Description (from the publisher)
When his beloved is killed in a terrorist atrocity committed by the sinister Bookman, young poet Orphan becomes enmeshed in a web of secrets and lies. His quest to uncover the truth takes him from the hidden catacombs of a London on the brink of revolution, through pirate-infested seas, to the mysterious island that may hold the secret to the origin, not only of the shadowy Bookman, but of Orphan himself…
This is a type of book I'm beginning to refer to as a Dog's Breakfast Novel; it's messy, there's a little bit of everything, and hopefully it's palatable to the tongue and not simply snouts and entrails. What I mean is, the author seemingly throws everything into the mix, and in order for it to work, it better have verve, style, and entertainment value galore, or it's going to be really sticky (Gord Zajac's recent Major Karnage is another such example). Luckily, Lavie Tidhar (of the gloriously weird Tel Aviv Dossier) has style to spare, and his steampunk adventure novel echoes Verne and Wells while reviving the go-for-broke cliffhanger style of classic pulp fiction. Tidhar's narrative — set in an alternative history Victorian England where automatons converse with humans, martian probes are being launched into space, and intelligent lizards rule the land —is a hodge-podge of indelibly cool ideas and gee-whiz enthusiasm, wrapped in loving affection for the genre and its progenitors. Tidhar has great fun mixing historical personalities such as Karl Marx and Jules Verne with fictional heroes of the time, and the pages are rife with in-jokes for the literary crowd. I cannot say as I fully understood the complexities of the plot (it gets sensationally strange at times), but as Orphan's adventures unraveled, taking him from the slums of London to the high seas to the shore of mysterious islands, I found I didn't care one whit. I'll be looking up The Bookman's sequel Camera Obscura as soon as I can.
Tiny Monkey Greatly Enjoys the Ride