Angelmaker (2012) is Nick Harkaway’s second book, after his exuberant, clever, digressive and exhausting debut The Gone-Away World. It shares the same qualities with that wild and free-wheeling tale, with relentlessly clever dialogue, quirky and in-depth characters, an intricate but playful doomsday plot, more flashbacks than most readers can handle, and chock-a-block with clever and ironic observations of the weirdly-unique world he has created, and by extension our own less colorful one.
The story skips back and forth in time just like its predecessor, to a degree some readers will get irritated by, as we learn a great deal about the back stories of the main characters but very little of the forward momentum you’d expect from a “political thriller.”
Harkaway is in love with language and cleverness, and this time sets his sights on old-school English gangsters, WWII spy-games, secret agents, doomsday devices, evil arch-villains, dramatic fight scenes, and another mild-mannered protagonist, this time a quiet clock repairman who sets in motion a string of bizarre and potentially world-ending events. Many secretive and sinister characters come out of the woodwork and the whole thing is a bit overwhelming, though Angelmaker is slightly more tightly-plotted than The Gone-Away World, but not by much.
I found both this book and its predecessor to be sufficiently complex that it was difficult to follow the plot or lighting-paced dialogue, filled with anecdotes and carefully-crafted quips. It is probably much better suited to a proper printed page reading experience, absorbing all the various flavors that the cook has poured into his high-brow fusion of multiple genres. The narrator Daniel Weyman does an excellent job of capturing the many larger-than-life characters, including all the different accents, and I find that British accents are inherently charming for this type of humor, especially as I now recognize many locations that are mentioned.
Still, Nick Harkaway’s works are not to be shoveled down like a burger and milkshake, but rather, need to be savored like a multi-course French meal.