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Angelmaker

Cover of Angelmaker

Angelmaker

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A Wall Street Journal and Booklist Best Mystery of 2012

From the acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World, 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 father's old gun . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

A Wall Street Journal and Booklist Best Mystery of 2012

From the acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World, 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 father's old gun . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    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 could--it was a weird, motley collection, very appropriate to Papa Spork's somewhat eccentric life of crime--and found himself left with several suitcases of personal effects, family Bibles and albums, some bits and bobs his father apparently stole from his father, and a few pairs of socks the chairman of St. Andrews suggested he keep as a memento.

    "I appreciate it can't have been easy, doing this," the chairman said over the phone. "Old wounds and so on."

    "Really, I'm just embarrassed."

    "Good Lord, don't be. Bad enough that the sins of the fathers shall descend and all that, without feeling embarrassed about it. My father was in Bomber Command. Helped plan the firebombing of Dresden. Can you imagine? Pinching socks is rather benign, eh?"

    "I suppose so."

    "Dresden was during the war, of course, so I suppose they thought it had to be done. Jolly heroic, no doubt. But I've seen photographs. Have you?"

    "No."

    "Try not to, I should. They'll stay with you. But if ever you do, for some godforsaken reason, it might make you feel better to be wearing a pair of lurid Argyles. I'm putting a few in a parcel. If it will salve your guilt, I shall choose the absolute nastiest ones."

    "Oh, yes, all right. Thank you."

    "I fly myself, you know. Civilian. I used to love it, but recently I can't help but see firebombs falling. So I've sort of given up. Rather a shame, really."

    "Yes, it is."

    There's a pause while the chairman considers the possibility that he may have revealed rather more of himself than he had intended.

    "Right then. It'll be the chartreuse. I quite fancy a pair of those myself, to wear next time I visit the old bugger up at Hawley Churchyard. 'Look here, you frightful old sod,' I shall tell him, 'where you persuaded yourself it was absolutely vital that we immolate a city full of civilians, other men's fathers restricted themselves to stealing ugly socks.' That ought to show him, eh?"

    "I suppose so."

    So on his feet now are the fruits of this curious exchange, and very welcome between his unpedicured soles and the icy floor.

    The leather coat, meanwhile, is a precaution against attack. He does own a dressing gown, or rather, a toweling bathrobe, but while it's more cosy to get into, it's also more vulnerable. Joe Spork inhabits a warehouse space above his workshop--his late grandfather's workshop--in a dingy, silent bit of London down by the river. The march of progress has passed it by because the views are grey and angular and the place smells strongly of riverbank, so the whole enormous building...

About the Author-
  • Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall in 1972. He studied philosophy, sociology and politics at Clare College, Cambridge, and then worked in the film industry. His fiction debut was The Gone-Away World. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

    www.nickharkaway.com

Reviews-
  • Niall Alexander, Tor.com

    "It's hard to put a finger on exactly why Angelmaker is one of the year's best books. Know this, though: it is."

  • Billy Heller, New York Post "Greetings to Joe Spork, the book world's newest hero. He springs from the fertile, absurdist imagination of Harkaway in his follow-up to The Gone-Away World."
  • Adam Woog, The Seattle Times "Brilliant, wholly original, and a major-league hoot."
  • Emily St. John Mandel, The Millions "[Harkaway] manages to write surrealist adventure novels that feel both urgent and relevant. His novels are fun to read without seeming particularly frivolous, and beneath all the derring-do and shenanigans, there's a low thrum of anxiety: everything and everyone you love could disappear at any moment. . . . Angelmaker is a truly impressive achievement."
  • Glen Weldon, 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. . . . All the more reason to applaud Harkaway for creating Joe Spork: not only like us but likable, a hero who serves not as a dark mirror but as a funhouse one."
  • Paul Di Filippo, Barnes and Noble Review "[A] gloriously uninhibited romp of a novel. . . . Harkaway has managed to recapture the lighthearted brio of an earlier age of precision entertainment, when the world was deemed to be perpetually teetering on the brink of Armageddon but always capable of being snatched back to safety with a quip, a wink, [and] a judo chop."
  • Jonathan Liu, Wired.com's GeekDad blog "A lot of books are fun to read for the plot; a smaller percentage display this artful mastery of the language. And precious few manage to do both. Angelmaker, the second novel by British writer Nick Harkaway, falls into that last category. . . . This is not the sort of book I zip through, despite wanting to know what happens next. It's the sort of book you want to let steep in your brain a bit before you take another taste."
  • Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph, (5 out of 5 stars) "An intricate and brilliant piece of escapism, tipping its hat to the twisting plots of John Buchan and H Rider Haggard, the goggles-and-gauntlets Victoriana of the steampunk movement and the labyrinthine secret Londons of Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair, while maintaining an originality, humour and verve all its author's own. . . . Angelmaker must have been huge fun to write, and it is huge fun to read. . . . A fantasy espionage novel stuffed with energetic, elegant writing that bowls the reader along while reflecting profitably on the trends of the times. Gleefully nostalgic and firmly modern, hand-on-heart and tongue-in-cheek, this is as far as it could be from the wearied tropes that dominate so much of fantasy and SF. I can't wait to see what Harkaway does next."
  • Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review) "Harkaway's celebrated debut, The Gone-Away World . . . was really just a warm up act--a prodigiously talented novelist stretching muscles that few other writers even possess--for this tour de force Dickensian bravura and genre-bending splendor. . . . This is a marvelous book, both sublimely intricate and compulsively readable."
  • Kirkus (starred review) "Harkaway keeps us guessing, traveling the edges between fantasy, sci-fi, the detective novel, pomo fiction and a good old-fashioned comedy of the sort that Jerome K. Jerome might have written had he had a ticking thingy instead of a boat as his prop. . . . His tale stands comparison to Haruki Murakami's 1Q84."
  • Jim Coan, Library Journal "A long, wild journey through a London dream world. . . . With its bizarre scenarios and feverish wordiness, its huge cast of British eccentrics and the ark forces of paranoia and totalitarianism lurking everywhere, this novel recalls the works of Martin Amis and Will Self. Immense fun and quite exciting."
  • 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."
  • William Gibson, author of "You are in for a treat, sort o
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