Sunday, 19 August 2012

Book Review: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

When The Gone Away World was released in 2008, I fell in love with it. I bought the paperback at least twice. (Once for a friend). I then abandoned all my books in twelve or so boxes in my parents’ garage and fled to China. Now I have the Kindle version, and I love it just as much. How could I not? It involves ninjas and an apocalypse, among other delightful things. But I am not reviewing The Gone Away World. I am reviewing the book that Harkaway followed it up with: Angelmaker.

Angelmaker is the story of the not-so-young Joe Spork, an unassuming clockmaker in his mid 30s. His father was a notorious gangster; his mother, a nun. One day a monk pokes around his store, and Spork is questioned by shady government officials about machinery that might have belonged to his grandfather. Now factor in an octogenarian superspy with a vicious pug, and a French super-scientist who creates clockwork bees… and things only get weirder from here.

Needless to say, I was rather excited when the novel finally downloaded onto my Kindle. This excitement lasted for about the first 20% of the book. Then disappointment started to set in. This book didn’t grip me like his first, and its wordiness kept jarring me out of the narrative. Seriously. Who talks like this?
Buggeration! The worm shall eat them up like a garment, Joe, and the moth shall eat them up like wool, but your righteousness shall be from generation to generation. The Bible, that is, and I've always fancied the Lord was particularly thinking of revenuers and debt collectors.
Polly Mercer, ‘The Bold Receptionist,’ also bothered me. On meeting Joe, she promptly takes him home, fucks him, and then puts herself in considerable danger on the off-chance that she loves him. It makes no sense. At this point in the novel, she is portrayed as an impossibly sexual and competent woman. Why doesn’t she have a lover already? And why on earth would she desire a hapless, gawking man she’s barely met? (Answer: because he’s the hero, and all heroes’ need a sexy sidekick for the final showdown.)

At this point, I moped about on the interwebs and considered re-reading Harkaway’s debut to cheer myself up. Instead I read some other reviews. They were all uniformly positive, and said particularly nice things about the last 100 pages. Diligent reader that I am, I decided to give the book another chance. I’m glad I did. It turns into another ridiculous, over-large adventure, with gangsters battling despots dreaming of apotheosis, and hijinks galore. Harkaway gets bonus points for including lesbians, and his disdainful attitude towards the necessities of government.

All in all, a very enjoyable read. It has flaws, but it’s a decent read. Check out some other reviews if you’re not convinced (for example, here and here and here) and then grab a copy of the book. Odds are you won’t regret it.

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