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The Bookman

(The Bookman Histories #1)

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,646 ratings  ·  264 reviews
A masked terrorist has brought London to its knees - there are bombs inside books, and nobody knows which ones. On the day of the launch of the first expedition to Mars, by giant cannon, he outdoes himself with an audacious attack. For young poet Orphan, trapped in the screaming audience, it seems his destiny is entwined with that of the shadowy terrorist, but how? Like a ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Average rating 3.32  · 
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 ·  1,646 ratings  ·  264 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 about her death 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
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
”Everywhere he looked there were books.

They rose into the air in majestic columns, stacks and stacks of them forming a maze that seemed to stretch to forever; the stacks rose high into the air and disappeared towards the unseen ceiling. The air had the overwhelming smell of old books, of polished leather and yellowing leaves, like the smell of a bookshop or a public library magnified a thousand-fold.”

 photo SteampunkBook_zps1598a8fd.jpg

Orphan is a poet, not just a poet in desire, but actually a published poet. He is in love with
Michael Fierce
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of steampunk, Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes, Blade Runner, and nearly everyone else

When I first caught sight of this book cover, I was immediately taken in.


I wanted to read the synopsis but felt that if I did, there was a good chance it would spoil some of the surprises for me best left for later down the road.

So, I didn't.

It was enough for me that it was steampunk, obviously influenced by Jules Verne, had airships in it, and I'd accidentally caught wind that there were lizard men in it. *Drool*.

I did my research and from the reviews + info I found, Lavie Tidhar, sounded
Jan 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And so, not worrying about selling, not worrying about markets-- all the things I was doing with my aborted trilogy-- I began writing The Bookman.

For fun.

It would have all the things I love, I decided. Automatons and airships, poetry and magic, the underworld, and the London sewers. It would have chases and escapes! And a quest, of sort, done for love.

And so I wrote it. Like my hero, Orphan, I did it for love. And I had fun doing it…

It was the sort of book I could research by drinking in pubs.
Richard Derus
Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: A masked terrorist has brought London to its knees -- there are bombs inside books, and nobody knows which ones. On the day of the launch of the first expedition to Mars, by giant cannon, he outdoes himself with an audacious attack.

For young poet Orphan, trapped in the screaming audience, it seems his destiny is entwined with that of the shadowy terrorist, but how? His quest to uncover the truth takes him from the hidden catacombs of London on the brink of
Megan Baxter
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
For all the steampunk fantasy I've been recently, as well as traditional Western medieval fantasy, this was one that stood out as having its own voice, something to say about that genre, and that incorporated literature and intrigue in interesting ways. It's not a perfect book, but the voice of the author is strong, and I forgive the small faults because the overall ideas and characters are so interesting.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy
Mar 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Easter egg hunters, Alan Moore, Jess Nevins
Shelves: fantasy, steampunk
2.5 – 3 stars

I’m a bit torn about _The Bookman_. On the one hand it exemplifies a lot of the key elements of steampunk. One the other hand it exemplifies a lot of the key elements of steampunk. Maybe I should explain.

I’m not quite sure where I stand in regards to steampunk as a genre. In many ways it seems to me less a genre than an excuse for cosplay on the one hand and fan fiction on the other. I mean once you get rid of the goggles and corsets, the airships and gears what have you really got?
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brandon by: Dan Schwent
Shelves: fiction, 2012, ebook
When I was a kid, there was this TV special that combined a lot of the more famous cartoon characters at the time. The special was used as a deterrent for kids to avoid drug and alcohol use. You had the likes of Alf, the Muppets and the Ninja Turtles teaming up with Bugs Bunny and others to stop a child from going down the wrong path. Seeing this "dream team" of characters all combined on one program blew my fragile little mind.

The reason I bring this up is because Lavie Tidhar does something a
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
There are a lot of good ideas in this book, but, in a way, I think that's part of its problem. There are too many ideas, and it felt like the author just had to include them all.

Set in an alt-reality Victorian England, where Victoria, and all the royalty, are Lizards from another planet (yes, boys and girls - meet the Reptilian Overlords), we enter this Steampunkish world which has, in a way, simply too much tech. Babbage Engines and Edison recorders and Tesla wires (radios) and submarines and
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Set in an alternative version of 19th century earth, with a point of divergence to our timeline sometime in the early 16th century, The Bookman is without a doubt the most enjoyable, fascinating and captivating book I have read in a long time. It has managed to claim the throne as my favorite steampunk novel from Moorcock’s A Nomad of the Time Streams.

The Bookman is steampunk on multiple levels. Not only because of the plot and the world with its automatons, simulacra and the giant space cannon,
Take authentic details from the Victorian and Edwardian Eras such as “The Turk,” the famous automaton chess player, activists like Isabella Beeton, the infamous (and apparently ubiquitous in this style of literature) Jack the Ripper, Tom Thumb of circus fame, and the works of literature by Wilde and Wordsworth, mix in ingredients as varied as Neil Gaiman’s tale of British royalty involved with Cthulhu, H. G. Wells’ Island of Doctor Moreau, Jules Vernes’ Nautilus and Mysterious Island, Stevenson’ ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: steampunk fans, holmes fans, literature lovers with a sense of humour and adventure
An adventurous yet literary steampunkish tale.
Here's what other goodreads reviewers who've fallen for this book have said

. . . and I, for one,agree with 'em (mostly) Why? Because literary and historical references and persons abound, and the intricate plot continually surprises, fun stuff!

But you are going to need to take along a few things to enjoy the journey. Here's what I recommend:

An undergraduate or graduate degree in English literature or maybe just the The Oxford Companion to English
Benjamin Thomas
Now how could I not read a book with the title “The Bookman”?

This is the first of a trilogy and based on this one, I will be seeking out the other two. It’s billed as “steampunk” which always worries me. Steampunk and I have a sordid history. Sometimes it’s really interesting but more often than not I find the authors trying to be cute rather than providing good solid stories with proper characterization.

I found this one to be a bit of both to be honest. But in the end, it’s a fun read. The
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Fun worldbuilding and alternate history packed with literary allusions... And an incredibly bland, boring, and ineffective protagonist who spends most of his time confused and getting knocked unconscious or being drugged or moved around like a literal pawn. His motivation is also boring and ill-developed: he's in love and wants to get his Lucy back. The rest is like, well, the British monarchy are lizard people and the protagonist is the Chosen One and...revolution? Meh. I do think the alternate ...more
Milena Benini
I should have been crazy about this book. It's a steampunk book set in Victorian London in which queen Victoria is a lizard, Moriarty is the Prime Minister, lord Byron is an automaton giving readings, and the main character -- Orphan -- is friends with an old guy called Gilgamesh. There are also whales in the Thames, and Jules Verne makes an appearance later on. Also, the London in question is a grimy place where machines produce grit and pollute the air, and a bunch of weirdoes plotting an ...more
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Not sure what to make of this. It reminds me of a lot of other steampunk I've read, it's fun enough as a diversion, it was an easy and a quick read... it just didn't work for me, somehow. The patchwork quilt of literary and historical references, the rather perfunctory love story, heck, the rather perfunctory main character...

There's a lot of fun to be had here, in the adventure plot and the wild sequence of ideas, but it's not something I could really take seriously, somehow. I was reminded a
Gregor Xane
Dec 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Although there were plenty of cool things going on in this book (a lot of things I liked quite a bit), and plenty of action scenes, I was never truly swept up in the adventure. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because the protagonist was more of a puppet than a character with any real agency. I do understand this fit thematically (chess, pawns, etc.), but it still may have contributed to my lack of investment. Will I read the next book in the series? Perhaps.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
From the book's description, I expected an action packed science fiction book. I expected some satire and more. In reality, I got an action packed science fiction book with satire and more, but I did not like it.

The book brings together many gestures to symbols of culture, historical figures, fictional figures and mythologies. Some of them I am familiar with and many I am not. To some extent, the book is an alternative history version of the story of Orpheus and his attempt to retrieve his wife
Ben Babcock
I’m hesitant about proclaiming love for historical fiction. To me it’s just a genre that can be so hard to get right. Take too many liberties, and it’s not really historical any more, is it? But don’t take enough liberties, try to follow the actual course of history (as best we know it) too slavishly, and then it’s not really fiction…. The best historical fiction is the kind that follows the main narrative but tries to give the reader a glimpse at the people behind the dates and events, makes ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Stephen Winterflood

Steampunk is a genre tag that is very popular with publishers, and also apparently readers, so they love to slap it on any fantasy that is set around the Victorian period. Most of these books don’t fit the title as they don’t feature any punk aspects to them. The Bookman is a Steampunk novel in the true sense of the word as it literally features punks within its story, although this might be we suspect a wink towards said genre title.

The other aspect of punk, the underclass rebellious society is
May 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book I picked up (along with the other two in the Bookman series) was a gamble - partly because the cover looked interesting and partly from the sheer scope and audacity of the preface of the story.

Well what did I think - okay I can say that there are a lot of comments and opinions about this books and the series in general and so far I can see reasons for most of them. yes the story does shift gears from fast to slow in stages to the point where you find yourself dragging through pages of
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was the freedom that comes from lack of choice and moreover, was the kind that only came with decisions delayed. It was a freedom of inaction.

I was warned, but proceeded without caution. The word twee was employed by those doubtful of my enjoyment.and I agree. I'm sure this will be beans and toast for a large crowd, but not for me.

My favorite section detailed the imaginary books featured not in the weird canon but elsewhere, such as Orwell's Goldstein. The need to incorporate every trope
Mar 05, 2011 rated it liked it
To put it plainly, this novel offers a smorgasbord of steampunk goodness. Zeppelins, automatons, floating islands, cannon-fired space flight, lizard people, and a countless array of literary cameos from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Oh, and somewhere in all that there is a sweeping adventure.

Orphan is a young poet, hopelessly in love with Lucy, who is set to take part in the launching ceremony of the first venture in unmanned spaceflight. But, a notorious terrorist known only as the Bookman
3.5 stars. I went in prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt because I'd read a bit of the author's short fiction and knew he was both very creative and also capable of writing things that could be very touching. And I'd read some really stellar reviews of his books, this one included. Which was good that I was prepared to give it some time because it started off really weird. Alice in Wonderland weird, with all kinds of historical and literary references and talking lizards ruling England ...more
Just finished this novel and it's superb; a cross of steampunk/lizard invasion a la Turtledove/Victoriana with a London cca 1890-1900 where Professor Moriarty (that one) is Prime Minister at the court of the Calibanic Kings - Queen Victoria is now from the lizard race - who were discovered/revived by Amerigo Vespucci on his return voyage from "Vespucciana" (ie America) which "today" is still a land of the indigenous people with some colonists, and whom took power in England aka The Everlasting ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: lizards from space
This was such an odd tale, by turns strange, chock-full of literary references, and compelling. The setting is an alternative Victorian London in which sentient lizards from a mysterious island have taken over the crown, automatons are commonplace, and the title character is a terrorist using books as bombs. The protagonist is the oddly named Orphan who loses his lover to one of the Bookman's bombs and sets off to find the elusive character. It's a strange trip filled with characters borrowed ...more
Barry Huddleston
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Need a taste of some steampunk goodness? Try "The Bookman" by Lavie Tidhar.

Imagine a Victorian England with blimps dotting the sky, Automatons roaming the streets, and brushing elbows with legends from historical fact and fiction. That, and reptilian royalty, is the background for "The Bookman." The story is very much what you will find in classical heroic fiction.

Our Arthurian-like protagonist, by the name of Orphan, is propelled into the mystery while seeking revenge for the murder of his
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In all, I don't think this was a bad read. It was a bit confusing at times, and I was a bit confused as to why there were lizards everywhere, but it seems like it's an ode to the love of books. I liked the name dropping of famous authors and iconic characters, and there's some flip flopping of roles of those characters. You'll appreciate the Robert Louis Stevenson nod, the dig at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and other classical authors.
David Schwan
Apr 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a very uneven book, really a 2 1/2 star book. Some chapters are brilliantly written, some are really so-so. The book starts out poorly by introducing us to a who's who of the Victorian era. Eventually a plot sorts out. The overall premise is not particularly believable. The main character "Orphan" and the assorted people he meets raised the book above something dreadful.
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Lavie Tidhar was raised on a kibbutz in Israel. He has travelled extensively since he was a teenager, living in South Africa, the UK, Laos, and the small island nation of Vanuatu.

Tidhar began publishing with a poetry collection in Hebrew in 1998, but soon moved to fiction, becoming a prolific author of short stories early in the 21st century.

Temporal Spiders, Spatial Webs won the 2003

Other books in the series

The Bookman Histories (4 books)
  • Camera Obscura (The Bookman Histories, #2)
  • The Great Game (The Bookman Histories, #3)
  • Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution
“Pawns are such fascinating pieces, too...So small, almost insignificant, and yet--they can depose kings. Don't you find that interesting?” 13 likes
“For one crazy moment he had the notion of a vanished tribe of librarians, lost in the deep underground caverns of the Bodleian, a wild and savage tribe that fed on unwary travellers.” 10 likes
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