Author: Lavie Tidhar
Publisher: Angry Robot
Price: £7.99 (Paperback)
Page count: 412pp (includes free giant squid)
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
Steampunk is a strange kettle of fish and readers either love it or hate it. I happen to love its’ insanity, but with the caveat that I only like good Steampunk. By its very nature, the genre challenges knowledge, preconceptions and history itself. If that’s not your cup of tea, move away now. If however, you relish adventure, fantastical events and the mingling of historical fact and fiction with all sorts of technology twisted into a barmy dose of perfect pulp, climb on board this steam train!
If, like me, you want the best of Steampunk, then you simply have to read Lavie Tidhar.
The Bookman, Tidhar’s exemplar Steampunk novel features young hero Orphan. As the novel commences in an alternate Victoria’s England where the Queen is in fact a Lizard, young Orphan is due to marry his beloved Lucy when she is murdered in a terrorist attack on the new Martian probe due to take off. This is quite a feat considering Mars was only theorised about by scientists such as Percival Lowell at this stage in history.
As you might gather so far, this is no ordinary England. The Londonof The Bookman is full of glorious sights, sounds and smells. It has two castes of Lizard, the ‘royal’ lizards and the regular Joes, Automatans play chess and successfully imitate humans, poetry is a way of life, The ‘Bookman’ is a cunning terrorist and all must ‘beware the books’. All manner of historical figures from Isabella Beeton to Gilbert & Sullivan and Irene Adler take part in Orphan’s adventures to save his beloved and bring her back to life.
Tidhar’s Londonis a sumptuous feast of gas lamps, airships, fog, pirates, lizards, murky pubs and whales that sail the Thames. As Orphan starts his quest, it is not just his Lucy he finds, but a hint towards his own hidden identity and that of the mysterious ‘Bookman’. Played like a pawn in a chess game, (a theme that runs through the novel), Orphan is thrust into manhood & heroism in a manic world of colour and life. Most impressive in this novel is Tidhar’s authenticity in his world building. He is obviously a scholar of history and/or literature, his various literary excerpts which head each chapter, appropriate, enjoyable and also identifiable. There is also a slight mention of ‘giant squids in space’ in the text, a reference most SF fans may just recognise!
All in all, The Bookman is a tremendous achievement and a perfect example of Steampunk. Read it and I guarantee some serious satisfaction!
If you want to know more about Angry Robot’s latest projects take a look at their website Angry Robot Books. To find out about Lavie Tidhar, follow him @lavietidhar, where he remains active.