17 July 2012

Angelmaker - Nick Harkaway

The Blurb: From the acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World - a new riveting action spy thriller, blistering gangster noir, and howling absurdist comedy: a propulsively entertaining tale about a mobster's son and a retired secret agent who are forced to team up to save the world.All Joe Spork wants is a quiet life. He repairs clockwork and lives above his shop in a wet, unknown bit of London. The bills don't always get paid and he's single and has no prospects of improving his lot, but at least he's not trying to compete with the reputation of Mathew "Tommy Gun" Spork, his infamous criminal dad.

Edie Banister lives quietly and wishes she didn't. She's nearly ninety and remembers when she wasn't. She's a former superspy and now she's... well... old. Worse yet, the things she fought to save don't seem to exist anymore, and she's beginning to wonder if they ever did.When Joe fixes one particularly unusual device, his life is suddenly upended. The client? Unknown. And the device? It's a 1950s doomsday machine. And having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the government and a diabolical South Asian dictator, Edie's old arch-nemesis. 

With Joe's once-quiet world now populated with mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realises that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she gave up years ago, and pick up his father's old gun...

If you are able to read the blurb of the book and find yourself disinterested in it, there must be something wrong with you. It's really well written, and shows what can be done with a blurb. It's one of the better ones out there.

Nick Harkaway has followed up the frankly brilliant The Gone Away World with this gem, Angelmaker. Most of the plot is explained in the blurb above, but that isn't where the strength of Mr. Harkaway's writing lies. It's in his characters. Damn me, he can write interesting characters.

And not just interesting, funny as well. I'm not sure how he does it, but each character stands strong on his own, with his own sense of humour. That lifts them all from the page, fleshes them out and make you feel as if they are real.

There is some liberal usage of flashback chapters in the book, but how else are you going to tell the story of a 90 year old spy? Edie's input is brilliant, her chapters a joy to read and her dog quite terrifying in his own right.

Our main character, Joe Spork, has issues. Issues with his dad, grandfather and himself. His struggling for his place in the world is one of the big driving forces in the book, and the resolution of it is well crafted and implemented.

The action in the book happens mostly iin London, and it's well enough described to be interesting and really relevant in the book. The story is a London story. It wouldn't really work as well somewhere else. 

There's violence, language and a suggested sex scene in the book. Since it's kind of a gangster story, what else would you expect? It's all constructive to the story, and done well. 

This is easily the most fun book that I've read this year.  I just wish there was more Harkaway to read. Well done sir!


1 comment:

  1. I actually have *two* copies of The Gone-Away World, and I still haven't read it; something I feel quite bad about. I've read and review Harkaway's eShort "Edie Investigates", which basically introduces Edie's character. Like you, I also thought that Harkaway's strength there was writing great characters. I very badly want a copy of Angelmaker, as you and other reviews have made it sound so good.