Here's the thing. I very rarely give a book an unadulterated rave review. As a Mainer, I was brought up to practice moderation. To say I liked a book is fine, even that I liked it a lot, but to say I loved it is a display of flamboyant emotion my fellow Mainers would look at askance. But there's no help for it; I did love this book.
Now the hard part. What's it about? Well, it's an old-fashioned tale of British Empire swashbuckling adventure (think The Man Who Would Be King, or King Solomon's Mines, for example), a science fiction technology fable, a family drama, a coming-of-age story, a jeremiad against contemporary finance-world fiddles and the modern Orwellian state that tortures its citizens to protect our freedoms, and also a tragedy, a comedy, a romance. Hmm, that's not very helpful in giving you a picture of the book, is it? What if I say it's about a supervillain known as the Opium Khan who, with his "Ruskinites," an army of black-clad man-machines, and the assistance of the cynical complicity of the modern security state, works tirelessly over decades to achieve the power of a god over all of humanity, all the while countered by ingenious men and women and their steampunkish submarines, trains, various other devices and a network of extremely quirky characters and one ancient, blind, bad-tempered and one-toothed pug? No, I thought not.
|Have fun storming the castle!|
All of the characters in this book are deftly drawn, the plot is always easy to follow despite its complexity, and Harkaway writes with a scintillating and abundant style that is just to the good side of florid. I'd say the book would make a crackerjack movie, except you'd miss the playful ingenuity and repleteness of Harkaway's prose.
Angelmaker was published in the U.S. by Knopf on March 20, 2012.
Note: I did not receive a free copy of this book. I bought the audiobook and may well go out and buy a copy of the hardcover; that's how sure I am that Harkaway is going to become a big name and that I'll want to savor this book again. As for the audiobook, I just want to say that Daniel Weyman is the best possible narrator of this material. He understands that this is a story that needs to be acted, with absolute abandon, and he throws himself into it with all the energy and dash it deserves.
A version of this review appears on the Amazon product page, under my Amazon username.