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EXPEDITION TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON by Mark Hodder Kirkus Star

EXPEDITION TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON

By Mark Hodder

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61614-535-4
Publisher: Pyr/Prometheus Books

Third entry (The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, 2011, etc.) in Spain-resident Englishman Hodder's time-travel/alternate-reality/steampunk saga; though originally billed as a trilogy, the ending here leaves considerable scope for further augmentation.

In 1840, a time traveler known as Spring Heeled Jack arrived in order to prevent his ancestor, Edward Oxford, from assassinating young Queen Victoria. As a result, reality was wrenched into an alternate steampunk universe. Also arriving in 1840, sent back from a ghastly 1919 wherein a rampant Germany, led by a psychic-powered Friedrich Nietzsche and armed with horrid biological weapons, has all but defeated the British Empire and its black-mesmerism-wielding avatar, Aleister Crowley, is famed explorer and polyglot Sir Richard Burton, whose task is to prevent both the assassination and Spring Heeled Jack's perversion of history. Meanwhile, in the same universe in 1863, British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston—the crown is vacant, since no acceptable heir could be found—instructs Burton, ostensibly to seek the source of the Nile, actually to recover a third set of psychoactive diamonds left by a now-extinct nonhuman race, by which means Palmerston hopes to defeat Germany before the world is engulfed in war. In 1914, Burton arrives in East Africa, where an appalling conflict already rages, again hurled through time, but this time with few memories and little idea of who he is or what he's supposed to do. And, rest assured, all this isn't the half of it. The narrative features a host of other historical characters in unfamiliar roles, such as the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel inhabiting a steam-powered robot body, poet Algernon Swinburne as Burton's 1861 sidekick and war correspondent H.G. Wells in 1914. Remarkably enough, the plot hangs together, and Hodder, with an encyclopedic grasp of period detail, tellingly brings these disparate, oddly familiar yet eerily different worlds to fecund life.

Enthralling, dizzying and as impressive as they come.