Sunday, November 4, 2012

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Interesting fiction can present itself in many different styles.  For example, a novel might be absorbing and transporting.  A mystery might draw the reader into a world of suspense and drama.  Nick Harkaway's novel Angelmaker is enjoyable, but in a different manner than either of these examples.

To me, Angelmaker is more akin to looking at a large and complex painting, such as The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch's famous triptych.  This particular painting, like reading Angelmaker, is enthralling.  You admire the artist's talent, imagination, and the complexity of his work.  Further, in both Bosch's painting and in Harkaway's Angelmaker, there is a lot of strange stuff.  The upside of Angelmaker is that it is also funny.

The story's protagonist is Joe Spork.  A single guy in his mid-30s, Joe, like his grandfather before him, repairs clockworks.  To vastly oversimplify the plot of this long and wild story, Joe's skills are used to put into motion the unleashing of a bizarre doomsday machine.  His involvement puts him in danger from bad guys in both the public and private sector.  To survive these dangers, Joe must find and stop the machine.  And to do this, Joe turns to the allies and networks created by his father, a notorious gangster.

Layered over this basic outline of the plot is a complex jungle of characters, locations, and machines.  There are mad monks, evil dictators, secret government activities from World War II, elephants, a giant submarine, an enormous train, mechanical bees, a criminal underground, and more.  To give you a flavor of the story, its video trailer is below.

Angelmaker is extremely imaginative.  It is also very long and I must admit that at times I did find it a bit tedious.  What kept me reading, however, is Harkaway's fantastic sense of humor, wonderful word choice and use of language.  I recommend you check it out.  Reading Angelmaker is an art experience.



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