Monday, November 3, 2008

Serendipity and Coincidence strike again!

I was recently directed towards the following review, published in the Guardian, for George Mann's The Affinity Bridge.

The Affinity Bridge
Eric Brown
The Guardian,
Saturday September 6 2008

Steampunk is making a comeback, and with this novel Mann is leading the charge. Sir Maurice Newbury is an anthropologist at the Natural History Museum, perfect cover for his job as troubleshooting agent of the Crown. He and the demure yet resilient Miss Veronica Hobbes investigate the more bizarre and exotic threats to the Empire. This adventure includes murderous zombies, automatons and a villainous airship company. The setting is London as you've never seen it before, with bulbous dirigibles crowding the skies, steam wagons, and Queen Victoria kept alive by a mysterious medic known as the Fixer. An engaging melodrama that rattles along at a breakneck pace.

Steampunk making a comeback? Had it ever really gone away. The Natural History Museum? Agent of the Crown? Automatons and dirigible airships? Queen Victoria kept alive by mysterious medic means? An engaging melodrama that rattles along at a breakneck pace?

Sound familiar? Then you can understand my editor's concern, along with my own.

Here's the response I wrote to the letters page of the Guardian which, to the best of my knowledge, was never printed.

I was interested to read Eric Brown’s review of The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (The Guardian, Saturday 6 September) and was particularly intrigued by the line, ‘The setting is London as you've never seen it before, with bulbous dirigibles crowding the skies, steam wagons, and Queen Victoria kept alive by a mysterious medic known as the Fixer.’ Well, it’s certainly London as you've never seen it before, unless you happen to have already read Unnatural History, the first book in the Pax Britannia steampunk series published by Abaddon Books in 2007, of course!

Brown claims that, ‘with this novel Mann is leading the charge.’ Well, as another of those authors leading the charge, as it were, I thought that your readers might be interested to hear about an alternative steampunk series. Without doubt this sub-genre of science fiction has a loyal following, and one that is on the increase, so certainly the popularity of steampunk cannot be denied.

So if anyone tempted to pick up The Affinity Bridge after reading Brown’s review would like to read more adventures of this type, (set in the closing years of the 20th century with the British Empire still going strong, Queen Victoria kept alive by advanced steam technology and London re-imagined as a fantastical sprawling metropolis where dirigibles roam the skies, robot bobbies enforce the law and dinosaurs are on display in London Zoo,) then they could do a lot worse than check out Abaddon’s Pax Britannia novels. With three already published (Unnatural History, El Sombra, Leviathan Rising) and another – Human Nature – out this December, and more to come after that, they should provide more than enough steam-powered action to keep even the most die-hard fan happy until the New Year.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Green

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Blogger Mataeus said...

Hey Jon,
Did you pursue this further? It sounds to me like that author blatantly ripped off your already well realised series and followed an almost identical history. Some of those ideas, like with QV still being around, are a little too close for comfort...

November 24, 2008 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Green said...

Hi Matt,

I've now read 'The Affinity Bridge' myself and, as it turns out, significant elements of the review (including ones which tie it more closely to my own novel 'Unnatural History') are wrong!

Sir Maurice Newbury does not work at the Natural History Museum but rather at the British Museum. The whole adventure is more of a Holmesian-style mystery with some steampunk elements.

Bulbous dirigibles do not crowd the skies and automatons are a new thing here. Neither is there much sense of the world beyond Britain. It certainly doesn't have the epic feel of the Pax Britannia setting.

However, there are also some similarities. Queen Victoria kept alive by mechanical means, a train-top chase (of sorts), the aforementioned automata and airships, even extending to some turns of phrase (the hero has a habit of saying 'Indeed' like someone else we know). But then there are some very different aspects too - the occult, laudanum addiction, plague-ravaged revenants, and a precog psychic.

So, I think we can leave it there. I'm just left wondering which book the reviewer thought he'd read!

January 10, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

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