The Affinity Bridge sets some derring-do and a Sherlock Holmes-ish mystery in an alternate history where England had much more sophisticated technology under the Victoria’s reign (some of the tech, in fact, extends Victoria’s lifespan farther into the 20th century). Sometimes it seems like Mann is juggling a few too many plot threads — a zombie plague, clockwork airship pilots, and a serial killer who resembles a ghostly glowing bobby all figure — but ultimately the elements tie together satisfactorily.
I found The Affinity Bridge not un-entertaining, and although the reveal in the epilogue wasn’t too much of a surprise, it suggests a multi-novel story arc that I’m curious to see how Mann evolves. So I may read more. (The Affinity Bridge resolves as a stand-alone novel, but it is unambiguously the first of a series.)
On the minus side, Mann’s characters are flat and cartoonish. I had suspension-of-disbelief problems several times, most notably with iron as a structural element in lighter-than-air vessels and Mann’s depiction of the physics of railway carriages. Mann seems to struggle both with the rhythm of the prose and the blocking of action sequences (I assumed it was his first novel, but it’s not, so perhaps he is still seeking the right balance of faux-Victoriana and modern prose construction). I was less bothered by this when I started envisioning the fisticuffs shot in the clunky and often unintentionally humorous style of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who. A typical sample:
[The other man] got to his feet, careful to keep his pilot’s chair safely between the two of them. He smiled slyly. “Indeed we do.” He lashed out as he spoke, sending his fist flying toward Newbury’s face. Newbury ducked quickly out of the way, feeling the fist brush his cheek, ever-so-narrowly missing its target. He thrashed back at the other man, connecting hard with his sternum and causing him to stagger backwards, banging against the control panel. It wasn’t a graceful move, but it was certainly functional.
needs more demons? not as such, but a little more care in the writing would not have been amiss.