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Bookman (The Bookman Histories) Mass Market Paperback – September 28, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Bookman Histories Series

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Editorial Reviews


"Readers will enjoy watching Tidhar's imagination throwing off sparks like a Roman candle." - Publishers Weekly

"Tidhar's book gives readers airships, pirates, automatons, cannons to launch people to Mars, and giant lizards; in short, everything but the kitchen sink... Tidhar ushers readers along from one situation to the next with a deft touch." - John Klima, Library Journal

"The Bookman pokes at the fat and waddled body of steampunk with its walking cane and leaves it on the roadside with its fresh take on Victorian London without loosing any steam on its way." - Loudmouth Man

"The Bookman is a delight, crammed with gorgeous period detail, seat-of-the-pants adventure and fabulous set-pieces." - The Guardian

"This is a steampunk gem... Bring on a sequel, Tidhar! I'm craving to know what happens after the ending!" - SFF World

"An emerging master" - LOCUS Magazine

Praise for Lavie Tidhar's Previous Works:

"Tidhar beautifully evokes the power of technology " - The Fix (reviewing "The Dying World" from Clarkesworld Magazine)

"...richly detailed characters in a well paced and well thought out story" - Tangent (reviewing "The Pattern Makers of Zanzibar" from Murky Depths)

"Tidhar's story reads like a drug-infused John Le Carre novel, if Le Carre wrote science fiction and dropped LSD as he pounded on the typewriter... an amazing accomplishment, and highly recommended." - The Fix (reviewing "The Shangri-La Affair" from Strange Horizons

"It's stomach churning and very sweet at the same time, bizarreness and beauty like most of Tidhar's stories." - The Fix (reviewing "The Butcher and The Flykeeper - A Christmas Love Story" from Murky Depths)

"The strength of this work is the setting. It is incredibly inventive and fun... a wonderful story, especially for those who enjoy the more surreal edges of speculative fiction." - Tangent (reviewing "High Noon in Clown Town" from Postscripts)

"Tidhar's story is classic noir, but with its tongue firmly in its cheek from beginning to end. A very enjoyable read." - The Fix (reviewing "Hard Rain at the Fortean Cafe" from Aeon)

"This is one of those books which you can’t put down and yet you don’t want to reach the end because then it will be all over ... It’s a book which makes you resent all those little things which get in the way; eating, sleeping, children, work are all annoyances and must be kept to a minimum until you get to the end." - SF Book Reviews

About the Author

Israeli-born writer Lavie Tidhar has been called an "emerging master" by Locus magazine, and has quickly established a name for himself as a short fiction writer of some note. He has traveled widely, living variously in South Africa, the UK, Asia and the remote island-nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, and his work exhibits a strong sense of place and an engagement with the literary Other in all its forms.

Lavie's novella An Occupation of Angels was published in 2005, a Cold War fantasy thriller described by Michael Marshall Smith as "stunningly imaginative" and "the most compelling thing I have read in a long time". In linked-story collection HebrewPunk (2007), Tidhar set out to re-imagine traditional fantasy tropes with a distinctly Jewish slant and rich historical settings, including a tale of the little-known Zionist expedition to British East Africa in search of a possible Jewish homeland in "Uganda", effortlessly mixing fact and fiction. The collection was described by Adam Roberts as containing "intensified supernatural action-surrealism" full of "conceptual surprise" and "saturated with a sense of exotic roundedness, an eerie solidity and reality." The author lives in Israel.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Bookman Histories (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot; Reprint edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857660349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857660343
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,645,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I first started this book with rather low expectations. It had several mixed reviews on Amazon, and I wasn't so sure about some of the concepts, such as lizards as the current royalty. However, I ended up really enjoying this book!

It was an strangely absorbing take on a revolution, complete with robots fighting for independence and equal rights, alien invaders, a love story, and strange but enjoyable appearances of well known people and characters. Jules Verne, Karl Marx, and Moriarty all show up, to name a few. The plot is, to put it bluntly, extraordinarily weird at parts, but somehow that doesn't get in the way of the story (which, by the way, is wonderfully full of twists and turns). Plus, Tidhar writes beautifully, with a distinct and very refreshing style. I disagree with another reviewer who said that Bookman was 'nothing new'. I thought it was very original. I read a lot a books, and I've never read one like this. While that's normally a bad thing, it was a great thing here.

I'd recommend it to steampunk fans and fantasy fans alike.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Read enough steampunk and you'll notice authors tend to recycle the same ideas - dirigibles, steam power, etc. - to the point that the genre risks becoming stale.

However, when a novel like The Bookman is published it has the possibility of revitalizing the genre. Yes, The Bookman has many of the same tropes as other steampunk books, but it twists those tropes to squeeze out fresh, new ideas. Add a few Royal Lizards, and you have the promise of much fun.

For imagination, I give The Bookman five stars. For plotting a four. But for the mechanics of writing, I have to score the book a two. By mechanics I mean two elements that kept me from truly immersing into the world Mr. Tidhar so painstakingly tried to create.

#1 - the overuse of flashbacks to tell the story.

A little flashing-back is often a necessary literary device to relay backstory and important details. However, Mr. Tidhar abuses flashbacks to the point they become a nuisance.

He often stokes the tension to a boiling point, leaving the reader breathless with a nail-biting cliffhanger ... then, he moves onto a different topic. The next chapter will be totally unrelated to the cliffhanger. By the time the reader is tearing his hair out wondering what just happened, Mr. Tidhar presents a quick flashback to summarize the conclusion of the prior action. If this had happened only once, I could have lived with it, but the entire book is written in this format. The overkill drains an otherwise fun story of its immediacy.

#2 - the overuse of 'seem'.

Most authors have favorite words that make an appearance repeatedly in their works. For Mr. Tidhar, that word appears to be 'seems'. It felt as if the word was on every page. The story could never say "It was hot".
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Just minutes before a space cannon launches a probe to Mars, a terrorist called The Bookman kills poet Orphan's love in an explosion. Orphan's quest for the truth takes him below the streets of London, aboard the Nautilus with Jules Verne and Captain Nemo, and to the mysterious island home of Les Lezards, the lizard men who rule the world...

Okay, now this is what all steampunk books should aspire to be! What Lavie Tidhar has done in The Bookman is simply marvelous. Most of the steampunk books I've read had too much going on or the steampunk element seemed tacked on. Not so in The Bookman.

The world Tidhar has created is a curious mix of Victorian London and alternate history. In this case, the jonbar point was the rise of the Les Lezards from an island in what we call the Caribbean. Queen Victoria is a lizard woman, a probable nod to The Steampunk Trilogy. The word is chock-full of steam punk goodness: airships, automatons, etc, and all is integral to the plot and not just window dressing.

Orphan, the protagonist, is a poet and certainly no superhero. He takes quite a beating throughout the book, going from the frying pan to the fire on many occasions. His quest to find The Bookman, a terrorist who uses exploding books as weapons, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Fictional characters mingle with real ones. Karl Marx and Henry Irving exist in the same world as Harry Flashman and Moriarty, who is the Prime Minister. Jules Verne rubs shoulders with Captain Nemo, and Irene Adler is an Inspector while Watson is working in a hospital.

I really want to gush about all the plot twists but rather than be a tremendous spoiler, I'm going to go into the huge number of Easter Eggs in this thing.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read the 2nd book in the Bookman Histories, Camera Obscura, last year and really enjoyed it. I was excited to go back and read the book that started it all. Unfortunately this book was just okay for me; I had trouble engaging with the characters and the story just seemed to drag on and on.

I listened to this on audiobook which I do not recommend. The narrator distinguished between voices of different characters well, but his choices for voices were often shrill and obnoxious. There were character voices in the book that made me flinch with their shrillness. Definitely don't listen to this on audiobook.

This book tells the story of Orphen. He is a poet who wants nothing more than to live our his life with his beloved Lucy. When Lucy is murdered by the terrorist The Bookman, Orphen goes on a quest of revenge. He will either get Lucy back, kill the Bookman, or die trying. Unfortunately for Orphen he becomes deeply embroiled in a plot full of alien lizard races and automatons.

As with Camera Obscura, I enjoyed the wonderfully creative world here. The British Empire is run by a lizard race, automatons are struggling for their rights, and the Bookman seems to have eyes and agents everywhere. Unfortunately since I was introduced to this world in Camera Obscura, while I still enjoyed it, some of the novelty had worn off for me.

I had a lot of trouble engaging with Orphen. His is kind of whiny and weak as a character; he is a poet at heart and spends a lot of time whining about loosing Lucy. He wants to take action but is continually swept up in events that are bigger than he is. By his own omission for most of the book he is a pawn.
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