The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder

I read the Curious Case of the Clockwork man by Mark Hodder. And these are my thoughts on it. 

The book
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.

What I thought
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.

Final thoughts

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.