Clockwork: Background information when reading Angelmaker

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Angelmaker

A Novel

by Nick Harkaway

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway X
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2012, 496 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Clockwork

Print Review

At the heart of Angelmaker is an immensely intricate clockwork device. When we hear the word "clockwork" we generally think of old-fashioned non-digital timepieces. The term, however, refers to any mechanical device that uses a combination of springs and gears to function. In addition to wind-up watches and clocks, wind-up toys, old phonographs and traditional music boxes are all types of clockwork.

All clockwork mechanisms require some kind of power source, typically a weight or coiled spring. This stored energy is then translated into movement through one or more interlocking gear wheels; the release of energy is controlled using a device known in clocks and watches as an escapement, which is in turn connected to a regulating element such as a pendulum, spring or balance wheel.

Antikythera mechanismSchematicThe earliest devices were complex and designed for specific tasks, generally having to do with astrophysical calculations. The oldest extant example is the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical computer designed to determine astronomical positions.  Recovered in 1900-1901 from a wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, archeologists have determined it was of Greek manufacture, created around 100 BCE. The device, containing at least 30 gear wheels, employed a level of complexity not found in Europe again until the 14th century, with some elements said to be on a par with 19th century clocks. The image to the left shows the main fragment of the Antikythera mechanism, while on the right is a modern-day schematic of the artifact's mechanism extrapolated from the archaeological remains.

Spring-driven mechanisms began appearing in the 15th century, initially in timepieces; but about this time clockmakers also began using increasingly complex combinations of gears and springs to showcase their abilities. The results were intricate toys and automata (self-operating machines), wonderfully elaborate creations designed as gifts for royalty. One of the earliest known makers of clockwork toys was 15th Century German inventor Karel Grod. Tales exist of a mechanical fly he created that would buzz across the room, circle and then return to his hand. He was also credited with a life-size mechanical eagle that could fly around town and return to its original spot.

Leonardo da Vinci produced many clockwork mechanisms as well. One of his best known was a mechanical lion he created to entertain Louis XII of France. The animal was capable of walking across the floor to the king while turning its head and baring its teeth. This was considered a marvel, as while most clockwork devices at that time were only capable of one motion, da Vinci's lion combined several. This remarkable mechanism has been recently reproduced from da Vinci's sketches.

Perhaps the finest examples of automata for their time period were created by Swiss watchmaker Jean-Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son, Henri-Louis, and Jean-Frederic Leschot. Among the numerous devices they manufactured, are three clockwork dolls built between 1768 and 1774 that play music, draw, write, and even appear to breathe. These masterpieces continue to amaze audiences today. The 15 minute video below showcases some of the watchmakers' work.

Article by Kim Kovacs

This article was originally published in April 2012, and has been updated for the October 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    A hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.