Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: Camera Obscura


The mysterious and glamorous Milady De Winter is one of their most valuable agents. A despicable murder inside a locked and bolted room on the Rue Morgue in Paris is just the start. This whirlwind adventure will take Milady to the highest and lowest parts of that great city, and beyond – and cause her to question the very nature of reality itself.

I keep trying to read steampunk, and I keep finding that it's really not for me. There's something about it that just doesn't click or connect with me, and I have a hard time following the story or even caring. Unfortunately, Camera Obscura didn't change my mind about the genre.

That being said, I found the story quite interesting. Usually steampunk confuses me because I can't picture what the author is talking about and it's all weird, but Lavie Tidhar is very descriptive in his writing, and that really helped. But only for the first half or so of the book. After that I started getting more and more confused about what was going on. Even with a bit less than 100 pages left, if you were to ask me what the book was about I'd be hard pressed to tell you.

Milady was a great strong female character, but while the author was quite descriptive about some things, I felt he was very vague with others. We would get little hints about things here and there, but for the most part the reader is left to speculate about a lot with the characters in the book.

I'm not sure if, when writing steampunk, worldbuilding would be easier or harder. There didn't seem to be any rules about the way the world worked here, and the author could do and include pretty much whatever he wanted. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because then you get lots of cool and different things, but it can also make things harder to follow when the rules of the world aren't clear.

I would compare my reading of this book to those times when you're half asleep and you can hear a conversation happening, but it's hard to follow, because you only get bits and pieces. There were times when the narrative even interrupted itself. For example:

They used to make garments there--one of the first places to use the Daguerre looms, machines that automated production . . . it had been a natural step for the factory to--
The elevator doors opened. They all filed out. Another white clean corridor. They walked down it and came to a door. The door opened into an antechamber.

This kind of thing was all throughout the book, which made for a writing style that felt like I was hearing a story from someone with attention problems. But for all that, there were some really neat concepts here, and I was drawn to keep reading because I wanted to find out what happened, so it definitely wasn't all bad. I think fans of steampunk may really enjoy this one.

Book Details
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Genre: Steampunk
Page Count: 416
Publishing Info: Angry Robot, April 2011
Why I Read It: ARC from the publisher
Grade: C
Cover Thoughts: I've always said the cover on a steampunk is usually my favorite thing about the book, and this time is no different. This is a beautiful cover that actually goes along with the story.


  1. I just got this book to read through NetGalley and am looking forward to it. I really like the premise and like you, I keep hoping that I'll enjoy steampunk :-) Hopefully I like it more than you did, though I'll keep your concerns in mind.

    Strangely, I was Googling reviews on this book and came across this website and recognized your avatar. I didn't know you were blogging at this website!

  2. Hey Aarti! I hope you enjoy the book more than I did as well. I'm glad you stumbled on my blog--that's why I always keep the same avatar. It makes me more easily recognizable.