The Affinity Bridge by George Mann

Subtitled: A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation

If you adore the New Dr. Who series, this is the book for you. It’s NOT Dr. Who, but it has many similarities. I’ve no idea who came up with what ideas first (or if that really matters), but you have your British Indiana Jones-type investigator for the Queen, who is being kept alive past her expiration date in our universe with a funky steampunk style life support system concocted by a genius “M” type doctor. Newberry has the requisite Sherlock Holmes addiction (not to cocaine, though, that is much too lightweight).

Then you have your spunky, yet familiar-with-society assistant with determination to be As Brave As the Gentlemen. She would be Hobbes.

Then there’s the dashing Scotland Yard super detective with access to some neato weapons. I can’t remember his name at all because he melded into my mind with Newbury, the Queen’s anthropology agent.

And you’ve got Rage-style zombies in Whitechapel, and airships piloted by automatons flying over London to all ports around the world.

All the threads do come together and I was entertained. This is the first book in a series, if the minor plot strands left unresolved, and the subtitle are any indication.

It barely passes the book version of the Bechdel Test. There’s another woman who works in the office with Newbury and Hobbes (whose brother plays a part in the D-plot). They talk mostly about their boss, Newberry, and the woman’s missing brother. And there’s a scene in a waiting room at a mens’ club where women wait for their men to come out. Hobbes talks to them…but about the men involved in the case, and their interest in her boss, Newberry, a well-known person in society. Women don’t fare too well in this alternate society. I wasn’t thrilled with the spunky stereotype; Hobbes could have been Nancy Drew in her 1930s incarnation.

And there is the epilogue…but it’s all about Newberry.

I’m don’t know much about steam punk novels so I don’t know if Dr. Who borrowed many of the conventions from that subgenre. This one feels like it was meant to be a Dr. Who novel, but wasn’t accepted and had its serial numbers rubbed off.

That’s not to say it’s bad. I just didn’t think it was a wowser, either.


    • Maria V. says

      :sticks tongue out: I sometimes question the awesomeness of steampunk in general, since so much of its fiction seems to be enamoured with being quirky and reviving tropes without critiquing them.

  1. Charles RB says

    “I don’t know if Dr. Who borrowed many of the conventions from that subgenre”

    Doctor Who borrows anything from any genre, so it’s almost certainly pilfered steampunk at some point.

  2. says

    Heh. Yes, you’re right. I’m not overly familiar with Dr. Who, except the new series with Dr. 9 and 10.

    TV tends to be derivative. So that makes this book incredibly derivative of other sources (not only Dr. Who. I’m sure the tradition goes deeper than I realize for mechanical men with braaaaains!!!! inside them)(Dr. Frankenstein?)

  3. Charles RB says

    Who mega-writer and former EP Terrence Dicks has a very cheerful anecdote, where he was told “every story needs a good, strong, original idea, but it doesn’t have to be your original idea”.

  4. says

    Charles RB, true enough, I’ve heard that, too: Mann would know what all of those tropes are since he’s an editor as well as a writer.

    It *is* an entertaining book, if you’re prepared for a lot of “Oh, that reminds me of…!” moments. Even though originality is a unicorn in the writing world, writers do get points for reinterpreting old tropes into something “new”. But is that the point of Steampunk SF? I don’t know.

  5. says

    “Many similarities” to Doctor Who? I’m not seeing any from your description. Except the setting in an alternate-reality-Britain.

    That seems a bit tenuous of a connection from which to draw similarities.

    Unless, of course, later in the book an alien conspiracy to take over/destroy the human race is thwarted through the combination of Lead Investigator Brilliance and Spunky Sidekick Common Sense.

  6. says

    One thing that bears mentioning is that it’s an absolutely appalingly badly written book. If you’re into plot devices, genre in-jokes, reveals and trope spotting, then I’m usre it’s possible to enjoy this book.

    Speaking as an only sometime-genre reader who mostly comes at it from the literary angle, it’s a hot steaming mess. It checks 80% of the Turkey City Lexicon no-nos within the first two chapters, after which I admit to not having the stamina to go on.

    I like steampunk books, but this one could really have benefitted from strict and assertive editing; which, if it weren’t for the fact that the author owns the publishing house, I’m sure it would have received.

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