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Layers and layers
"Angelmaker" is, as protagonist Joshua Joseph Spork scoffs, an exaggeratedly corny name for a doomsday machine powered by clockwork bees. But as we discover, everything about this story has a double meaning at least, and no one--not even the hapless Spork, despite what he thinks--is quite who he or she seems. Part steampunk, part wry London contemporary, it's "Auntie Mame" meets "A Prairie Home Companion" meets (incongruously) "Clockwork Orange" meets "The Mouse that Roared". Harkaway integrates elements from the news in his depiction of government paranoia, from the comically annoying (Antisocial Behavior Orders) to the truly grisly (clandestine prisons and waterboarding). But he manages to balance the graphic grimness of his villains with whimsical and talented opposition, and the laughs, which start out subtle and ironic, pick up steam in a most unexpected way. "Angelmaker" combines too many different ideas and motifs for an easy beach read. It's one of the most entertaining novels I could have imagined about the consequences of seeking perfection through mechanical complexity.