Is Our Writers Learning? The Dastardly Miss Lizzie (#SFWApro)

THE DASTARDLY MISS LIZZIE: Electric Empire #3 by Viola Carr (cover by Gene Mollica, all rights remain with current holder) has extra interest for me as Jekyll and Hyde play a big role in Questionable Minds. A novel about their equally schizoid daughter was irresistible. And enjoyable.

THE STORY: Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a police surgeon investigating the Jack the Ripper killings (or the alt.equivalent) in a steampunk London where Edward VII is the feebleminded king, Isaac Newton is the regent, and also head of the Royal Society, which has become a technocratic oppressor that stamps out or kills anyone with heretical scientific/magical theories. Eliza soon discovers the case is strange than she imagined, but she has to fight backstabbing police officers and her own demanding id Lizzie Hyde, to get to the truth.

WHAT I LEARNED:

Women doing things is better than women not doing things (as I said in an earlier review). There’s no shortage of sexism sent Eliza’s way but instead of just wanting to have adventures, she’s already having them. That makes her much more interesting. And there’s a healthy female cast besides Eliza doing stuff — policewoman, scientist, cyborg and a schemer.

Steampunk settings can be taken as a given. I honestly don’t know how England got in the state it’s in, but so much of this is familiar, it doesn’t matter. Advanced science in Victorian-ish era. Government dysfunctional and turning dystopian. Lots of people living out alternate lives. I think steampunk’s reached the level of space opera — you don’t have to know the history of how we got into space to enjoy the story. Same here.

And of course, the Jekyll/Hyde story is familiar enough to carry a lot of weight. But as I’ve read mid-series books that completely lost me, the fact I could follow this without reading #1 and 2 is to Carr’s credit (there were things I’d like to know, but nothing I couldn’t follow the book without).

That said—

I wish authors would put years on their stories. Temporally this seems to be a mess. Isaac Newton and Lizzie’s lover Jonathan Wild are from the early 1700s (though I also wondered if Wild was a reference to Jack Wild playing Artful Dodger in Olivers!); Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter hasn’t been married off, which would put this 1858; but Jekyll and Hyde was set in the 1880s and they have a daughter which would make this early 20th century.

I’m assuming all this can be explained by divergences in history, but it’s still frustrating. Putting a year on the opening of the book would help ground me a lot. Even with much less divergent stories, lack of definite era frustrates me. More so because some of the phrases are just too twentieth century. I’m sorry, nobody in Victorian England is going to be talking about a tinfoil hat to protect them from telepathy. It was annoyingly anachronistic.

One or two of the names also feel — not anachronistic, but too freighted with meaning. If Lizzie’s lover Jonathan just happens by coincidence to have the same name as criminal mastermind Jonathan Wild, that’s distracting. Ditto Inspector Harley Griffin, which makes me think of Hawley Griffin (the full name of the Invisible Man in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

Despite the criticisms, I thought this was a good read and a solid work.

1 Comment

Filed under Is Our Writers Learning?

One response to “Is Our Writers Learning? The Dastardly Miss Lizzie (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Questionable Minds and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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