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Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Angelmaker (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Nick Harkaway

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7375112,660 (3.97)79
Authors:Nick Harkaway
Info:William Heinemann (2012), Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2013, Book Group
Tags:fiction, science fiction

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Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (2012)

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    Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (kitzyl)
    kitzyl: Commonalities include: nostalgia for the golden (criminal/stage magic) days gone by, details of an old and mysterious craft (horology/sleight of hand), flashbacks to character's childhood which explains their nowadays persona, mystery-thriller involving technological machines (truth-automata-bees/television).… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
First, this book is marvellously written. It follows two sets of events - the present belonging to our hero, Joshua Joseph Spork, and the past belonging to Edie Banister, now a ninety year old former spy. Their individual chapters switch until they come to a point where they become one extraordinary story. Some of them end in cliffhanger which would have annoyed me to no end if Joe or Edie hadn't been equally interesting.

Joe Spork promised his father, a criminal genius, not to be like him and he honoured that promised until the world messed up his peaceful existence. His only wish was to be left alone to fix various clockwork items. He chose to be quiet and not to be noticed; but he still remembered his father's lessons.'He [Joe's grandfather] thinks if you play by the rules long enough, the right sort of fellow will win out. He may be right. Thing is, in my experience, the right sort run out of money or the wrong sort leave the table. The game is fixed. Always has been, always will be, and the only way out for a man is the gangster’s road. Take what you can, do what you must, and know that being a right sort never saved anyone from anything.’
His best friend brings him a strange device to fix and you can say all hell breaks loose from that point on. What follows is what could be called Joe's awakening. He learns that his world is not black and white and what happens when the world crosses the line, when 'the gangster digs his heels in' and ' the craftsman rolls up his sleeves.'

Edie's story is historical part of the book. Edie became a very competent spy on WWII. She even got an enemy for life. Now she is almost ninety and she is mad at the world, mad at those stupid governments and, above all, she is mad because the world became worse when it should have been better. There isn't any character development in her case, but young Edie is interesting enough to have a great story. The older Edie is wiser, sadder and unexpectedly dangerous to anyone who tries to hurt her or her silly dog.

I loved so many things in this book. It has so many crazy, over the top characters that there would have to be a special review only about them. but most of all I love the way the women are depicted. Even stereotypes have character. Polly is my favourite. There aren't any damsels in distress here. If anything, they are the ones causing trouble. Polly to Joe: ‘Because I am considering investing heavily in J. Joseph Spork stock, and I do not care to have the opportunity taken away. Also, this fidelity to the right thing over the clever thing speaks well of you as a romantic lead. It seems unlikely I will have to detach you from an Estonian fashion student or some similar harpy at any point down our mutual road together, if there should be one. This is a quality which a girl should value over and above common sense, although in doing so she must take on the burden of keeping you alive in the face of your own considerable nincompoopery. Thus. My way, or the highway.’ Or even better example how great she is - Polly to a bad man: ‘I do not know, at this point, whether Joshua Joseph Spork is the man of my life. He could be. I have given it considerable thought. The jury is still out. The issue between you and me is that you wish to deprive me of the opportunity to find out. Joe Spork is not yours to give or to withhold from me, Mr [...]. He is mine, until I decide otherwise. You have caused him grief, sullied his name, and you have hurt him. If anyone is going to make him weep, or lie about him, or even do bad things to him, it is me.'

While it was slow for some reason, there are numerous gems scattered all throughout the book. Humour, wit, sarcasm, irony, you can find everything in this book. It made me cry, it made me happy, it made me think. The ending is not a fairy tale nothing bad happened type. Considering everything that happens in this book, it is close to a fairy tale ending as it can be.

There is one thing that I would have changed or shortened. It is more my personal preference than anything else. There is a part of the story (somewhere after two thirds of the book) when Joe finds himself alone. It was longer than I would have liked.

Besides the great story, this book will make you think about the absolute truth and its value in the world and in the lives of individuals. ( )
  Irena. | Nov 3, 2015 |
Knowing that Nick Harkaway is the son of John LeCarre shouldn't really be a factor in the appreciation of this mad, lovely book, but when I put it down I couldn't avoid the conclusion that this was his answer to A Perfect Spy. Looming large over the story is the hero's father, an arch-criminal and a lovable, charismatic rogue, larger than life, who leaves a very confused son behind when he dies.

Anyway, will review properly later. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
I haven't been this excited by an author since I read Ghostwritten and number9dream. Anyway, after The Gone-Away World, Angelmaker - and what a helterskelter, rollercoaster, Hollywood blockbuster (may it never be turned into a film, let it remain in our imaginations), breathtaking pageturner it is. Joseph Joshua Spork, his relatives, friends and enemies, all as perfectly formed as the plot, which grips you by the throat and never lets go. What female baby boomer can't love a book containing not one but several notable examples of the burgeoning trend for feisty old women, here as spies/assassins/inventors/general kickass scary ladies involved in nefarious doings, especially the wonderful Edie Banister - 'Monstrous hags. Or you could say we are 'women of consequence'. Along the way to saving the world Joe learns much about his family, past and present, honour among thieves, not judging people, love, the difficulty of choosing between wrong and less-wrong actions, and the general insanity of present-day life. It is complicatedly but effortlessly structured, with the past increasingly encroaching on the present as characters' story arcs converge. The writing is exhilarating, and often very funny - 'the onward march of progress has wandered off down a dark alley and been mugged'; summing up what it's all about - essentially a warning to government - 'don't tell me the end justifies the means because it doesn't. We never reach the end. all we ever get is means. That's what we live with.' ( )
  Roseredlee | Jun 25, 2015 |
This book was unbelievable. If you start it be aware that you will reach a point that you will not stop until it is finished so don't get to that point at, say, 12:30am. I am shocked that more people are not talking about it. That said, it's not an easy read, you can't read small chunks on the subway, you have to at least be able to finish a chapter at a time. It's dense, detailed, requires large plots of imagination. ( )
  Caryn.Rose | Mar 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
But the dead hand of patrimony is about to tap Joe on the shoulder. A commission to repair a rare automaton turns sour when he inadvertently activates a postwar superweapon, throwing him into the path of a 50-year struggle between an ageing female super-spy, an order of craftsman warrior-monks who follow the dictates of John Ruskin and a psychopathic South Asian princeling chasing an army of robot bees. And Harkaway is off, on 500 pages of chases, subterfuges and double-crosses that sometimes resemble Count of Monte Cristo-era Dumas seen through the prism of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. New twists and turns are produced with showmanlike relish: Submarines! Armoured steam trains! Faceless clockwork soldiers! Death-defying escapes from underground laboratories! There’s a girl to get as well, of course — one with a murky past to confront. Will Joe be able to grapple with his father’s legacy and save the world? Wild conceits aside, Harkaway’s story is a joyously old-fashioned one at heart. Of course he will.
added by kitzyl | editThe Telegraph, Tim Martin (Mar 6, 2012)
Nick Harkaway is a hyphen-novelist. A tragical-comical-historical-pastoral novelist, if you like; or – more precisely in the case of this second book – a fantasy-gangster-espionage-romance novelist. The Gone-Away World, Harkaway's well-received debut, was a slightly overfilled post-apocalyptic pick-and-mix of genres. Just as blithe in its disregard of verisimilitude and generic constraint, Angelmaker flits between old-fashioned villains in London's East End and covert action in 1940s south Asia, arranging its whistlestop plot around the modern-day discovery of a weapon of mass destruction in the unlikely form of a skepful of clockwork bees. It's an ambitious, crowded, restless caper, cleverly told and utterly immune to precis.
added by kitzyl | editThe Guardian, James Purdon (Feb 12, 2012)
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At seven fifteen a.m., his bedroom slightly colder than the vacuum of space, Joshua Joseph Spork wears a longish leather coat and a pair of his father's golfing socks.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307595951, Hardcover)

A Wall Street Journal and Booklist Best Mystery of 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 . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:30 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Avoiding the lifestyle of his late gangster father by working as a clock repairman, Joe Spork fixes an unusual device that turns out to be a former secret agent's doomsday machine and incurs the wrath of the government and a diabolical South Asian dictator.… (more)

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