Down a mine with a laser – James Blaylock’s Affair of the Chalk Cliffs

On a recent journey into London, I picked up the latest Langdon St Ives novel from James Blaylock, The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs. It has been a while since I’d read my last Blaylock but I’ll be trying to catch up with these and read his earlier books. Accompanied by JK Potter’s photographs, this is a short but excellent steampunk crime adventure.

After Alice St Ives disappears, Langdon and his friends, Jack Owlesby and Tubby Frobisher, venture into the fiendish plans of Dr Narbondo. As the madness spreads, St Ives realised that he has been tricked before being captured. After Alices’s escape, Jack and Tubby set out to stop the doctor.

Blaylock riffs off Jules Verne, creating some interesting versions of lasers and submarines, and adventure writers. Having mused on the notion of influence in the short story, ’13 Phantasms’, and the debt owed by writers to the pulp writers of the 1930s onwards, Blaylock appears to be doing something similar in this book. Perhaps others but I’m new to this series so will be going backwards shortly to try and catch up. Steampunk takes this backwards to the Victorians and explores the forms, occasionally challenging them. Blaylock is not so much challenging these but going with them to see where they might go.

The images go well with the text adding to the Victorian feel of the novella. Perhaps not a book to start with but ripping yarn nonetheless.

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