There is a time machine causing dangerous instabilities, fracturing people both mentally and physically. Worse, its continued use might see the time continuum chewed up and spat out. The Doctor turns to his sometime ally, sometime enemy Sabbath for help tracking down the machine and along the way discovers some very disturbing things about where his heart lies in the matter
Tropes present in Camera Obscura include:
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Of Death. Probably continuing on from the NAs.
- Armed with Canon: Fitz and Anji have a Seinfeldian Conversation about cartoons, leading Fitz to apparently complain about his characterization in The Crooked World."This is too much like that cartoon planet, Anj. I don't feel I was at my best there."
- Badass Boast:Break, damn you! Break! You've never had a spanner like this thrown in you! Chew on me till your teeth crack. Grind me up till your gears lock. I'm the nail in your tyre, the potato jammed in your exhaust pipe, the treacle poured in your petrol tank. I'm the banana peel beneath your foot, the joker that ruins your straight flush, the coin that always comes up heads and the gun you didn't know was loaded. I am the Doctor!
- Body Horror: Happens to the Doctor quite a lot for one book. Not only does he have a vivid flashback to his heart being ripped out in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, he gets squashed flat by a falling sandbag, which apparently would ordinarily have killed him, except it turns out that the reason Sabbath stole the Doctor's heart was so he could transplant it into himself, resulting in some kind of Synchronization which ensures the Doctor can't be killed if Sabbath is still alive. Eventually, Sabbath rips the heart out of his own chest. There's also a scene where the Doctor, in some sort of mystical realm, ends up impaled on a meathook. And also there's Chiltern, who ends up part-man, part-toaster, part-rosebush, etc., to really top the whole thing off.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: Sabbath gives Fitz and Anji brandy, and Fitz falls asleep/passes out after one glass. Which is odd, because he usually seems to have an above-average tolerance for alcohol; he once drank a whole bottle of wine and remained capable of walking, talking, and assisting in the Doctor's Indy Ploy. Maybe he was just tired, poor dear.
- End of the World as We Know It
- Flashback Nightmare: The Doctor falls asleep on a train and brings the reader up to speed on one of the salient points of the story arc.
- Forgets to Eat: The Doctor has a bit of a habit of this. Somewhat justified by the fact that as a Time Lord he apparently needs to eat less than a normal human being. In Camera Obscura, while he's already under the weather for several other reasons, Anji has to remind him to eat:Do you want some food? You havent eaten in days.
Thats right, he said wonderingly, as if shed made a point that hadnt occurred to him. You know, I bet thats one reason I feel so bad.
- Good Thing You Can Heal: One of the regular cast is rendered effectively immortal, and inevitably suffers a series of otherwise-lethal injuries over the course of the plot.
- Gorn: To go along with all of the Body Horror inflicted on the Doctor, it's all described in pretty graphic detail.
- Heart Trauma: After Sabbath rips the Doctor's second heart out of his chest in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, he finds out that Sabbath has placed it in his own chest to use as a navigating tool of some sort.
- Humanoid Abomination: Nathaniel Chiltern is split into two unequal parts, the second of which ends up fused together with an electric toaster and a rosebush as a result of a failure in the time machine to work properly.
- Ignore The Fanservice: The first chapter concerns Sabbath meeting his Morality Pet du jour. She's a violent, troubled, crazy teenage girl. Being used to men sexually harassing her, she decides to Show Some Leg to get him interested, as she's in a Bedlam House and would like to leave. He ignores what she's doing until she gets bored of it. When she suggests that he might have prurient motives for hiring her, he's neither startled nor interested by it. By the end of the book, it's implied that they're having some sort of chaste love affair.
- Ill Girl: The Doctor's erm, heart condition leaves him frail and prone to fainting.
- I Shall Taunt You: The Doctor goes all out in one scene, mostly just to get back at Sabbath for making his life very, very difficult. He does all kinds of intentional Foe Yay things (complete with innuendo-laden references to Sabbath stealing his heart), hides a whoopee cushion in his sofa, flops on his desk like a cat while Sabbath is looking at something, folds his papers up into penguins, sings to him, etc. Do not piss off the Doctor, or he'll teach you how it's done.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: An appearance of William the Bloody Awful Poet, which was the nickname Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer had as a human.
- Organ Theft: Follows up on the theft of the Doctor's second heart in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street.
- Playing Pictionary: Everyone who sees the Doctor's attempted map of a London neighborhood wonders about the round shapes he's drawn. Fitz tries to guess what they might be ("trees", "gardens", or "duck ponds") until Anji gets annoyed and sarcastically suggests they're "gigantic pools of jam". It's never explained what they were actually meant to be.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Anji insults Sabbath with a pun on "phat"/"fat", causing him to "[stare] at her in complete incomprehension."
- A group of circus freaks exhibit "The Giant Rat of Sumatra".
- It also seems that the Doctor and company are subletting their flat from Sherlock Holmes, which Sabbath lampshades in typical enigmatic fashion.
- Sabbath uses the pseudonym "G.K. Thursday", a reference to G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, which, given his name, size, and Nietzschean pretensions, is a stunningly appropriate reference.
- Sim Sim Salabim: Anji, being South Asian, stands out pretty heavily in Victorian London, and as a result, finds it easiest to wear a sari and not speak to anyone while the three of them are staying, capitalizing on the peoples' assumptions about India of the time. Needless to say, she doesn't particularly enjoy this trip.
- Split Personality: Constance Jane, a "fake" psychic, has this problem, as well as an ability to sense time anomalies. Octave, the magician who tries to kill the Doctor, has an inversion: his use of the faulty time machine split him into eight separate bodies, each of which has the same sensory input and feelings as all of the others.
- Suggestive Collision: The Doctor confronts Sabbath in a sort of shared dream sequence, in which they end up on a ship, whose rocking causes the Doctor to end up falling on top of Sabbath while panting.
- Time Machine: A damaged and incredibly destructive one is the cause of most of the plot.
- The Unsmile:The station manager, a portly little man in wire rims, crept timidly from the office. Everything all right, gentlemen? he asked, more hopefully than sternly.
Sabbath and the Doctor both beamed at him. The station master didnt really find this a reassuring sight.
- Victorian London: Where the book takes place.
- Victorian Novel Disease: The Doctor's erm, heart condition leaves him frail and prone to fainting. Everyone assumes the Doctor is consumptive.
- Waxing Lyrical:
- The Doctor quotes "All Along the Watchtower" while trying to escape a creepy Eldritch Location with Sabbath:
- Sabbath has his own moment of doing this, for no particular reason at all: he's usually The Stoic, and he's from the 18th century. But he gets into an alarmingly perky and cheerful mood and starts quoting from The Wizard of Oz."Because, said Sabbath. Because because because because because. Because of the wonderful things I does."