the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘mad science

CP5_front-200x300Clockwork Phoenix 5, edited by Mike Allen

Available April 5, 2016

Where I got it: received review copy from the editor






Some people describe anthologies as a journey.  I’ve been known to compare them to techno music. But  today, I’d like you to think about anthologies as restaurants – the stories are the dishes on the menu, and the editor is the restaurateur.   Some restaurants have great atmosphere, some restaurants you only like a few dishes on their menu, or maybe there is a great Sunday brunch, or maybe it’s just a super convenient location and the food is pretty darn good.  Think about restaurants you’ve returned to again and again. There was a reason, right?




Some restaurateurs love attention for one particular dish their restaurant specializes in, or whatever. Maybe they are the King of Deep Fried Butter, or the Home of the Original Whiskey Waffles.  Maybe they did a Taco throwdown with Bobby Flay or something.


And then there is that secret restaurant.  The one all the locals know about. It doesn’t look like a fancy place,  but every dish you’ve had there has been amazing. Sometimes the flavors are complex, sometimes they are simple.  You go as often as you can, with the goal of trying every dish on the unique menu before the menu changes, because the chefs and owners are always trying something new and different, because the rules don’t apply here. There are no rules, there is no pretension, there is no ego, there  are no signs proclaiming fame or autographed photos of Food Network personalities.  But, omg, the food! It is perfection on a plate! And you feel better about yourself and your life and the world every time you go there.  Clockwork Phoenix is the name of this restaurant, and Mike Allen is the restaurateur.  One sublime dish after another, and yet I still have my favorites that I keep coming back to.

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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.







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.

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The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, by Mark Hodder

Published March 2011

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

why I read it: adored the first book in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, reviewed here.

Enter to Win a Copy of The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, here. Contest is open until March 21.

Welcome to Victorian England, just not the Victorian England you know.  The Queen is dead (so perhaps I should call it Albertian England?), scientists are having a field day with steam powered inventions, eugenicists are having a ball with genetically modified foodstuffs and insects grown to obscene proportions and magic is real.  Well, not magic exactly, but mind control, astral projections, spiritualism, mediumistic techniques to read the future is all very, very real. And it all started back in 1837, when a certain someone had such very good intentions and tried so very hard to fix what had gone horribly wrong.

It’s now 1862, and Sir Richard Francis Burton and his assistant Algernon Swinburne have recovered from the Spring Heeled Jack Affair. The Technologist faction is under control, Isembard Kingdom Brunel has made his new life public, the British government is playing favorites regarding the American War between the states, and Burton continues to be bitter about being passed over for funding for African expeditions.    Although Hodder provides plenty of background information and these are fairly episodic adventures so far, I am reluctant to say you can read The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man as a standalone, as there is a overarching plotline that I believe will become more important than any one adventure.

Hodder  gets the action, adventure, and mystery started right off the bat. Burton and Swinburne investigate an abandoned yet beautifully constructed clockwork man in the middle of a public square, which leads to a theft of famous black diamonds, the untimely death of Charles Babbage, a disturbing  vision of Burton’s future, a homeless philosopher who seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder, the mythology behind the rest of the black diamonds, and a haunted estate. Oh, and fairies, whatever you do, don’t forget the fairies. Read the rest of this entry »

London: the 1860’s. Upperclass British gents fund explorations to Africa, Asia and beyond. Bored dilettantes drink wine, write poetry, and look for direction in their lives. The working class works tirelessly, and the upper class spends money like it’s going out of style.

Mark Hodder’s Victorian London isn’t exactly the London we know from history. The streets are clogged with smog belching penny farthings, and genetically modified domesticated animals carry messages across town. A technological revolution has come early, with the digital revolution fast on it’s heels. Arguing in the taverns are the Libertines and the Technologists, the former being both luddite and libertarian, and the latter filling the streets with their inventions as they push science further every day.

Mark Hodder writes a London that could have been, populated by people you might recognize. But this is who they could have been, who and what they might have become, had things been just a little different. The London of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack isn’t known as the “Victorian Age”, because young Victoria was assassinated at the age of 20, and Albert became King. And every page is fantastically delicious, whether you know your British history or not.

A debate has been scheduled between explorers Sir Richard Francis Burton and John Speke, but it’s cancelled at the last minute, as Speke has attempted to kill himself. Soon after, Burton is attacked by a creature known as Spring Heeled Jack, and the creature bluntly tells Burton to sod off.

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thanks to TJ at Dreams and Speculation and her article on graphic novels at Dirty Sexy Books for getting me to write an article on Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius.

I’ve been working on this article for like three days, and I’m finding it very hard to talk about Girl Genius. Why? Well, I read a lot of dark and tragic stuff. plenty of magic, plenty of violence, plenty of really bad guys, a bare handful of good guys and lots and lots of melancholy. So that’s what I’m used to writing about.

And Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio is the opposite of all that. It’s a sex comedy with mad scientists and shy students and sentient castles and blimp cities and monster soldiers who have crushes on  monster construct nannies. It’s a riot of science and smarts and silliness and romance and adventure. It’s got it’s own mythology and it’s own cult following. It makes me giggle uncontrollably and want to sign up for Steampunk conventions. Yes, that Phil Foglio of What’s New with Phil and Dixie and Mythadventures.  umm, and SPANC.

and you should be reading it.

AND, I’m even going to tell you what it’s about! Or at least the first three volumes, which I have in a super awesome omnibus edition. Read the rest of this entry »

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.