The Affinity Bridge by George Mann – A Book Review

George Mann has written an original novel utilizing two dynamic characters while blending science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres in Victorian England.  But, even as these elements add up to a highly entertaining work, it is not without faults.

The Affinity Bridge features Sir Maurice Newbury, an agent of Queen Victoria, and his newly hired assistant, Veronica Hobbes.  They are a fun duo, both formidable in their own right, and soon after the beginning of the novel they are thrust into three seemingly separate investigations.  London is besieged by a plague of revenants—zombies, a glowing policeman intent on killing, and a dirigible crash piloted by an automaton—a robot.

Newbury, while a capable investigator, also dabbles in the dark arts and has a few incorrigible habits that shall remain unmentioned.  Hobbes has a clairvoyant sister in the asylum and a secret she dares not reveal to Newbury.  Their relationship is wrought with sexual tension, mutual respect, and catchy dialogue.  Neither is afraid of action, and both employ behavior considered unusual for the time period.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, though the rising action is far more engrossing than the climax or the resolution.  Newbury and Hobbes, along with Mann’s surrealistic, gritty London, are primed for another tale, one I would not hesitate to read.  Mann’s story is firmly entrenched in reality, but a reality where anything is possible.

I do have one complaint, however—adverbs.  Mann indulges in adverbs so often that it becomes a distraction, one I couldn’t ignore for most of the novel.  It may sound petty, but most of them were unnecessary with as many as three per sentence in some cases.

With The Affinity Bridge, George Mann has created a city and cast of characters unrestricted by genre and exciting to follow.  Though his use of adverbs is distracting, Mann writes quick-paced, well-plotted prose and takes care to fully resolve all subplots.  If you are a fan of science fiction, secret agents, zombies, robots, unholy killers, and the Victorian Era, then I recommend The Affinity Bridge.

Man In the Dark by Paul Auster – A Book Review

Like so many other Paul Auster works of late, Man In the Dark is a story taking place within another story.  The basic premise is that an old man can’t sleep at night, and so he tells himself stories in order to pass the time.

Auster flashes between the reality of the old man and his fictional story detailing a second American civil war.  Consequently, things get interesting when the fictional bleeds into the real.  Yes, that’s right: the old man’s character is assigned to find the old man, and carry out a special task.

However, the real meat of this story occurs when we get to know the old man better.  His wife is dead and he lives with his daughter and his granddaughter.  His daughter’s husband left her, and his granddaughter’s boyfriend has been recently killed—the circumstances of which are severely disturbing when finally revealed and haunted me for days afterward.

Auster has been experimenting with the story-within-a-story technique for quite a while, and “real” characters meeting “fictional” characters is nothing new in Auster works either, but, I believe Auster broke ground with Man In the Dark because he makes a point to familiarize us with the old man’s fictional characters before we get better acquainted with the old man himself.  We then realize that much of the “fictional” story the old man concocted had myriad details from the old man’s personal life—and that’s where Auster really shined.

We all know that authors pick and choose aspects from their private lives to drop into their works—I do it as well.  But in Man In the Dark, the old man employs facets from his own life in the tale he develops, which makes us wonder how much of the storyteller’s life is derived from Auster’s actual life.  Confusing, I know, but fun to analyze.

I also love the particular significance of this work’s title.  It can refer to the old man laying awake at night, to the fictional character the old man creates and who doesn’t have any idea how he happened into a second American civil war, or it could refer to the granddaughter’s boyfriend, who died under horrendous circumstances which I won’t spoil for you.

I do have one criticism of Man In the Dark, however, and that’s the fact that Auster’s characters are beginning to sound an awfully lot alike.  It’s not enough to turn me off, but it is something I’ve noticed in the last few books of his that I’ve read.  But again, is this simply a mistake, or is Auster experimenting somehow?  Is he driving home the fact that each character created by an author is an aspect of the author himself, and thus illustrating that they therefore should sound similar?  I don’t have the answer to that, but once more, it sure is fun to think about.

Man In the Dark is a short read, and if you enjoy experimental storytelling and style, and think you’ll be pleased with this work by a master.

Cowboys: A Father’s Day Story – My June News and Views Short Story

Ron Irlam sits in his den with his wife, waiting  for his son to arrive for Father’s Day.  But why is Ron so upset, and why does Ron behave so cantankerously every year even though he desperately loves his son?  I’ll give you a hint: it involves cowboys.

To discover Ron’s predicament, read “Cowboys: A Father’s Day Story” in this month’s issue of News and Views for the Young at Heart.

News & Views for the Young at Heart is at virtually any Bloomington-Normal medical facility.  You can also pick it up at the following locations:

-Sud’s Subaru
-Busey Bank on Fort Jesse
-Kroger on the corner of Landmark and Visa
-Commerce Bank on the corner of Towanda and College
-Tuffy Muffler on Vernon
-Kmart behind Kep’s Restaurant on IAA Drive
-Eastland Mall at the main door between JC Penny and Macy’s
-Kroger on Oakland Avenue
-Schnucks
-Jewel-Osco on Veterans Parkway
-Borders
-Kroger on Main Street
-Bloomington Public Library
-Drop Off Laundry on Main Street, across from Kroger

Or, if you live in the Peoria area, get your copy at:

-CVS Pharmacies
-Borders at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie
-Save-a-Lot grocery store in Peoria Heights
-Hospital lobbies
-Barnato Pharmacy at Cub Foods in Peoria
-Kmart in Morton
-Methodist Atrium Building in Peoria
-Peoria Heights Library

The Peoria edition is also in most doctors’ offices and pharmacies in Pekin, Morton, Chillicothe, Lacon, Farmington, Canton, East Peoria, and Eureka.

Comments or questions are always welcome.  Get in touch at scottwilliamfoley@gmail.com.