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3.1 out of 5 stars
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on 29 April 2010
Orphan loves Lucy. They live in a bizarre version of Victorian London inhabited by a potpouri of historical, fictional and mythical personages, appearing not as themselves. For example, a playboy Karl Marx rubs shoulders with Prime Minister Moriarty. Lucy is lost to Orphan, after an exploding book kills her. To bring her back, Orphan must find the mysterous Bookman, who seems to have orchestrated this killing. His journey takes him through sewers to the lair of the Bookman, to encounters with a self-aware chess-playing machine and an android, to joining pirates in the Caribbean after being snatched from a ship owned by Jules Verne, and finally to a strange island, where he discovers a book left by his mother. It talks about the Binder, an entity opposed to the Bookman. Both of these are revealed as ex-servants of the Lizard Men, an alien race who landed in the the Caribbean and have achieved behing-the-scenes power in Britain, much to the chagrin of the French.

This book ends on a revelation in the bowels of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. There is another volume to come. It certainly is worth a read, but could do with pruning in some areas and more detail in others. There are many, many bookish references which get tedious. There are also too many characters amd too much plot business. Conversely, places lack a sense of presence: London for example remains a set of street names. It feels like the author is trying too hard to impress.
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VINE VOICEon 15 February 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Starting below Waterloo Bridge with the character of the first, extant, written epic, Gilgamesh and a young man named Orphan, the plot moves with the fluidity and power of the Thames itself. Murder and mayhem follow in quick succession and the initial cast list is whittled down, actors of considerable historical repute are decapitated, bound, gagged and decomposing and history and literature are given twist upon twist, for this is steampunk and a cut above your usual steampunk fayre at that.

Yet it is still flawed mainly by its stylistic contradictions: the knowing irony of the reinvented historical figure mostly doesn't quite come off, occasionally gratingly; the Men from Porlock are an excellent, if brief, diversion, but the insertion of lists-as-scenery on at least two occasions stalls the plot because the charterers do not interact with them. This story tends to stick in the mind because of the incidentals hung around its branches and though it is a piece of considerable invention there is a better book trying to get out.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Alternative reality stories are always tempting for authors. And when done well they really work. This is a fair stab at the genre, portraying an alternative Victorian society, populated by famous fictional and historical characters and ruled over by lizards from space. Our main character id Orphan, who, following the death of his dearest love Lucy from a literary bomb, sets out to find the Bookman, a shadowy underworld figure. The plot is OK, but for such a novel to work time has to be taken to explore the characters and the locale, to give one a sense of the alternative reality. Tidhar fails to do either, with most characters and locations appearing simply as name checks. This makes the book an ultimately unsatisfying read, as the basic story has been done a hundred times before and needs the sense of the other world to lift it from the hum drum. Hope is not lost though, there are glimmers of decent writing here, and I feel that with a little help from a friendly editor the sequel has potential to be much better.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Lavie Tidhar's first novel is a fast-paced adventure set in an alternative Victorian London, populated by well-known characters, both historical and fictional. The writing sets the scene beautifully, and there are literary in-jokes a-plenty (or at least, so I assume from the few that I noticed!) - being well-read isn't a prerequisite to enjoying this book, but I suspect it would help get the most from it.

The characters are well-drawn and engaging, and dialog is convincing. My one reservation is the plot, which develops well for the first half of the book, but then seems to lose focus and wander a bit - particularly in the final third of the book, I found it difficult to follow what exactly was happening, and it was unclear how the situations set up in the first part of the book were really resolved.

That said, it is a thoroughly entertaining read, not least because of playing spot-the-reference all the way through. Certainly not for everyone, and a bit pulp in tone, but enjoyable nonetheless.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Just finished this and it's pretty good. London circa 1890-1900 where Professor Moriarty (yes that Professor Moriarty) is Prime Minister at the court of the Calibanic Kings - Queen Victoria is now from the lizard race - who were discovered by Amerigo Vespucci on his return voyage from "Vespucciana" (ie America) and William Shakespeare is the first poet Prime Minister

Jules Verne adventurer who is in search of the Lizards home island, Mycroft Holmes is head of a secret service bureau, Sherlock Holmes is in a coma after a fall in Switzerland that seems connected with the Prime Minister, Irene Adler is a new C.I. of Scotland Yard and is in charge of the investigation of mysterious book bombs, automatons including one of Byron are lifelike and impersonate humans, Oscar Wilde is still famous,Kipling and HG Wells appear as cameos, and Karl Marx is plotting revolution. If that lot doesn't make you want to read this, nothing will.

Great fun and hopefully more to come.
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VINE VOICEon 15 July 2010
Steam punks ahoy!

A fun Adventure novel with lots of nice touches, and an expectation of a knowledge of literature - I did love the Persons from Porlock and Inspector Irene Adler within the first few pages.

It's not an outstanding or terribly significant work, but it's fun and action-packed - and I rather enjoyed it. Recommended for fans of Steam punk genre fiction.
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Angry Robot is fast building a reputation for bringing new talent alongside the less explored area's of fiction to the fore. With this offering, they not only give the reader a new area to explore but a unique and novel storyteller to the masses.

In the same vein as Moore, Gibson and Powers the genre has not only grown but won over new generation as creative twists unfurl within this offering. Not only an interesting read but also one that leads the reader to ask more questions than is answered within the text supplied. Whilst this won't please everyone, it is a brave move by an author although at times it does feel that the reader has to have a knowledge of some of the literal characters wtihin to get some of the "in" jokes in much the same way that it happened with Moore. A promising start and I hope that the follow-ups are just as interesting.
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VINE VOICEon 8 February 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although this book has a lot of the fantastic worldview of steampunk and effectively avoids the cliches about the Victorian London, it is little more than a children's SF novel with a few naughty bits thrown in.

Orphan's very name invites us to consider him as a take on Dickens's Pip, adrift in an unfriendly London. Once he leaves London for the Caribbean, we are in the kind of literary territory covered by the likes of Lionboy. Back in London, we are distracted from a couple of holes in the plot with a Harry Potter style denouement.

Having said that, this is a fine read of an afternoon and Captain Wyvern is, strangely, one of the most memorable characters I have come across in a long time.

Read and enjoy, but don't expect more than an entertaining few hours.
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VINE VOICEon 28 January 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an interesting book, with an amusing overall arc and some mildly arch borrowing of characters, primarily from Conan Doyle, but struggles to really hold the reader. The action seems to jump too much, giving an overall effect of disconnection and jerkiness, which does mean that attention can easily disconnect. Whilst it is not entirely predictable, the twists are often not twisty enough, and in the end it just doesn't seem to pull off the effect it was aiming for. It does however paint an odd little picture of a Victorian London that never existed, but includes enough familiarity to tantalise. I wouldn't read the sequel, but I don't regret the time spent on this one.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had high hoped for this given the write up and the clear steam punk genre setting, unfortunately I was sadly disapointed.

Firstly it is highly derivative, and by that I mean Lavie Tidhar has clearly looked for all the steam punk conventions and the in a scattergun approach filled the book with them. There are some pages where all you get is a list of items in a room that are common steampunk devices to no other end than to try and set his genre credentials out. After a while I just started to flick past these passages.

The narrative thread jumps too much and there is very little cohesion in the story. Half the time I carried on reading wondering how on Earth the lead character, Orphan, got where he was in the book.

We also have too many things going on. In his clear excitment at writing a book to conform to all the steampunk conventions in a realtively short book we lose any sense of purpose for the main character and all the other supporting cast don't get filled out as they should. It's a shame because less would be more here. Less frenetic story changes and lists of Victorian characters and more character development with a better paced plot and we could have a great book. Or the book could have been extended four fold.

There is the oddball thread of the royal family being reptilian space refugees and quite frankly that just does not work and it needs to because the thrust of the story rotates around this.

Overall it's just not a very good book. All of the elements are there in place but whilst you may have the ingredients to bake a cake, it does not follow that you will end up with something edible. I'd avoid this to be honest and I won't be following the story of Orphan in further books.
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