Monday, July 6, 2015

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway: An Uncanny Review

Back when Uncanny Magazine had its Kickstarter, some excellent human helped support the magazine by sponsoring a blog post of their choice. That excellent human selected a book review of Nick Harkaway's novel, Angelmaker. After a long and patient wait on their part, I am writing this review in fulfillment of that support. Thank you, excellent human!

And now, the review.

So, the first thing that I need to tell you is something of a spoiler. I know, I know. You are now rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, Kat, you do not understand how this review business works, but let me assure you, this is needful information.

Let me explain. Angelmaker, a book that I love, and loved again as I reread it for this review, is the first thing I read after my beloved dog, Sam I Am the pug, died. Part of the reason that I chose Angelmaker as this book - aside from the bits where many many people whose opinions I respected told me it was wonderful - was that one of the characters in the book is Bastion. Bastion is a very elderly pug, with only one tooth left in his mouth, and he is completely blind. Sam I Am had most of his teeth, and some of his vision, but he, too, was a very elderly pug. And let me tell you, Bastion is perfect, both as pug, and as book character. (So perfect, in fact, that I sent Mr. Harkaway a collection of weepy, heartbrokenly grateful messages on twitter immediately upon finishing Angelmaker, to which he responded with great kindness. He is an excellent man; buy all his books.)

Here's the spoilery bit: Bastion lives.

I really really needed to know that part, the first time I read this book.

Not everybody in Angelmaker does. Which I suppose is to be expected in a thriller populated by mad scientists, evil fiends, a vast and sundry assortment of the criminal element, some completely bonkers monks, lawyers, and Edie Banister.

Edie Banister is the 90 year old lady spy who belongs to Bastion. Just imagine James Bond, as played by Maggie Smith. That's Edie. (Actually, someone please make an Angelmaker movie where Maggie Smith is Edie, because that would be perfect.) I fell in love with her somewhere around page 50. Lots of people fall in love with Edie. She's that sort of lady.

Her story wraps itself around that of Joe Spork, who repairs clocks, and is the son of one of the most notorious gangsters in London. And at first, it's hard to see how the stories connect. At first, it looks like Harkaway is simply pulling all of the cool stuff he knows out of his brain, and throwing it on the page to see what sticks. But you keep reading, because it is really cool stuff. And there are people like Edie Banister in these pages.

And then you realize how the pieces start to fit. And then you realize, the pieces all fit, that Harkaway is writing a beautiful, elegant clockwork, as beautiful and strange and glorious as anything else in these pages. You are reading a book where someone can say "Never mind, never mind, let's get to the part where we smite the unrighteous. I've brought my most alarming teeth!" and you smile and grin and wish you had some alarming teeth, because you'd like to go along and smite the unrighteous, too.

Angelmaker is a brilliant book - brilliant both in terms of flash, and of intelligence. It is full of tremendous, complicated, interesting characters. It will break your heart, and make you think, and make you cheer. And the dog lives.

I highly recommend it.


  1. Brilliant! Thank you. I am, in fact, the human who requested this review. I love this book so much that I got a giant tattoo based on it. So, thank you for reviewing! ^.^

  2. Oh, hurrah! Thanks again for your support, and your patience!