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.

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Breathers by S.G. Browne – A Book Review

With all due respect to Mr. Browne, I simply couldn’t finish this book.  After the first fifty pages, I knew it was a lost cause, but out of professional courtesy, I tried to press on.  I trudged through half of it and simply had to call it quits.

Breathers, a story about zombies trying find their place in a world that is bigoted towards them, touts itself as both humorous and touching.  I found it neither.

Browne delivers what I consider lazy writing that often contradicts itself.  He also goes back to the well so many times with certain phrases and “jokes” that I literally began to groan each time I came across them.  For example, Browne overused the phrase “If you’ve never blah, blah, blah, then you probably wouldn’t understand.”  This was funny the first time, but after I read it at least five more times in less than half the book, it became an unfortunate distraction.

I chose this book because it declared that if I liked Max Brooks and his zombie books, then I’d enjoy Breathers.  Brooks is a careful, articulate, thoughtful writer, and Breathers displays none of these attributes.

I do not recommend Breathers for even the most devout of zombie fans.

World War Z by Max Brooks – A Book Review

I’m not a zombie guy—no interest in them whatsoever.  I’ve watched the zombie craze in pop culture, observing from afar, and simply didn’t get it.  So when a hardcover came out a while back featuring a storyline about zombies overrunning the world, I quickly dismissed it.

 

Last week, my friend told me about an incredible book called World War Z.  I said, “Isn’t that a zombie book?”  He said yes, but then quickly fought to overcome my bias with reasons why I would love it.

 

It worked.

 

After just mere minutes of describing the book, he had me soundly invested.  I got my own copy the next day and had World War Z finished inside of a week (remember I work full time and write on the side, so a book in a week is pretty fast for me).

 

World War Z completely won me over because it was written as though it belonged to the nonfiction genre.  The author presents a narrator who conducts a series of interviews years after a pandemic global outbreak of a zombie virus that nearly drove humanity into extinction.  The interviews are typically only a few pages long and focus on military leaders, doctors, scientist, and regular citizens literally from all over the world.  The reader then has the pleasure of piecing all these interviews together in order to get a broader sense of an epic story.

 

The sheer imagination of the author, Max Brooks, is staggering.  He truly considered every possibility with World War Z.  The ideas he presented as fact were absolutely plausible, and at times you forget you’re reading fiction.  I caught myself thinking, “Okay, what would I do if I were in this situation?”

 

Furthermore, the zombies were almost secondary in the book.  Brooks focused more on the human reaction to possible extinction, and the power of fear that can overcome us all.  But he also emphasized the human will to survive, and the motivation to triumph in any sort of adversity.  And while I wouldn’t call this a political book, I believe Brooks made a few statements about our current geopolitical climate if you read between the lines. 

 

It’s not all roses, though.  I loved the book, and I literally could not put it down, but I must admit it was probably about fifty pages too long.  Near the end, things started getting a little repetitive.  Not enough to quail my enthusiasm for World War Z, but it could have stood a little trimming up.

 

To sum up, Brooks’ imagination and style have won him a loyal reader.  Remember, I’ve been telling everyone I know to read this book about zombies, and I hate zombies!