With George Mann’s The Affinity Bridge I made my first foray into the Steampunk genre, an offshoot in the tradition of SciFi, that looks to the past-albeit an alternative past- rather than the future. Steampunk is characterized by using the era of steam power, often Victorian England, as the setting. With most of these novels being set before the advent of electricity, and the very fact they are Science Fiction in nature, the reader is treated to all manner of antiquated gadgets, flying machines, conveyances, and other weirdly charming doodads. As an example, the main characters in The Affinity Bridge used the familiar horse driven coaches of Victorian England, though the horses were replaced with steam powered pistons that whisked the characters along London’s cobbled roads at a stupendous speed. A subplot of the novel involved the crashing of an enormous blimp, built by machines no less, in the middle of Chelsea. Not exactly your typical Jane Austen-esque portrayal of London in the 1800’s.
What made The Affinity Bridge such an engaging read, along with the inherent charm of 19th century London-galas, balls, Victorian dress, the chivalric protagonists-is the amalgam of great works with which Mann steeps this novel. The book could easily have been filed under the Mystery section, the main character’s Hobbes and Veronica read like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson being played by the X-File’s Mulder and Scully (replete with the biting sexual tension). The plot is like a Jack the Ripper murder mystery meets Asimov’s I, Robot meets a George Romero zombie flick. It dazzles. And because it borrows heavily from the Mystery traditions, it’s quite the page turner taboot. I’m not much of a SciFi reader, though I aim to correct that, and I certainly am no expert of the Steampunk offshoot, but I think just about anyone would do jolly well to give this a crack!