Friday, June 8, 2012

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar is a steampunk adventure novel. I could image this story being serialized in a newspaper. If they still did that type of thing. The story starts off with Milady De Winter arriving at a the scene of a murder on the Rue Morgue in Paris. And the literary hits just keep coming. I started keeping track of all the references to other fictional characters from the late nineteenth century but gave up because there are so many. There are also a lot of references to real people and events of the same time period.

Like any steampunk story, the world described slightly different than the real Victorian age. For one thing, an alien lizard is the queen of England. Seriously. It's a very important plot point. The other thing is there is absolutely no racism in Tidhar's world. The man character is a 6 foot tall black woman who once married into English society. She now works for the Black Council of France as some sort of supper agent/troubleshooter and no one bats an eye.

The crime scene Milady is called to is a locked room (how I detest locked room mysteries!) but once you notice the window is open it's not so important. In fact the whole murder is inconsequential to the rest of the story. I read the book and I still don't know why the victim was carrying something inside his stomach. At some point Milady ends up with a piece of a jade sculpture in her eye but it's not clear where the piece came from. Was it once inside the belly of a dead man?

There are a lot of people in this book and not a lot for some of them to do. Everyone's after the jade lizard statue. Everyone wants it for his/her own reasons. The only people who know what the statue really is are the lizards. And the reader. The statue "talks" to the person holding it and to Milady but neither of them understand what it's talking about. Anyone who has read a lot of science fiction will figure out what the statue is for.

I could have done without whole portions of this book. I think they could be ripped out without causing any ripples in the story. Sometimes color is just annoying after a while. Having said that, I will read more books by Tidhar.