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Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
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Angelmaker (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Nick Harkaway

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6934813,735 (4)71
Member:kjforrest
Title:Angelmaker
Authors:Nick Harkaway
Info:William Heinemann (2012), Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2013, Book Group
Rating:**
Tags:fiction, science fiction

Work details

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (2012)

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    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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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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» See also 71 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
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 |
Angelmaker was okay. There were segments of it that I liked, and at its best points it reminded me of Douglas Adam’s books. However, there were a number of elements that I found problematic, and it had some story failures in general.

From the back blurb: “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 . . .”


From the blurb, I got the impression that Edie would be the female lead, which she was for the beginning of the book. And Edie was awesome, both in the current timelines and in the flashback to her youthful adventures. A queer, ass-kicking, secret agent woman? How much cooler can you get!

However, don’t pick this book up this book because of Edie. While she’s prominent in the beginning, this is ultimately Joe’s story. A fact emphasized by Edie dying about a hundred pages before the end of the book. This really irks me. It feels like her story wasn’t completed, and it’s a troubling situation when the queer woman dies so the straight man can be the hero.

There were other aspects of the book that troubled me, including the evil Shem Shem Tsien. White British guy fighting the evil (non-white) foreigner? This has some icky implications.

Then there’s Polly. Don’t be fooled into thinking she’s anyone important. She’s never much more than sexy love interest. Seriously, her introduction is Joe describing how erotic her toes are. There’s one point where she says something along the lines of “I’m not just your sidekick” but she never does anything to back this up.

Then there’s Joe’s character arc. Joe spends his life trying to avoid being his father Matthew by idealizing and taking after his clock maker grandfather, Daniel. Early on it’s clear that Joe needs to stop worrying about Daniel and Matthew and just be Joe. The book’s moving in this direction, but ultimately Joe starts imitating Matthew instead of Daniel! He becomes Crazy Joe Spork, a bad ass gangster! How is this character development? He’s still not being his own person!

The plot itself was vague, and there wasn’t as much action as you’d think from the blurb. Ultimately, it was the characters who were the failing point. That and an overly descriptive narration style.

I really can’t think who I’d recommend this one to.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Mar 3, 2015 |
Mild mannered antique clock dealer Joe Spork finds himself in a lot of trouble. On commission from an anonymous client, he’s repaired an intricate automaton in the shape of a book and delivered it to an abandoned greenhouse in Cornwall. Now an assortment of strange and sinister characters are showing up at his shop in London looking for it. When he goes to ask the friend who gave him the book, he finds him murdered in his bed. Now he’s wanted by the Police, some dark Ministry of the government, a mysterious order of masked monks, and evil agents of a diabolical foreign power. Fortunately for him, the sister of his solicitor, sexy and adventurous Polly Cradle, takes a fancy to Joe. But will Polly be able to put Joe in touch with his inner gangster in time to defeat the forces arrayed against him and stop a vintage weapon of mass destruction before it eliminates all life in the universe?

Harkaway has crafted a rollicking adventure story that unfolds in the 21st century then flashes back to Second World War espionage, and stuffed it full of vivid characters, thrills, verbal pyrotechnics and a whole lot of fun. Weyman gives a superb performance as he brings to life mad geniuses, an evil dictator, a blind pug, super spies, and assorted members of the criminal underworld and government. ( )
  MaowangVater | Feb 5, 2015 |
This book has a lot in common with other modern British urban fantasy novels (particularly Neverwhere and Kraken), but with quite a bit of James Bond thrown into the mix. The story features strange ineffable magic and a wondrous and terrible underworld, but also troublesome bureaucrats and a cross-dressing secret agent with extensive martial arts training. It is bombastic!

The protagonist isn't an everyman by birth. His father was a storied burglar, but he denies that legacy to follow the career of his grandfather, the honest clockmaker. Of course chaos and trouble comes into his life anyway, in the form of a sweet old lady with a dark past and a crazy plan.

If you're comfortable with flashbacks and intertwining stories then you'll enjoy this narrative. The story leaves the protagonist's perspective just when the number of questions introduced by his story became overwhelming, and switches to characters who immediately answer some of those questions.

Also, this book features the most sympathetic depiction of an attorney that I've ever read.

Did I mention that it is often funny, touching, or rivetingly exciting? ( )
  wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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