Mark Hodder : The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

This is a debut novel in a Victorian steam punk / alternate history setting. However, I can’t help thinking that it is an inferior variation of Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates. The titular character is, from the outset, clearly quite mad, so it won’t be much of a spoiler to tell you that he became mad through a series of absurd decisions. The initial decision that set him on the path to ruin and madness was itself so ridiculous that the reader must wonder if the man was ever quite “all there”. Since the entire setting of the novel and all of the events that occur are based on the consequences of these ridiculous actions, the novel undermines itself. On the bright side, Mr. Hodder scores a few points for lively atmosphere building, especially in his descriptions of the notorious East End of Victorian London, and other well known districts.

 

Amanda Hodgkinson : 22 Britannia Road

As an immigrant, this book touched me. I’m not saying the experience of post WWII Polish people is substantively similar to that of Generation Y Asians … yet there were some parallels. The struggle to balance assimilation and acculturation. Drawing the line between what of yourself you are willing and unwilling to lose in order to fit in. The other theme is how people can change over time, and what this entails for their personal relationships, but that didn’t resonate with me as much.

 

Daniel Rasmussen : American Uprising – The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt

Although I am not the biggest fan of American History (being of a Hellenic bent) this book was still pretty interesting. The author delves deeply into the political and societal climate surrounding the 1811 New Orleans slave revolt, painting at times a vivid picture of the period. The author says he chose to focus on this slave revolt because the longest treatise about it to date is only 14 pages long; it has practically been written out of history and has never been given the attention it warrants, considering the impact it had at the time. The description of the actual events that occurred makes up only a small portion of the book, but I think the author did the best he could considering the paucity of facts available. So instead most of the book just focuses on the politics behind it, and also the reasons why this particular important event has been ignored in our textbooks. Of particular interest are real quotes from the plantation owners and local authorities at the time, which reveals how they viewed the world and their society which is built on slavery.