The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man

Mark Hodder
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man Cover

More of the Same, and That Ain't a Good Thing


I've never felt a great draw to the Steampunk genre, but Hodder is knowledgeable enough about the Victorian era that he can create an alternate version of that era which feels as rich and complex as the real thing. Unfortunately he does so by means of time travel. I realize I'm in the minority of WWEnd members when I complain about the inherent illogic of time travel and wish it were purged from all media, but I've learned to live with the fact that most other people love it. As mentioned in my review of the first book, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, Hodder uses the time travel as something of a gimmick to get things rolling, and I was hoping that in the sequels it simply wouldn't be brought up again. Not only does time travel occur in Clockwork Man, but it does so in ever-nonsensical ways. The explanation for why things like occult powers and quick-and-easy genetic manipulation work is also somewhat belabored and silly.

Burton and Swinburne themselves are in top form, and as entertaining as ever. Their supporting cast grows noticeably in these pages, despite a number of bloody deaths, still for the most part using real historical personages in the fictional milieu. Hodder lets things become a little too chaotic by the time London starts to burn, introducing zombies, ectoplasmic houses and mad Russian monks before the story is through. One puts down the book wishing for a little more thematic unity.

Personally, I think I'm through with this series. Hodder seems overly anxious to toss in as many popular tropes as he can think of, while sidelining the characters a little too much. Frankly, I find the characters far more interesting than a mind-controlled corpulent cannibal fighting a robot with a sword (see the cover to the left). All the best to Mr. Hodder on his series, but I will have to pass on it.