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.