the Little Red Reviewer

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, by Mark Hodder

Posted on: February 8, 2012

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (Burton & Swinburn #3) by Mark Hodder

published in January 2011

where I got it: received review copy from Pyr

why I read it: Highly enjoyed the first two books in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.

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Shortly after starting this book, I had two predictions. and I was right on both of them.

The year is 1863, but not as it should be.  Two decades of unrestrained genetic engineering and eugenics have nearly covered London with the giant hollowed out insects filled with steam powered machinery, foul mouthed messenger birds and fouler breathed messenger dog-things.  Sir Richard Francis Burton has always felt an outsider in London, but things are getting out of control, even for him.

After an attempt on his life, Burton is approached by Prime Minister Palmerston to return to Africa. The trip will be publicized as another attempt to find the source of the Nile, but in reality, Palmerston has tasked Burton with finding the African Eyes of the Naga.  The Eyes, black diamonds that fell as asteroids, had already been found in Cambodia and South America. Connected to an impossible myth, the shards of the diamonds can retain thoughts impressed upon them.  And Burton isn’t the only one searching for the Eyes.

But meanwhile, we have another story line happening.  It’s 1914, and in the trenches of a Great War far more horrific that the one in your history books, a man has lost his memory.  Befriended by a journalist who recognizes him, the man very slowly regains his memories. What he remembers is even more impossible than the Great War his eyes are showing him.

And told nearly in echoes, is a third story line of a man who designs a time machine. He must stop his many times great grandfather from attempting to kill a Queen.

If you’ve read the previous books in Mark Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne series, you know you are in for one hell of a ride. And Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon is that, and more.  Within the first few pages, Hodder grabs hold of your hand, and doesn’t let go until he’s shown you every possibly side of this fantastical frightening world of time and science gone madly wrong.  It all started in 1840.  Time was altered, the future changed, the British Empire started down a path of destruction and devastation.  Perhaps Burton and Swinburne and the rest of their crew can solve the puzzle if they don’t get shot first, perhaps Palmerston is right and the Eyes of the Naga are the key to avoiding a horrific future.

At less than 400 pages, Hodder hasn’t got much time to tell you what’s going on, so pay attention to everything, and I do mean everything. Hodder peppers the path with clues, but I was so engrossed in the story I missed half of them. I have a feeling this will be a completely different book the second time I read it. Even with events happening at a breakneck pace, Hodder still manages to flesh the characters out, even more so than in previous books. Burton is by far the main attraction, and it was so nice to see more than his “stodgy British” side.

My first prediction was this: a few petty things about the book were going to annoy me, and those annoyances would be fully and completely overshadowed by the truly amazing quantity of densely packed stuff Hodder crams in to a relatively short number of pages, including a dizzying quantity of interesting and important characters, interlocking plot lines that come together perfectly and seamlessly at the end, and a surprise I never, ever, would have seen coming.

My second prediction was that this would be Hodder’s best book yet.  And I was right.

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon certainly has some laugh out loud humorous bits, but at times it is deadly serious.   Like an 1800s trip through Africa, this book has no easy routes. Hodder took what could have been a fun steampunk adventure and successfully turned it into an emotional roller coaster, balancing action and beauty, danger and depth.  Everyone knows this is the endgame, and most certainly the end of the Burton and Swinburne series. Don’t forget that I said emotional roller coaster. I nearly cried at the end, and it wasn’t cuz I was happy.  As much as I’ve grown to love these characters, I’m happy Hodder ended it when, where, and how he did. Besides, I can’t wait to see what kind of crazyness Hodder comes up with next.

If you enjoy steampunk adventure and  or historical fiction, Mark Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne Adventures is the series for you.  If anything, these books will get you interested in reading about what really happened with Sir Richard Francis Burton.

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2 Responses to "Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, by Mark Hodder"

I have to admit I will also be re-reading the whole series to fully appreciate this great series. I felt a bit wiped out by the ending but it is a very grown up display of how good steampunk can be. I also loved it.

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I finally got to Spring-Heeled Jack recently, at your recommendation. Thank You for that! As I read it, I kept exclaiming to myself: “THIS is what I’ve always wanted in Steampunk!”

So often, the genre has failed to live-up to the vivid Vernean images my mind conjures whenever someone mentions its name. Not so with Hodder. He brought the story vivid ingenuity, breakneck action, and — just as importantly — plain-ol’ FUN.

I look forward to catching-up on Parts 2 and 3. Thanks for the review.

Scott

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