Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lavie Tidhar's Les Lezards, Part 2

Angry Robot Books
Camera Obscura
by Lavie Tidhar
(Angry Robots)

The Bookman Histories
by Lavie Tidhar
(Angry Robots)
      Lavie Tidhar's The Bookman was an ingenious variation on steampunk science fiction and recursive fiction, but I didn't enjoy it. I didn't like the writing or the plotting especially, but I did like some of the ideas. So when I learned he had written a couple of books with a common background but different characters, I thought I'd give another one a try.
     The Bookman introduced the idea that a race of intelligent, technologically advanced reptiles, Les Lezards, emerged centuries ago from Caliban's Island (from Shakespeare's The Tempest) and conquered England, replacing its rulers with reptilian analogues (there is a Queen Victoria, but is is a lizard Queen Victoria, which begs the question of why she has the same name as the human English Queen would have). Probably these are extraterrestrials, but I can't recall if that's been definitely stated. This has introduced advanced technology to the world and changed history in some ways. America is known as Vespuccia, for example.
     Tidhar populated the book with a mix of real and fictional characters, following the adventures of Orphan, a young poet, who runs afoul of the titular character, a terrorist who blows people up with exploding books.
     Camera Obscura shifts the main action from England to France, and the protagonist from Orphan to Milady de Winter, a name familiar to fans of Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers, but this is a different character of the same name, possibly based on a real performer with Barnum's circus known as Cleopatra. Other characters include Tom Thumb, another Barnum performer, Mycroft Holmes, a Gascon possibly based on D'Artagnan,  the real-life serial murderer from Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, a scientist involved with resurrection named Viktor and a masked villain referred to as either Tomas or the Phantom (apparently based on the French character Fantomas, though the name may be under copyright).
     Unfortunately I found the plot overly complicated, long and boring. It involves some murders and a search for a mysterious artifact, but also some silly B-movie details (Milady loses her arm at one point and gets a mechanical replacement with a built-in machine gun instead of a hand).
     I also found the book hard to read because of a particular and peculiar stylistic choice, also evident in The Bookman:

     She said, "Where does it come from?" and he said, "That, Milady, is what the Council hopes you could tell us."

     Yes, Tidhar stars a sentence with one character speaking, and shifts to a second character's reply in the same sentence! That's not acceptable in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence! I find that vexing. Traditionally, and for clarity, it should look like this:

     She said, "Where does it come from?" 
     "That, Milady, is what the Council hopes you could tell us."

Angry Robot Books

     There is a third book in the series, The Great Game, but I haven't read it. It's also available in an unwieldy omnibus of all three books, The Bookman Histories (which is a less expensive way to purchase the whole series).
     I wish I liked the series. In the abstract, there is so much about it that I do like. The execution, however, seems lacking to me.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home