Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review: Angelmaker

I loved this book. Angelmaker is steampunk adventure with a noire flavor to it, in which a simple clockmaker, Joe Spork - made very much in the mold of Hitchhiker's Arthur Dent - happens upon an impossibly complicated bit of junk that turns out to be much more than he'd imagined. Its something that many people want and some of those people are not good people, and some of them are very, very bad. He is forced to become more than he imagines he can be to survive it all, let alone figure out what the oddity does.

It would be an imaginative romp at that, but oh, the characters. This is where the book really shines. Ruthless rule-bending policemen, a megalomaniac ruler of an asiatic kingdom, a gruesome serial killer,  a society of undertakers, every color of mobster found in the british underworld, mad scientists, faceless veiled monks, a band of octogenarian grannies turned torturers, and the most libidinous spy ever to come from pen being put to paper... these all come together for a fantastic adventure of the kind that makes you want to grab strangers on the street and tell them they must read this book.

There are some some serious things under all of this that the author is trying to say - about the erosion of civil liberties and granting of unchecked power in the name of anti-terrorism, and about the meaning of truth in dimensions. You can ponder these if you wish, or let them sail by while enjoying the ride.

A bit of trivia: The author, Nick Harkaway, is the son of John Le Carre, and when I learned this, suddenly the book's flashbacks to WWII-era and cold-war spy stuff seemed all the better. In some cases being reminiscent of Le Carre, and in other cases deliberately more fantastical. I've added his other two books to my to-read list.

The book takes a while to get going but it's worth it. The author takes the time to dial up the color and character on all of these pieces, so that he can set them all together into a tightly wound bit of story machine that goes off like clockwork.


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