One of the best novels that I read in 2008 was The Affinity Bridge*, a steampunk adventure-mystery by George Mann. The book follows the adventures of Maurice Newbury, detective for the Crown, and his assistant, Ms. Veronica Hobbes, a team who sit somewhere between a classic Sherlock Holmes and Watson pairing and that of Doctor Who’s Doctor and one of his more capable companions. They inhabit a wonderfully-realized steampunk London, replete with clockwork butlers, airships in the skies, and zombies in Whitechapel. The book is a must for steampunk fans, as well as anybody who liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel, not film, natch). Already a bestseller in the UK, US readers can discover its anachronistic wonders when Tor publishes their edition in July 2009. **
But while you wait...
His UK publishers, Snowbooks, have a little holiday present for everyone. They’ve commissioned an original Newbury & Hobbes short story, “The Shattered Teacup,” and made it available as both a PDF download and an audio file. The result is either a great -ahem- bridge over the gap between The Affinity Bridge and its sequel The Osiris Ritual, or a wonderful introduction to the world of Maurice Newbury & Veronica Hobbes, if you’re encountering them for the first time. Either way, adjust the focus of your brass goggles, crank up the gears and charge the aetherial agitators of your preferred auditory contraption, pour yourself a carafe of absinthe, and settle in for the ride.
* The big disclaimer here is that I liked The Affinity Bridge so much that I bought another manuscript from George, The Ghosts of Manhattan, a superhero tale set in an alternate Manhattan in the 1920s, which will be out from Pyr sometime in 2010.
** And yes, if you are reading this post in the US, you should wait for it. This is the beginning of a series, book two is already in the works, and how book one does in the States will certainly have some bearing on Tor’s willingness to bring subsequent books across the pond, right? Of course, a perfectly acceptable alternative is to buy both. Snowbooks put an incredible amount of loving detail and painstaking effort into the slipcased edition, but UK authors do need the support here when they come across. So you could get the UK slipcased edition for yourself, and then gift the Tor edition to a friend when it comes out this summer! Or vice versa.