Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Bookman

My reading is going a bit slowly this month, what with Easter and family visiting and so on. I have finished my first book of the month though, at last, and it's my second read for Carl's Once Upon a Time VI challenge - The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar.

It's the reign of Queen Victoria but not the Queen Victoria we know. The world has been taken over by a race of lizards from an alien planet and they now rule over most of the countries of the world, including England. Queen Victoria is a lizard.

Orphan is, as his name suggests, an orphan. He knows only that his father was a sailor of some kind, but knows nothing about his mother or her family. He lives in London, in a bookshop, with Jack, a close friend. The love of his life is Lucy, and when she is killed in a bomb attack on the Mars probe, Orphan's life falls to pieces. He is himself attacked but does not know why. Arriving back at the bookshop he discovers that Jack is not what he thought and, after a catastrophic event, goes on the run. He realises The Bookman is after him. The Bookman is a very mysterious figure who is commiting terrorist attacks and, Orphan suspects, is the one responsible for Lucy's death.

When The Bookman captures Orphan he gives him no choice but to go on a mission to a mysterious island known as Caliban which, it's rumoured, is where the lizards first landed and came from. The promise is that if he does this, Lucy will be returned to him. Orphan sets off on a voyage with Jules Verne and a rum looking bunch of sailors, having no idea what is store for him, or whether he will ever see London again.

I'm developing a bit of a taste for steampunk with its dark, Victorian settings and weird mechanical elements such as automatons or flying machines. The Bookman is pure steampunk and I felt I should have loved it a lot more than I actually did. The silly thing is, I can't really decide why I didn't love it. I suppose it didn't help that I was unable to read it all in one go, over a couple or three days. I was busy, so it took me over a week to read and it may have been that that made the plot feel bitty. At times I felt confused about what was going on and that's a shame as this is in fact quite a readable book. There is adventure a plenty, the main character, Orphan, is a likeable young man, and the various settings - Victorian London, the high seas, the island, are well described and easy for the reader to imagine.

There are also many literary characters which make the book fun and interesting. Mrs. Isabella Beeton is a spy character, Jules Verne, a French poet and adventurer, Irene Adler, a police inspector, Moriarty is England's Prime Minister, Sherlock Holmes makes a couple of very brief appearances and his brother, Mycroft, is also alluded to. It's fun - if a bit bizarre - but somehow it all lacked a bit of depth for me. The Bookman could have been a chillingly frightening character but he was just short of that. I wanted to know a *lot* more about these lizards, as I thought there was real potential for fear there, but there was precious little detail. It's a huge shame as there was certainly no lack of imagination in the book. Perhaps the author attempted too much, I don't know. There are two subsequent books in the series and it's possible that a lot more will be explained in those. At the moment I'm not sure if I will read them, if I do they'll come from the library I suspect.


Buried In Print said...

That's certainly happened to me before -- a read having been splintered over too many reading sessions so that it's interfered with my overall enjoyment of it -- but it sounds like you did still enjoy it somewhat. I'm curious whether you'll read on in the series (I didn't realize there are two other books, I've only noted this one).

fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

I'm not really sure that this is a book that I would enjoy, although I am a little undecided, as both this and the other two books in the series sound very intriguing, I particularly like the sound of the second book.

I got the basic info. from FantasticFiction, then decided to check out the author website, which left me a bit shell-shocked. I definitely don't think I would like any of his other stuff, It's certainly different!!

A good, honest review though Cath. Perhaps you were just a little distracted with Easter and everything, this is the kind of reading you generally lap up!


Val + the Girls- BK +CK said...

I think reading and baking can be alike ...sometimes you mix up the most delicious ingredients and it doesn't quite work's edible but disappointing..sometimes the ingredients aren't what you normally like but the mix works is funny like that. To be fair I have found books to be vastly improved on a much later reread ..but this only works occasionally rather like Christmas puds improving but all else goes even further off.
Well I'm rambling so better leave you in peace ..interesting and informative review :0)

DesLily said...

whelp sis,... this one doesn't sound like something I'd read ..but all things considered, if we don't put them down and not go back to them... then they aren't all bad... but I'll still skip it lol

Cath said...

Buried in Print: I'm sure that the splintered way in which I had to read this book is partly responsible for my reaction. I was perhaps a bit silly to start it at the beginning of what I knew would be a busy period. You know... I think I might actually carry on with the series. There are two more now, Camera Obscura and The Great Game which came out in Feb.

Yvonne: I didn't know there was any other stuff and then I looked under novels on his Fantastic Fiction page and thought, 'Ah'.

It is the kind of reading I generally lap up so I plan to carry on with the series at some stage and give it another chance.

Val: I like your analogy. And how true. But I like the fact that the author 'tried'. Even if the result was mixed and a bit uneven, it was still pretty readable.

Pat: Some of the elements in this book are very you... Victorian London for instance. But all in all I think this might be a little too 'out there' for you. LOL.

Lynn said...

Like one of the other commenters said - books and baking can be similar - sometimes they go flat. I started off reading your review and thinking 'great'. You had me at 'steampunk'. But the it seemed to go a bit downhill. What a shame, it seemed to have so much promise. Maybe I'll wait and see if you pick the rest up and then recommend?
Lynn :D

Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous said...

Queen Victoria is a lizard... Oh, that one's going to be floating around in my head for a bit.

It kind of all sounds like something that would happen on Doctor Who, if the Doctor failed to save the world when aliens landed...

All very intriguing!

animewookie said...

Hmmm, It does sound interesting but it has an awful lot going on ;o I'll wait to see if you like the sequels :D

Cath said...

Lynn: That sounds like a good idea to me. To be honest I'm still looking for some really good steampunk novels.

Cheryl: LOL. I know... it took me a bit by surprise too. Oh, I hadn't thought of the Dr. Who similarity. Good spot. I think they've already had Queen Victoria on that so it's a bit late to introduce her as a lizard now. Shame...

Kelly: Oddly, I think I now think better of the book than I did just after I'd finished it.

Vintage Reading said...

Um ... what is steampunk? Sound very hip!

Cath said...

Nicola: I never really know what the correct explanation of steampunk is... It's Victorian fantasy I suppose. Usually involving unusal machines, some kind of alternate historical timeline, rum goings on... spies, intrigue, that sort of thing. I did have a link which explains it but can't seem to find it now. I'm quite taken with this newish sub-genre.