Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but not as good as it thinks it is, 8 July 2013
This review is from: Angelmaker (Paperback)
Oh, I wanted to love this book, I really did. For the first few chapters, I was thrilled by the cracking good writing, the interesting characters and the comedic introduction to Edie Banister, superspy and old age pensioner. I was practically rubbing my hands with glee in anticipation of a good read. And yet, somewhere along the way, I found myself struggling to finish the book.

I think I started getting lost in the plotting very early on, when we jump about in time to discover why Joe Spork, clockmaker and thoroughly nice guy, is being visited by the sinister Messrs Cummerbund and Titwhistle. I don't mind a plot being far-fetched (this is so far-fetched you practically have to visit another galaxy to bring it back) but I do like there to be some narrative flow. There is none - the plot unfolds in jagged clumps and it all feels uneven, with a lot of words being dedicated to seemingly unimportant bits, while whole areas of people's lives are dealt with in a quick paragraph.

I started off loving the characterisation, which concentrates on Joe Spork and Edie Banister. They're great, but there are lots of other potentially interesting characters who are treated more perfunctorily. I particularly disliked the characterisation of Polly Cradle, and it took me a while to realise why I didn't take to her. Then it dawned on me that she is a one-dimensional character who takes the sexual initiative - in other words, a teenage boy's fantasy woman. There's a fair amount of gratuitous sex but an awful lot of truly dreadful violence as well. I don't think it adds to the story to describe torture in quite such graphic detail, but maybe I'm just squeamish.

I don't mind a bit of back story, so Joe's childhood and Edie's battles with Shem Shem Tsien are interesting and could practically warrant being a prequel (George R R Martin would have squeezed a couple of extra books out of these bits, no problem). Again, it's the unevenness that jars, when we get mere dribs and drabs of other significant back stories (Frankie and Mathew are both sadly neglected in this area).

On the plus side, I really liked Nick Harkaway's description of London, which feels like a city I have never visited rather than one I have lived in for most of my life. In many respects, Angelmaker reminded me of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, with its Night Market (Floating Market), Ruskinites (Black Friars) and even Mr Cummerbund and Mr Titwhistle, (Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar).

There is plenty to enjoy, but plenty to irritate as well, I fear. It's a bold book, and Nick Harkaway has a terrific imagination. What he doesn't have is a good editor to trim the book into shape. If he can get that bit right in the future, I might even give his next book a go.
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