12 February, 2010

Review: The Bookman, Lavie Tidhar

"I'm a bit late with my comment.
I ordered the book immediately when I read your excellent and convincing review in December 2009.
I always get excited when I read words like Victoriana, steampunk, London in a review.
Now I expect daily the delivery of my copy. But it seems I have to be patient due to all the snow in Europe."
That was my comment from January 11th 2010 to Liviu's review from December 18th 2009. I speak about the debut novel The Bookman (2010, 395 p.) [US][UK], by Tidhar Lavie, who grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and has lived variously in South Africa, the UK, Asia and the remote island-nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. In the meantime I received my copy and read it.

The Setup

Victorian era - London. An alternate Victorian era with an alternate London. The pride of the empire is home to young poet Orphan. He could embrace the world because he is in love with Lucy, a marine biologist. But the bonds of love are periled by what is breeding in the catcombs beneath London - Revolution. Orphan and Lucy can't escape. During a terroist attack committed by the uncanny Bookman, Lucy is killed. There is only one way to go for Orphan. He must uncover the truth. And his path leads him from explosive London through seas where pirates paint the water red to a more than mysterious island and back. And with every step Orphan uncovers the truth - not only about about the government and the mysterious Bookman but also of himself.....

My Take in Brief

I have a knack for quotes. And I like novels where quotes are part of the story. The Bookman delivers 36 quotes. Each is used as an introduction to a chapter. And they are chosen well because they fit to the content. Let me give you one example:
The Mysterious Island
I remember the green stillness of the island and the empty ocean
about us as though it was yesterday. The place seemed waiting for me.
- H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr Moreau" (Mihai's review)

These chapters are roofed over by three named parts. The story is told from Orphan's - he is the main hero - point of view but not in first person. Two more positive things to mention. The story has a defined end but fortunately it is the first book in a series. The Bookman will soon be followed by the sequel Camera Obscura.

The Bookman defy a unique classification. It is a boisterous mix of steampunk, Victorianna, mystery, travel story, thriller, adventure, partly coming of age story. To be honest for me it is a steampunk bijou.

And it pays homage to fictional and real persons who belong to the Victorian era. It brims over with allusions and cameos.
Professor Moriaty is Prime Minister. Sherlock Holmes is in coma after fall from a waterfall in Switzerland. Karl Marx is part of the revolutionary underground. And here are some more people who you will meet or they are mentioned: Irene Adler from Scotland Yard, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Jule Verne, H. G. Wells, Isabella Beeton, Captain Nemo.
You will travel on board the Nautilus. The pirate ship is named The Joker! All these incredible automatons.
Finally I can't withstand to present to you the Turk whom Orphan meets in the British Museum. Watch the video and read The Turk. This should illustrate how alive The Bookman is!

So far I didn't mention Lavie Tidhar's marvellous invention of a new mythology: The Lizards. A race full of secrets and mysteries. I won't tell you more about them...

The whole story is as detailed as a 3D puzzle and with every page (piece) it enfolds more of the nexuses and you are in the middle of all. Lavie Tidhar knows how to keep you in suspense. Orphan is your hand to piece together all the knowledge you need to unveil the secret. Everything is so touchable. But The Bookman has one advantage compared to a 3D puzzle: You just need to turn pages instead of searching pieces.

This is the third book I read in 2010. And again I hit the bull's eye!
What a shining steampunk bijou, brims over with allusions and cameos, vibrant, gorgeous depicted, clever constructed, compelling .
That is steampunk in 3D!
Highly recommended from the bottom of my heart.

Before you read the oracle you must have a look at the following video about a 3D puzzle which may help you understand why I compared The Bookman with a 3D puzzle:

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

What is Bona Fide's Book Oracle? To keep it short. It is a palaver about the reviewed book held by ediFanoB and his alter ego Bona Fide. And I am the keeper of the minutes. Now read my minutes.

Bona[lilting]: "Nothing ever burns down by itself. Every fire needs a little bit of help." Fide: "Is that your new knack to start every conversation with a song?" Bona: "A stupid twerp like you will never understand the trancendental relationship between a music and literature. Give the Anarchist a cigarette by Chumbawamba fits perfectly to The Bookman!" Fide: "Get stuffed! I'm over the moon that I survived this perilious peace of paper called The Bookman! I won't imagine what will happen in a book titled The Walkman!" Bona: "Unbelieveable! How many flies did you eat to produce a subtle message like that." Fide: "That isn't subtle. It is an analogy. Open book = EXPLOSION <=> Power-up walkman = EXPLOSION!" Bona: "Ha! No problem for me. I use a mp3 player." Fide: "Double HA! I read ebooks from now on." Bona[whispering]: "Fide. Fide, there is someone in front of the screen." Fide: "Hey, keeper of the minutes it is your duty to tell us when we are on the air!" Bona: "OK. Let's talk about this explosive thing called The Bookman." Fide: "It is Lavie's first novel. And I must admit I read worse books in my life." Bona: "That is the understament of the decade. You didn't read The Bookman, you consumed it greedily!" Fide[sheepish]: "Yes, that's true." Bona: "Louder please." Fide: "IT WAS A HELL OF A BOOK!!!" Bona: "There we go!" Fide: "I still can't believe it. The Bookman is third book we read in 2010 and it is awesome." Bona: "You're right. People won't believe us. But what else can we do as to speak the truth." Fide: "Maybe it would be more convincing when we explain why we liked The Bookman that much." Bona: "It was so vibrant. I just walked next to Orphan." Fide: "Chess is not my game of choice but the Turk is unbefuckinglievable!" Bona: "Can't you think of anything else than automatons?" Fide: "Yes, I can. the Lizard are fewfwwr afefefwr efffrr [censored due to spoiler alert]. Oh no. Not again the silly censorship game." Bona: "You should know in the meantime." Fide: "When I can't speak about The Bookman then I will wait for the sequel Camera Obscura." Bona: "That is infantile. Why can't you say that it is a boisterous mix of steampunk, Victorianna, mystery, travel story, thriller, adventure, partly coming of age story. Packed with allusions and cameos. It is marvellous, vibrant, gorgeous depicted, clever constructed, compelling." Fide: "Why should I repeat that The Bookman is marvellous, vibrant, gorgeous depicted, clever constructed, compelling?" Bona: "Thank you. You did what I expected." Fide: "I have nothing to add. Bye. Need to contiue reading Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley." Bona: "Me too. If we don't do it we get in trouble next week. Hey, keeper of the minute, now it is your turn."
I'm the keeper of the minutes and this time I don't take in account this dismal claptrap. I prefer to quote Bona Fide:
The Bookman is steampunk in 3D!

More Lavie Tidhar

For more information about the author and his book you can use following links:
Lavie Tidhar's blog = True Confessions of a Book Junkie
Free excerpt from The Bookman = Read Chapters 1 -5

Origin of the copy

I bought the copy of The Bookman which I read and used for this review.


Simcha said...

Wow, with such an effusive review, I guess I will have to give this book a try. I'm thinking of dedicating a month to steampunk literature, since there are so many new steampunk books out and I don't even really know what steampunk is. Thanks for the review

ediFanoB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ediFanoB said...

Simcha, thanks for the kind words. I really liked the book.
A steampunk literature month would be great.

You don't know what steampunk is?

Then I highly recommend to read Steampunk: What it is, why I came to like it, and why I think it’ll stick around by Cherie Priest. I like her deliberations.

I promise to visit your blog soon :)