This is the second book in the series Burton & Swinburne. It’s about
Sir Richard Burton, noted geographer and Algernon Swinburne, poet and follower
of Marquis de Sade, who live in Albertian England. Basically what happened
before the first book started is that a man jumped back in time, fucked up and
got queen Victoria killed, and now Prince Albert rules England as king. It’s
set in the mid 1800s obviously, and this 1800s is a lot more advanced than it
should be. In this book a Clockwork man is discovered in the middle of London,
and Burton realizes it’s a diversion, and while the cops are trying to figure
out what it’s doing there a diamond store is robbed. It’s also about the
Tichborne claimant, riots, and a lot of other things.
First I would like to say that whenever I read the name Richard Burton,
I don’t think about the explorer Richard Francis Burton, I think about the
Welsh actor, which makes it a bit odd. It’s fun.
I like it. There is set in England and it is full of people from
history, Palmerston, Burton, Livingstone, Herbert Spencer, and Isambard Kingdom
Brunel. It’s also got events from history, but they’re changed by the death of
Victoria, and the advancement of technology.
It’s a Steampunk novel and I love how he’s made the technological
advances have affected London, there is fog and exhaust everywhere and London
is really polluted. The scientists have in some cases gone too far and not
really taken morality and decency into account, upsetting the whole of Egypt
just to make a better mode of transportation. I also love that all the
inventions have sort of weird side effects. Like they’ve made Parakeets that
can talk, and they’re used to send messages, sadly they pepper these messages
liberally with weird swearwords. A scientist tried to fix the Irish famine by
planting new, sturdier plants, sadly they were all carnivorous so everyone in
Ireland had to move out of the country.
I really like Richard Burton, because he is a cantankerous, know-it-all.
He’s grumpy, rude and thinks he knows everything. I don’t know why, but I love
it. I also love his little weird assistant. Swinburne is a drunk who quite
likes being spanked by prostitutes and he seems like an odd coconspirator for
Burton, but it sort of works.
I really like how the advancement of technology also moves everything
else forward, wars are suddenly more imminent, which I found interesting. It
has also changed how psychics and people like them are seen, while in our world
they’re seen as a hoax, the world is different in their timeline so psychics
are actual psychics and can actually see the future. The whole world is very
well crafted and built. The whole novel is expertly crafted. There are small
plot points in the beginning that come together beautifully in the end, and
it’s just really cool.
It sort of just feels like historical fiction that someone’s thrown some
sci-fi into, which I mean as a compliment, it just feels very real. It seems to
me at least, that he’s used quite a lot of time on research. I’m not good
enough on Victorian history to know if it’s all accurate, but I feel like I’ve
learned more about the Tichborne affair, the quest to find the origin of the
Nile, and all kinds of things that happened in the mid-1800s. Obviously it’s
liberally splashed with things that never happened, but it feels very real,
it’s just very impressively crafted.
I really like this series, I really want to read the rest of it. It’s
well crafted, it’s funny, it’s cool, Burton is grumpy and rude, and I love him.
I’m excited. Also there’s time-travel. So you know.