Book Review: Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar is a fascinating steampunk novel. I read this novel as an e-galley without having read the previous novel, Bookman. The book stood well on its own; however, I am sure that I missed some finer points of the story for having missed the previous book.  Camera Obscura is a story of individuals, and the larger world, under siege from something that most people are unaware of even existing.

Lady de Winters works for an underground government, the Council, doing their dirty work. On the job investigating a murder, she discovers a strange grey infection that is reanimating the dead. No one is telling anyone else everything they know about the infection, the murders or the missing object. However, everyone wants to find a special object that is at the heart of the infection. But just what is the object? Is it a living creature, machine, key, or something no one can imagine?  Why does everyone what it so badly and what are their plans for it? In addition, what are the plans of that object or those that made it? There is also the murderous former agent the Phantom who is torturing and killing women, who De Winter is compelled to stop despite it being outside her orders.

The characters in Camera Obscura are engaging and well explored, with hints of characters that you might think you now. Because of se new flavors to old names, there was the occasional feel of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was made even stronger by the steampunk elements. There was a little bit of a Doctor Who feel to the story as well mainly found in the combination of the fantastic accepted with a practicality that is often present in that series . References to nineteenth century literature and culture abound, which made the story that much more interesting to me.

Camera Obscura is a fast-paced story is full of action, adventure and mystery. However, it is not for everyone. The story is told from a couple different viewpoints, which might confuse some readers. I found that it work well to explain the complexity of how the world came to the vortex of activity and danger that we witness in the story. I need to go back, read Bookman, which is about different characters in the same world, and then will likely re read Camera Obscura. Then I can only hope that another book follows so that I can further explore Tidhar’s world.
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