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Literature / Burton & Swinburne Series

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Sir Richard Francis Burton, the king's agent, and his somewhat erratic assistant, the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, inhabit a world that isn't as it should be. Technology is out of control, distorting the British Empire's cultural landscape almost beyond recognition, and other, rather more surprising forces are attempting to manipulate history. Together, Burton and Swinburne must battle to save the present... from the future!


The Burton & Swinburne series is a series of speculative fiction books written by Mark Hodder, a British author who lives in Valencia, Spain. Although framed as an alternate Victorian England, several of the books explore key historical events or phenomenon in British history, with the first case revolving around Springheeled Jack. Similarly, many noted historical figures make an appearance (including Burton and Swinburne themselves) and the series takes place in actual locations such as the Cannibal Club or London's East End.

The books in the series are:

  • The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (2010)
  • The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man (2011)
  • Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (2012)
  • The Secret of Abdu El-Yezdi (Aug 8, 2013)
  • The Return of the Discontinued Man (July, 2014)
  • The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats (August 13th 2015)

With the six installment capping off the series.

This series provides examples of:

  • Brain Uploading: Features in the second book with the titular Clockwork Man.
  • Body Horror: From the first book there's the Eugenicists whose MO comprises of turning people into animal hybrids, and in the second book there's the man claiming to be Sir Roger, who is massively bloated with a lumpy, egg-shaped head on the cover. It's revealed that some of the black diamonds of the book are inside him. It's also revealed that he's wearing the face that the villains surgically removed from the real Sir Roger.
  • For Want of a Nail: In the first book, many of the social changes in the alternate history are sourced back to Springheeled Jack coming into the past and accidentally causing the assassination of Queen Victoria to be successful.
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  • Hate Plague: The second book has Burton and Swinburne dealing with a lower class that gets increasingly agitated due to the antagonists' powers; the climax has them rioting and killing in the streets. The
  • Historical Domain Character: Many of the characters in the series are historical figures, from Florence Nightingale to Charles Darwin. This also goes for the two protagonists, Burton and Swinburne. The story spends a lot of time exploring how all of their lives have deviated due to the alternate history.
  • In a Single Bound: Springheeled Jack from the first book has all of his jumping powers from legend; the book explains it as him having spring-loaded stilts to walk on.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: A good description of Spring-Heeled Jack, as he went back in time to stop an attempted assassination of Queen Victoria that few people would know about and ended up causing the attempt to succeed, which led to all of history being altered.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: This was the motivation of Springheeled Jack (aka Edward Oxford's descendant), who went back in time to try and stop his ancestor from attempting an assassination on Queen Victoria and tainting their family name forever. When that backfires spectacularly, he tries to stop Edward Oxford's child from even being born, but he doesn't get the times right and only traumatizes a lot of young women in the process.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The book posits that the descendants of Edward Oxford, the man who attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria, put up with the stigma of their ancestor all the way into the future where time travel is possible. This is why Springheeled Jack tries to go back and prevent Edward Oxford from even making the attempt.
  • Spring-Heeled Jack: In The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, Sir Richard and Algernon are called to investigate Spring-heeled Jack's attacks on numerous women. It turns out that Spring-Heeled Jack is a time traveller, and the reason for this alternative timeline. The descendant of the man who tried to murder Queen Victoria, he went back to stop him but only caused the assassination to be a success. To try to undo the damage, he attempts to ensure his relative is never born but can't find the right woman. His incredible leaping abilities are explained as the result of spring-loaded stilts he uses to walk on.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Algernon Swinburne has a brain that interprets pain as pleasure, and he almost worships the Marquis de Sade; when he goes undercover as a sweep, his supervisor whips him for doing a poor job and he's absolutely enthused afterwards. This is played with in that when Beresford starts actually torturing him (via attacking him like an animal) he eventually stops finding it pleasant.


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