The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Mark Hodder
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack Cover

My First Taste of Steampunk


Hodder needed a different, meaner editor for his first novel. Anywhere from 20% - 25% could go. Every incident goes on a little too long. The second half of every compound sentence could be dropped. Conversations are over before Hodder cuts them off. He never got the memo on adverbs.

This is the steampunk novel I have read, and I am not the best audience. I don't care about the gadgetry, and the gadgetry seems to be much of the attraction here. On the other hand, I am a sucker for time travel stories. That's what attracted me to Spring Heeled Jack, and Hodder does a good job with the complications caused by going back in time, although it is not hard to guess that his time traveller will end up causing all the things he attempts to prevent.

The historical characters that fill the story range from the well known -- Captain Sir Richard Burton, Algernon Swinburne, Oscar Wilde -- to more obscure players such as the founder of the Libertine Club, Richard Monckton Milnes, or Laurence Oliphant, a minor political figure and minor novelist more or less lost to history. The early chapters have to bring the readers up to date on who everyone is, and they read like a script from the History Channel, or The Alternate History Channel. Things don't really pick up until the appearance of Spring Heel Jack himself, a figures in a close fitting white suit, a black helmet surrounded by blue flames, and boots with a spring mechanism that allows to him to leap over buildings and disappear into the sky.

There are also werewolves who abduct chimney sweeps, mesmerists, and machines that were once human. All of this makes for an over-crowded but consistent plot, it just needs to get on with it and get it over with about a hundred pages before Hodder is able to wrap the whole thing up.