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on 12 September 2017
Didn't think I was going to like this one as much as The Gone Away World and Tigerman because the start is a little slow and the main character doesn't seem too interesting. But, I guess that's the point. Joe gradually becomes more and more appealing and the story blooms into wonderfully imaginative chaos and adventure with large helpings of fascinating backstory.

Harkaway is three for three in my mind. Keep 'em coming, sir.
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on 1 August 2017
Nick Harkaway is a genius
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on 6 April 2013
Clever, funny and beautifully written, with a cast of unique characters. I fell in love with the start and the rest lived up to it. My best read so far this year.
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on 16 December 2013
Built very well for 95% of its length and I liked it a lot but toward the end I thought it started to veer into Mary Poppins territory - all those trusty Lunnun geezers wiv 'darts of gold. Very steampunk and with a generous dash of Charles Stross' style Cthulhu attitude. Good pace, milieu and characterisation
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on 24 January 2013
In the rather crowded urban fantasy/steampunk/sci-fi/comedy market, Nick Harkaway has the potential to be one of the best.

Following on from The Gone Away world, he has produced another cracking adventure fizzling with verve and excitement. The writing is excellent with strong characters and an undercurrent of humour throughout.

There is room for improvement, as is only to be expected from a fairly new writer still learning his craft. The structure of the book is a little off, with the lengthy discursions into backstory having a negative impact on the pacing of the story. The plot itself and the machine central to it are a bit hard to follow - so much so that Harkaway needs a character to artificilly summarise the state of play in dialogue.

But these are quibbles. If you like Stephenson, Gaiman or Aaronovitch you really should try Harkaway.
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"Angelmaker" is a rattlingly good SF/ thriller/ generally weird crossover of a book.

It opens in present day London, following the life of Joe Spork, clockmaker and repairer. Spork is trying to make an honest living, distancing himself from the notoriety of his dead father Matthew, a gangster of the old school. But it seems the past won't leave him alone, and when his friend Billy brings him a mysterious commission, trouble follows.

As events unwind, Harkaway dips back to the Second World War where the frighteningly capable Edie Banister is recruited as a British agent by a shadowy secret intelligance organisation based on a train and devoted to the principles of John Ruskin. We see her cross swords (literally) with the Opium Khan, a proto Bond villain set on world dominations, before falling in love with the glamorous French scientist she was sent to rescue. Along the way, however, something goes wrong, creating the situation which Joe has to deal with sixty years later. Before he can do so, he has to sort out who he really is - not easy when he's being pursued by the police, sinister Government agents with very nasty (but totally deniable) practices and homicidal monks. But Joe has allies, including the older Edie, her redoubtable dog Bastion - and the Bold Receptionist, mistress of the railway timetable.

Harkaway's story reminded me, to a degree, of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon in its weaving together of an alternate/ secret Second World War with the present day - the books bear some resemblance too in their central characters (both in personality and in their development through the course of the story) - but Angelmaker is much, much weirder (not least in Spork's access to a hidden side of London, represented by the "Tosher's Beat" and the "Night Market", the domain of his late father) and less techie.

There are one or two details that jar, if you bother about such things - I don't think a British steam locomotive in 1940 would have a cow catcher; Bletchley Park was Station X, not Station Y; Spork seems to attract any young woman who sets foot in the same county - but they are easily set aside, this book is a celebration of the fantastical in everyday life, of love in varied forms and, in the end, of the importance of living. It's a book with great gusto, a book to get lost in - one of those too-rare books that had me going slower and slower as I neared the end, not wanting it to come to a stop: despite its length, I still wanted more.

I'm glad I've discovered Harkaway - now I can go and catch up on his previous book The Gone-Away World.

(If you liked Angelmaker, Harkaway has also published a short story featuring Edie: Edie Investigates though it's only available on Kindle at the moment).
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on 10 October 2016
A book full of ideas, stuffed with Dickensian characters, who are loquacious, earthy and enjoyable. Mr Harkaway has a real talent for dialogue, which flows rhythmically and at times poetically. The story, if slow to get going, is only such because the author takes such care to fill out the main protagonist. There is a point in the book, which i don't think is a spoiler, where a certain character dispatches some ne'er-do-wells. The fact that the author then takes the time, later in the book (if briefly) to give flesh to these fleeting extras, that he attempt to humanise their lives (or deaths) and relate them to their wider familial connections, is a testament to the intelligence and thoughtfulness of his writing and the complex and wonderful world that he creates. A bloody well written novel, but... but i cant help thinking, with such talents, there must be better to come. I have as yet not read any of his other books, but i will.
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I quite like and respect this book for its ambition and wordy attention to detail however it was the latter that caused me to get bogged down and almost half way through made me call it a day. You know something’s wrong when you keep checking how many pages you’ve read and how many are left - at 550+ pages this ain’t short. With it’s too-clever-by-half writing style this was a real plodder for me and I started to resent the time invested for dubious reward. I think if I was retired and could give it more time during the day and not just battle through half a dozen pages at bed time things may have been different but I’m not so sure. The author tries way too hard to make everybody a “character” with a fanciful name and shady past or present but it became a bit tiresome and also confusing with jumps between different eras and characters. It’s a bit sixth form in parts and whilst Harkaway definitely has a good imagination, he also laboriously subscribes to the “why use 10 words when 100 will do?” school of thought and it’s for that reason “I’m oot”.
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on 31 January 2012
Joshua Joseph Spork is a name that will be with me for a long time, if not the rest of my life. He is an antique dealer, expert repairer of things clockwork, son of a submachine toting crook, and the main character in Nick Harkaway's spy adventure novel, "Angelmaker".

When I reviewed Nick's previous novel, "The Gone-Away World", I described it as "a fast paced tale that covers a lot of ground and doesn't let you rest for a minute". Well, he's done it again. The same pace; subtle, and not so subtle humour; intricate plot, and breadth of scope are all present. "The Gone-Away World" convinced me I should read anything Nick writes. "Angelmaker" reinforced this conviction.

Without being specific I can tell you that Joe Spork, like any central character in a spy novel, finds himself in a troublesome situation with different elements of his life falling asunder. For someone who just wants a quiet life this is rather troubling. In addition, he is surrounded by characters who may be on his side, or possibly the other. For that matter, he doesn't know what or who the other side is.

We also meet Edie Banister and her pet dog. Don't be fooled by Edie Banister's outward appearance. She may be a little old lady in her eighties, but in her heart she is something very different.

Nick's characters are impeccably drawn, his language artful, and his plot intriguing. This was one of those books that I was sorry to finish and that, I have to admit, had me with a lump in my throat at the end.

"Angelmaker" is much more than a spy novel. It is a tale of struggle and loyalty; a story of family and righteousness; and a narrative of how a legacy of former years can visit havoc on the present day world. It also poses the questions, "Who is really in control?", "What are they really trying to do?" and "Do they have a clue what they're doing?"
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on 8 April 2012
With Angelmaker, his second novel, Nick Harkaway proves that he has a distinct 'voice' - both in the way he arranges words on the page and the ideas that his writing explores - and it's a voice I definitely want to hear more of. Like it's predecessor, Gone Away World, Angelmaker is a book that celebrates and refuses to simplify language, as seems so very modern and terribly dull.

Don't worry, you won't need a dictionary, but you will be utterly engaged in this dangerous and nostalgic version of London where the gloriously imagined old criminal underworld and horrors of modern government/policy collide spectacularly.

As with writers like Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, who seem familiar presences here, Nick presents an ultimately optimistic view of the nature of man, and in a literary world where this view seems increasingly rare, I am grateful for writers who give us complex characters like Joe Spork, who can face the darkest of our world without becoming it.

Not quite the swashbuckling tale of Gone Away World, where our hero is already a soldier who must learn what it is he is fighting, Angelmaker presents a quieter sort of hero, who must learn what it means to stand up and how it is that he must fight, his way, the way that only he can.
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