Angelmaker: Zany mashup of thriller, doomsday device, and whimsy

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway speculative fiction book reviewsAngelmaker by Nick Harkaway speculative fiction book reviewsAngelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Angelmaker (2012) is Nick Harkaway’s second book, after his exuberant, clever, digressive and exhausting debut The Gone-Away World. It shares the same qualities with that wild and free-wheeling tale, with relentlessly clever dialogue, quirky and in-depth characters, an intricate but playful doomsday plot, more flashbacks than most readers can handle, and chock-a-block with clever and ironic observations of the weirdly-unique world he has created, and by extension our own less colorful one.

The story skips back and forth in time just like its predecessor, to a degree some readers will get irritated by, as we learn a great deal about the back stories of the main characters but very little of the forward momentum you’d expect from a “political thriller.”

Harkaway is in love with language and cleverness, and this time sets his sights on old-school English gangsters, WWII spy-games, secret agents, doomsday devices, evil arch-villains, dramatic fight scenes, and another mild-mannered protagonist, this time a quiet clock repairman who sets in motion a string of bizarre and potentially world-ending events. Many secretive and sinister characters come out of the woodwork and the whole thing is a bit overwhelming, though Angelmaker is slightly more tightly-plotted than The Gone-Away World, but not by much.Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

I found both this book and its predecessor to be sufficiently complex that it was difficult to follow the plot or lighting-paced dialogue, filled with anecdotes and carefully-crafted quips. It is probably much better suited to a proper printed page reading experience, absorbing all the various flavors that the cook has poured into his high-brow fusion of multiple genres. The narrator Daniel Weyman does an excellent job of capturing the many larger-than-life characters, including all the different accents, and I find that British accents are inherently charming for this type of humor, especially as I now recognize many locations that are mentioned.

Still, Nick Harkaway’s works are not to be shoveled down like a burger and milkshake, but rather, need to be savored like a multi-course French meal.

Published in 2012. From the acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World, blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction. Joe Spork spends his days fixing antique clocks. The son of infamous London criminal Mathew “Tommy Gun” Spork, he has turned his back on his family’s mobster history and aims to live a quiet life. That orderly existence is suddenly upended when Joe activates a particularly unusual clockwork mechanism. His client, Edie Banister, is more than the kindly old lady she appears to be—she’s a retired international secret agent. And the device? It’s a 1950s doomsday machine. Having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the British government and a diabolical South Asian dictator who is also Edie’s old arch-nemesis. On the upside, Joe’s got a girl: a bold receptionist named Polly whose smarts, savvy and sex appeal may be just what he needs. With Joe’s once-quiet world suddenly overrun by mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realizes that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she abandoned years ago and pick up his father’s old gun…

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STUART STAROSTA, on our staff from March 2015 to November 2018, is a lifelong SFF reader who makes his living reviewing English translations of Japanese equity research. Despite growing up in beautiful Hawaii, he spent most of his time reading as many SFF books as possible. After getting an MA in Japanese-English translation in Monterey, CA, he lived in Tokyo, Japan for about 15 years before moving to London in 2017 with his wife, daughter, and dog named Lani. Stuart's reading goal is to read as many classic SF novels and Hugo/Nebula winners as possible, David Pringle's 100 Best SF and 100 Best Fantasy Novels, along with newer books & series that are too highly-praised to be ignored. His favorite authors include Philip K Dick, China Mieville, Iain M. Banks, N.K. Jemisin, J.G. Ballard, Lucius Shepard, Neal Stephenson, Kurt Vonnegut, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, etc.

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One comment

  1. These sound good and, somehow, traditionally British. I like both those things.

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