'm a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy. So, stepping into Steampunk can be both easy and trying. Fortunately I'm not so tied up with the harder form of science fiction.
I think some contemporary authors of Hard Science Fiction take the hard part to heart and make it as hard as they can.
Still, I wanted to do some research before I started into the Bookman Histories by Lavie Tidhar.
First, though, I must admit that I read the sample of the first book on Amazon and was intrigued to say the least.
With a character using the name Gilgamesh I was assuming that someone might lose something valuable and someone would have to go through hell to get it back.
And it looked in this case that the protagonist, Orphan, was to lose the love of his life, Lucy. I wanted to know how that was going to work out.
Since the price of the three volumes together as an e-book was the same as each individual I saw no way to lose by purchasing the Bookman Histories.
I was not disappointed.
In my search to help define Steampunk I was led to one place where there was a notion that such authors as Jules Verne,H.G.Wells and even Mary Shelley could be considered to be influences of Steampunk. Those were good influences and I'm fairly certain that they all figure nicely into the Bookman Histories.
I also found mention of the movie - Metropolis- which was intriguing. I don't have a copy of the movie but I do have one of the novel by Thea Von Harbou which is quite a bit different from the movie. It's been suggested the book was made from the film but there is not enough evidence to substantiate that and its just as likely the book was made to be a film and the screenplay was adapted from the book. It's not so much different though, to make it unqualified as an influence. In fact I found some interesting parallels with the book Metropolis and the first book of the Bookman Histories.
Both Protagonists Freder in Metropolis and Orphan in Bookman have lost their mother.
Both Protagonists fall in love at first sight. Freder with Maria and Orphan with Lucy.
Both become driven by their love and passion, as their motivation throughout the story.
Both are destined to be catalysts for change, even though they would deny it.
Of Metropolis Thea Von Harbou spoke of it being a moral - that the mediator between brain and muscle must be the heart.
The first book of the Histories seems to be the same since it is Orphan who seems to be the heart. His love for Lucy (his heart) is his motivation for moving forward into things he barely understands. He soldier's on in his devotion to the belief he's doing this to help him regain that lost love, Lucy. It becomes an inner conflict between his selfless devotion to undo an enormous wrong while trying at all times to do what, in his heart, is right.
I first read Metropolis when I was around sixteen years of age. It was a difficult read. When I reread it for this I thought it would be less difficult. But, it's written as are many books of its time a bit florid and in a time when purple prose wasn't a nasty thing. Although it's entertaining; it's difficult.
Thankfully the reader of the Bookman Histories will not find this book difficult. The entire three volumes are quite easy to read. Not only a pleasure; but, in some cases a wonder.
There is an enormous amount of name dropping in these books.
They are almost a who's who of famous people not only out of history but characters from the fiction of those times. We have elements of Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G Wells, Lord Byron and many more. If not in their actual appearance,then in the appearance of characters they created. Often they are anachronistically portrayed.
In some ways these books remind me of the RiverWorld series by Philip Jose Farmer. And in other ways they remind me of the later work of Robert Heinlein where there was an alternate world where many of his favorite characters were resurrected.
An interesting side note is that in a scene in the first book, Bookman; Orphan is going through a pile of books and they are named to a tune of around 39 various titles that are all fictitious books written by fictitious characters. These books show up in a variety of real books and are out of the imaginations of the authors of those books. I have no idea if Lavie Tidhar is suggesting that he's read all the books that those come out of; or if he did an extensive search for books and authors that don't exist.
In that list there is one news article mentioned that may have some basis in reality.(It might be a foreshadow of the last book also.)
And of course there is Rime of the Ancient Mariner which is quoted throughout.
There are some parts of this trilogy that get a bit gruesome and remind me of the Deathstalker series by Simon R. Greene. Elements reminiscent of the surgeries of Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein by Mary Shelly Or Ras Thavas in Edgar Rice Burroughs Master Mind of Mars.
The fun fantastic part is that Lavie Tidhar puts it all together with such wonderful prose and a tight plot that it all works.
All I have to say is, "I want more."
There are plenty of threads left-for more.
Save time and money and buy the whole History its well worth it for the first story, Bookman. The rest is like icing on the cake.
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