The Affinity Bridge
Tags: alternate history, steampunk, totally awesome, zombies
This book makes me like the term “speculative fiction” even more than I did before. How does one classify as either science fiction or fantasy a novel which involves robots, zombies, airships, and clairvoyance? Investigator Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant Veronica Hobbes find themselves attempting to sort out three apparently unrelated mysteries: a horrifyingly fatal airship crash over London, a series of murders in a lower-class part of town, and a zombie plague ravaging the city’s streets. Of course, plenty of action ensues — in between all the delightful descriptions of this familiar-yet-bizarrely-different Victorian England. Mann goes for just the right amount of complexity in his worldbuilding — the universe he depicts is detailed and fascinating without being confusing — and the fast-paced action is frequent, but not so constant as to be mind-numbing. Plus, the book has a couple of very likeable characters at its heart. There’s nothing phenomenal or classic about the writing, but it’s adequate, entertaining, and just plain fun. I didn’t want to put it down, and, as a reader who enjoys both speculative fiction and mysteries, I enjoyed every second of it.
In the course of his story, the author had the opportunity to philosophize about what makes human beings unique…an opportunity which he mostly bypassed in favor of keeping the action going. Granted, philosophical explorations wouldn’t have fit very well in this type of story. There is mention made of Sir Maurice’s fascination with the (real) occult, though we don’t actually witness him doing anything suspect in this story — and (for reasons which can’t be explained without ruining one of the book’s twists) it’s hard to tell for sure what perspective the author is going to take on that particular obsession in future volumes of the series. Oh yes, it does look as if there will be future volumes…to the delight of speculative fiction/mystery fans everywhere, I’m sure!
Content warning: The book contains infrequent yet gruesome scenes of zombie violence with a fairly high gross factor.