Summary and book reviews of Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Angelmaker

A Novel

by Nick Harkaway

Angelmaker
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

A 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 fathers old gun...

I

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. Papa Spork was not a natural golfer. Among other differences, natural golfers do not acquire their socks by hijacking a lorryload destined for St. Andrews. It isn’t done. Golf is a religion of patience. Socks come and socks go, and the wise golfer waits, sees the pair he wants, and buys it without fuss. The notion that he might put a Thompson sub-machine gun in the face of the burly Glaswegian driver, and tell him to quit the cab or adorn it . . . well. A man who does that is never going to get his handicap down below the teens.

The upside is that Joe doesn’t think of these socks as belonging to Papa Spork. They’re just one of two thousand pairs he inherited when his father passed on to the great bunker in the sky, contents of a lock-up off Brick Lane. He returned as much of the swag as he ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The basic theme of Angelmaker is familiar enough: a threat to the world must be nullified by an unlikely hero. In Nick Harkaway's hands, however, this simple storyline becomes something entirely unique and unexpected, defying easy classification. It's equal parts science fiction, gangster novel, absurdist comedy, spy story and government conspiracy novel, forming one zany, convoluted, literary three-ring circus where anything can happen. It's the kind of thing you'd expect to get if you dropped Doug Adams's perpetually bewildered Arthur Dent in the middle of a James Bond intrigue: utter mayhem.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Slate

A big, gleefully absurd, huggable bear of a novel. . . . A pleasantly roomy book, a grand old manor house of a novel that sprawls and stretches. . . . In passage after passage, Angelmaker opens up, making room for the reader, until we aren’t merely empathizing with Joe Spork’s plight but feeling it keenly.

Library Journal

Harkaway repeats the sometimes funny sf-tinged thrillerish tone of his well-received debut, The Gone-Away World.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Endlessly inventive... the novel ends up being its own absurdist sendup of pulp story tropes and end-of-the-world scenarios. ...Harkaway makes his novel great fun on every page.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A touch early in the season for a beach book, though just the kind of thing to laugh at away from polite society. Top-notch.

The Observer (UK)

An ambitious, crowded, restless caper, cleverly told and utterly immune to précis. . . . A solid work of modern fantasy fiction.

The Independent (UK)

A magnificent, literary, post-pulp triumph. . . . Angelmaker is an entertaining tour-de-force that demands to be adored.

The Guardian (UK)

Angelmaker is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in ages...A joyful display of reckless, delightful invention...Once it gets going, it’s brilliantly entertaining, and the last hundred pages are pure, unhinged delight. What a splendid ride.

Author Blurb Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus
A puzzle box of a novel as fascinating as the clockwork bees it contains, filled with intrigue, espionage and creative use of trains. As if that were not enough to win my literary affection, Harkaway went and gave me a raging crush on a fictional lawyer.

Author Blurb William Gibson, author of Zero History
You are in for a treat, sort of like Dickens meets Mervyn Peake in a modern Mother London. The very best sort of odd.

Author Blurb Dexter Palmer, author of The Dream of Perpetual Motion
A joyously sprawling, elaborately plotted, endlessly entertaining novel filled with adventure, comedy, espionage, and romance, Angelmaker also deals with intriguing questions of free will and the nature of truth without stopping to take a breath. As if the book is made of clockwork, the pages turn themselves.

Reader Reviews

Deborah N.

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 ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Clockwork

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 ...

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