Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book: The Affinity Bridge

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by George Mann is a steampunk novel with airships and mechanical automata, as well as a glowing blue policeman who has apparently come back from the dead to avenge his murder. The subtitle "A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation" tells you several things. One, this follows in the great tradition of detective/assistant mysteries. Two, neither Newbury or Hobbes is likely to turn out to be the villain. And three, both will survive, because there seems to be clear intention to make this a series if this one is successful. And it is reasonably entertaining in a steampunky, Victorian-detective sort of way.

However, Tor really needs a better proofreader. On page 98, we read: "The device is designed to power itself. When the automaton moves, a rotor inside its abdomen rocks back and forth, racheting the winding mechanism and causing the mainspring in the chest to become taut. Effectively, the unit is self-winding, and thus it will never power down, unless commanded to do so. If left inactive for long periods without instructions, the unit will eventually move itself to trigger the winding mechanism." This may be an alternate world, but they presumably have not repealed the Laws of Thermodynamics. First, what Mann has described is a perpetual motion machine, one in which no energy is lost while it is operating (a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics). But even assuming that worked, why would it then have to wind itself when it was inactive for a while? That implies that energy is leaking out somehow, but that it can recharge itself as a closed system to restore that energy (a violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics).

(It is true that the person who says this is not scrupulously honest, but there is no revelation that he has lied in this context.)

Grade: B

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