Lindsay Buroker – Hunted (2011) | Book Review

Lindsay Buroker - Hunted Flash Gold ChroniclesHunted, the second entry in self-publishing superstar Lindsay Buroker‘s Flash Gold Chronicles, is a steampunk adventure novel that picks up right where Flash Gold left off. Although Flash Gold was enjoyable, it was ultimately forgettable. Hunted improves on every aspect of the original, including stronger character development, even better prose, and dialogue that is vastly improved.

The heroes of the story are the same as the first; Kali McAllister is still trying to avoid being killed for the recipe to her father’s invention of flash gold, an energy source used for fantastical machinery. Her partner in crime is a grizzled mercenary slash bodyguard called Cedar, although that isn’t his real name. They are both well-developed characters with real, nuanced personalities that lend a surprisingly realistic feel to a clearly science fiction piece.

In Hunted, Kali is being stalked by a mysterious villain who apparently has a serious bone to pick. Meanwhile, she is invited to a mine by her ex-fiancee, a jackass named Sebastian. Without spoiling the actual plot of the novella, there is a lot of action and Kali and Cedar end up facing off with a villain that feels straight out of a Silver Age comic book—in a good way.

With strong female characters being so hard to come by in science fiction, the series as a whole is a big breath of fresh air. Kali is an instantly likable heroine, with great depth of character considering the brevity of the first two novellas and the extraordinarily high amount of action in each. Hunted is definitely worthwhile reading, and shows how talented Lindsay Buroker really is.

Rating: 4.5 stars (of 5)

Hunted is available for less than two dollars on Amazon and Smashwords. Be sure to check out her website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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Review: Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar (2011)

Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar
Angry Robot, 2011

Rating: B

After the pure enjoyment factor of The Bookman, the first novel in the loosely connected Bookman Histories, it was hard not to be excited to push forward onto Camera Obscura. While The Bookman was the adventure of a young man in search of lost love, Camera Obscura is a steampunk noir murder mystery featuring a kick ass heroine and a pile of bodies that keeps getting bigger. It is sort of a Chandler-esque gumshoe story crossed with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen style steampunk that pulls characters from all sorts of different works and puts them in strange situations.

Milady de Winter is a brilliant character so well-written that she begs to reappear. To compare her to female heroes in other novels and different mediums is to do her an injustice, as she is completely unique in her badassery. Strong black characters are rare in science fiction to begin with, and strong black female characters are even fewer and further between. Tidhar using a minority character in a steampunk setting is refreshing, and to have her be as strong a character as she is makes for excellence. Although the novel is enjoyable on its own merits, the most memorable part of Camera Obscura is surely its protagonist.

A little bit more than halfway through the novel, a traumatic and extraordinarily violent episode for Milady de Winter happens that not only changes her character significantly but changes the tone of the novel so drastically that it feels like a completely new story. While the first half is pretty straight forward (and enjoyable) point to point murder mystery, the second half reads like a twisted existentialist fantasy that is interesting but sometimes hard to follow and more difficult to enjoy. Tidhar obviously is a brilliant writer whose prose is careful and exciting with characters that leap off the page, but the change in mood makes the end result of Camera Obscura feel a bit more disjointed than it should.

Although it is easy to enjoy Camera Obscura without having read its predecessor, it is recommended that you read The Bookman first to get a sense of the world that the story takes place in before moving into this second installment. Both novels are completely unique experiences that are nothing like anything else in steampunk. Despite their flaws, they are essential reading in the steampunk subgenre, as being unique in the world of zeppelins and goggles is something that just doesn’t happen too often.