The Affinity Bridge (A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation #1) by George Mann
Publication Date: April 27th, 2010
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-fi, Steampunk
Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists.
But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes.
When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague is ravaging the slums of the city.
So begins an adventure quite unlike any other, a thrilling steampunk mystery and the first in the series of "Newbury & Hobbes" investigations.
I honestly did not have many expectations for this book. I am always in search for a solid steampunk book but have not have great success so The Affinity Bridge was kind of another test to see if it would at least get the idea of ‘steampunk’ right. So far, this is the first book that truly seemed to succeed.
Mann did not just rely on the buzz words of the genre and actually unpacked the world to generally make sense and it worked. Another thing that Mann was able to do was weave multiple mysteries into a single book to have the world feel more lived in. It made sense that Newbury would have multiple things on the go and the fact that we also have the addition of a new assistant who is already a few weeks into the job by the time we are introduced to everyone. It was nice that Hobbes’ first day was not also the first day we meet everyone. Sometimes that works as a plot device to bring the reader along and have one character unfold information at the same time as the reader but I feel like it worked better in this story with how Mann integrated her.
In terms of characters, Newbury was super fun to read. He was excited about technological advancement, can hold his own in a fight, has many secrets, is smart and considerate along with having a vice that he can’t quite seem to shake. Essentially, he has levels and I love it. The only downside is that Mann gave a lot of the action to Newbury. And on that note… that brings me to Hobbes. The whole time reading this character had me wishing for Mann to give more to her. I could tell he has plans for her character and that she is very smart and strong but also has troubles of her own which also makes her a very intriguing character but Mann needed to give her more opportunity to fight. But again, it’s something that there is still plenty of opportunity to unpack and give with future books. Hobbes isn’t quite in the background and only a plot device though, she has a lot to offer as a character and I can’t wait to find out more. Especially after that epilogue!
The mystery itself had me along for the ride. I liked how there were different layers to the mystery in terms of having a dirigible crash, a missing automaton, murder-bots, zombies (which were probably some of the best described zombies I’ve read), missing people, a glowing policeman on a rampage… it’s a lot but it all works together well.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by The Affinity Bridge and will definitely be continuing with the series. I need to see where these characters go!