The third adventure featuring investigators Burton and Swinburne (after 2011’s The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man) takes them back to Africa to seek the source of the Nile, a magic gem, and a way to fix history. The adventurers and their supporters display their eccentricities as they chase their opponents across the continent. Substantive engagement is left to the last minute, but a twist ending delivers a surprising punch. Hodder’s “biopunk” Victorian trappings include genetic engineering of animals and plants, and mysticism from an extinct race of reptiles. The high stakes derive from the notion of a universe of limited resilience, which can only handle so many time line changes before it cracks. The subsequent cognitive dissonance, relativism, and rapid obsolescence feel more slipstream than steampunk. Hard SF fans may get impatient, but everyone else will be well entertained. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/07/2011 Release date: 01/01/2012 Genre: Fiction
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