Camera Obscura (Bookman Histories) Mass Market Paperback – 7 Apr 2011
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"Lavie Tidhar's Camera Obscura is not so much a sequel to his generally impressive steampunk novel, The Bookman, as it is a continuation of events in the world presented in that debut. While the locale is different and no characters brought forward, this work retains all the nuances of the first novel and improves upon most of them."
- Alan Cranis, www.bookgasm.com
About the Author
Lavie Tidhar has quickly established a name for himself as a short fiction writer of note, and he's now moved to writing novels, debuting with The Bookman. He has travelled widely, living variously in South Africa, the UK, and the remote island-nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, but is currently resident in Israel. The author lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.
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Unfortunately I found the story dull and unconvincing and the characters didn't engage me at all. It was a bit like watching one of those boring B movies where you really don't care what happens to anyone in it.
Still, I suppose YOUR mileage may vary. But I just couldn't get into this at all.
Oh, and someone should really tell the author that Bushmills is an Irish Whiskey, NOT a Scotch whisky...
The book was fast paced, with short chapters making it easy to read. The story was divided in to parts, with "interludes" showing Kai and his journey with the mysterious jade lizard, until it all interlocks at the end. I thought the prose was very good, and the book was very atmospheric. Occasionally it felt like the plot was a bit all over the place, as there was lots going on that all related to everything.
I'm warning you now, the cover is a huge spoiler for what happens about halfway through the book or so. The story appeared to be going one way and then did a huge about face and changed.
I enjoyed the cameo's certain well known persons made...Houdini...Mycroft Holmes....Frankenstein....Quasimodo....to name a few.
The book was fast paced, full of gun toting nuns, and lizard royalty, it struggled to hold my attention once or twice, and can seem a bit all over the place, but all in all it was a good read!
The main theme of the series revolves around Mycroft Holmes and his Intelligence Organization. Many other Sherlockian characters appear as well as an unruly mob of other personages. One really needs a scorecard to keep track. The author also has a habit of making readers work for understanding of the environment. Every once in a while, some character will summarize a part of history, either recent or ancient, so that readers can orient (not `orientate') themselves. Mostly, though, the characters talk about more immediate concerns as do people involved in active lives so readers are left to catch up on their own. I found this aspect more interesting than most fictional settings because it makes a reader think. Meanwhile, the action continues and events keep happening.
The three volumes occur in 1888, in 1893 and in 1899. Many characters appear in all three volumes and some explanations are offered. I retain a number of serious questions, such as "What happened to Smallpox" and "Where did Amerigo Vespucci learn to pilot a ship?" There are also open questions about who is on which side of what. There seem to be more `sides' than players and there are a real ocean full of players. Needless to say, the action takes place all over the place and even in some unexpected places.
At base, this is an action series. Agents, counteragents, retired agents and secret agents wander in and out, change sides, switch masters and shoot it out with each other at the drop of a hat. It is difficult to bring up any subject without revealing some of the mysteries that are part of the story. As an example, there was a revolution in France in the late eighteenth Century. It was called "The Quiet Revolution." Doctors Frankenstein and Jekyl are working together, sort of. Milady DeWinter and the Comte de Rochefort are still (or again) in business, working for the French Government, in between other clients. One hint, when the author talks about a "Vespucian" you can translate that as "American."
This is a fun series. There are lots of interesting characters, stolen from everywhere, as much action as can be kept track of and a whole slew of questions left unanswered. Familiar characters pop up in the oddest places for even odder reasons and familiar places all look just a little bit odd. If you can figure out what actually happened, please drop me a note. I'm still a bit puzzled.
Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, February 2012
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