

In this fourth (and hopefully, not final!) installment of the saga, Sir Richard Burton and Algernon Swinburne must confront and uncover the secret to the dead mystical entity of Abdu El Yezdi, who has been tinkering with key points in the timeline hoping to avert the ultimate conflagration that will engulf the European continent early in the 20th century. Real-life historic figures are presented in this alternate timeline world, such as Isambard Brunel & Benjamin Disraeli as well as 19th century occultist Aleister Crowley.  Mention is made of the Great Irish Potato Famine (brought on by genetic tinkering in the book) and the U.S. Civil War as well as the Carrington Super Flare event of 1859 which sparked aurorae seen as far south as the Caribbean.

Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne tales are one of the most meticulously detailed steampunk worlds, right down to its brass buttons and corsets. One could go right from the 1990 classic movie Mountains of the Moon and envision the altered timeline set about by the events that first unfold in The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack in the first novel. And speaking of which, we’d definitely recommend starting the series off right and reading the books in order!

The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack won the 2011 Philip K. Dick award, and the series has kept up the fast paced steam-punk action and quality world-building ever since. The series definitely raises the bar, and there are lots of other places to take the concept. What are an alternate world Edison and H.G. Wells up to? What would Nikolai Tesla unleash with available steam punk tech? This has been a thoroughly entertaining and illuminating series… as amazing as the real life adventures of Sir Richard Burton himself!

Next Week: We look at the true but untold tale of the secret beginning of the Space Race and the invention of hydyne with Rocket Girl!


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