The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack

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The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack is the first novel in the Burton & Swinburne trilogy by award-winning steampunk author, Mark Hodder, winner of the 2010 Phillip K. Dick Award.[1] The series follows the adventures of two Victorian-era protagonists based on two noted historical figures, Richard Francis Burton and Algernon Charles Swinburne in mid-late 19th Century London.

The series is framed as an alternate history, and takes place in actual locations such as the Cannibal Club and London's East End, involving many notable personalities of the era, such as Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, and explorer John Hanning Speke. It includes actual historical events, namely the Spring-heeled Jack case, the assassination attempt on Queen Victoria in 1840,[2] the search for the source of the Nile and the development of Darwin's theory of Evolution.

Characters[edit]

Richard Francis Burton
Celebrated adventurer, linguist, orientalist, swordsman, and former Captain in the Royal African Corps. While he and Speke were the first Europeans to view the African Great Lakes, they quarreled over which one was the source of the Nile. Although Burton had headed the expedition, Speke returned to London first and presented his conclusions, which were accepted. Burton was cast into a secondary role and his career as an explorer was tarnished.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
A celebrated poet and novelist closely associated with the libertine movement of the 19th Century.
Henry Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford
Popularly known as the 'Mad Marquess', Henry de la Poer Beresford was a notorious rake of the era, and the central suspect in the Spring-Heeled Jack attacks.[3]
Edward Oxford
Would-be assassin of Queen Victoria in 1840. Tried for high treason at the Old Bailey and acquitted due to insanity.

Synopsis[edit]

A time-traveller from the distant future returns to 1840 to prevent an ancestor from attempting to commit an act of regicide. After failing in his mission, he returns to 1837 and recruits the 'Mad Marquess' to find his ancestor and correct the error. The result of his interference is an altered timeline in which technological advances have given rise to two scientific classes: 'Technologists' and 'Eugenicists' (See Technologies).

Sir Richard Francis Burton returns to find his reputation damaged and his second-in-command lionized as the discoverer of the source of the Nile. He is recruited by the Prime Minister, in the capacity of King's Agent, to investigate the Spring-heeled Jack affair and the strange manifestations plaguing London's East End.

Technologies[edit]

Time-Travel
Achieved through a 'fish-scale' solar battery suit, propelled by hydraulic spring-loaded stilts and powered by a mysterious diamond.
Steam-power
Steam-propelled machinery is ubiquitous and powers an entire range of devices from mechanical horse-drawn carriages to single-person flying devices.
Genetic Modification
The 'Eugenicist' class in this alternate history have succeeded in creating over-sized animals and modifying existing flora and fauna for the purposes of serving civilisation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "2010 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced". Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ [Hibbert, pp. 421–422; St Aubyn, pp. 160–161].
  3. ^ Haining, Peter (1977). The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring-heeled Jack. Frederick Muller Ltd. ISBN 0-584-10276-3. 

Publication info[edit]