Anglemaker is about the clockwork of fates and destinies that interconnect us all, asking the question “Is our collective internal bearings true? And if not, what were to happen if someone went about ‘fixing’ that…?” More chillingly, it dares, “…And what would happen if that someone got it horribly, terribly wrong in the attempt?”
Ages, like gears, mesh together behind the backdrop of a dreary, very mundane contemporary London where the unfortunately named Joe Spork is living in the twin shadows of his father and grandfather. Grand-dad Daniel was a master-class clockwork artisan and daddy-dearest Mathew was a master-class gangster in the 50s. Overwhelmed by their legacies, Joe has grown into a disappointed and disappointing shade of a man, drifting without many options, stuck between gears. When the ancient Edie Banister tests Joe’s ability to fix ever-stranger bits of clock-driven machinery, it brings both of them to the attention of vast forces seeking to find and control the “Angelmaker,” a nearly mythical device which could either push mankind into a hopeful nirvana or destroy the whole human race.
Anglemaker as a book dives head-first into several titanic ideas. Flipping the normal “Old technology meets new influence” paradigm of many fictions, Angelmaker brings the past unexpectedly erupting into a future (our present) ill-equipped to deal with mad science and illuminati-style conspiracies and aging British super-spies. Will this blow the mind of many people overly-engrossed in the “what makes something steampunk” debate? Most definitely! More importantly, no matter what school of [adjective]-punk you subscribe to, is this a highly entertaining read. I had to go back over more than one chapter just for the sake of the near poetic text. The action sequences were broken-glass sharp, and the romances were just as heartbreakingly painful at times. While I can finish most books of this length in a few dedicated hours, Angelmaker took me a full week to work through like a box of treats you don’t want to consume at once, or too soon. I found myself reading passages out loud not just for the fun of watching my other half’s reactions to the great shenanigans, but also to soak in the luxurious language of this text.
There are broad and gracious nods at much of Steampunk’s early root materials, in particular with notes of Jeter’s Infernal Devices and Morlock Nights in the mix, but Anglemaker retains a robust and original army of characters endlessly whirling about each other like the teeth on wildly flailing cogs; some will mesh and blend while others will painfully clash, showering down sparks whenever they meet. Joe Spork is on his hero’s journey, trying to plumb the depths of his own family’s hidden history in time to avoid global calamity, but he is not the sole point of view here; few things can prepare you for the counter point of Edie Banister’s career as a globe-trotting spy for the Edwardian throne and their secretive cabal of super-makers. Decked out Steam-trains, ultra-submarines, and dangerous liaisons in strange countries all figure prominently for Edie, who brings the depth and perspective to what could be mankind’s greatest peril. When she hands the keys of this legacy to Joe, all hell literally breaks loose, and I think you are going to enjoy every minute of it.
Nick Harkaway brings a fully realized, alternate, hidden history to the page and dares you to imagine a time when modern men are forced to pay heed to the forgotten springs and switches laying buried in the artifacts that our world is built on and in the histories that we build our lives upon.
Angelmaker will be released March 20, 2012 and you should immediately add this to your growing steampunk library.
Professor Upsidasium is a contributor to Steampunk Chronicle. He uses the Visuatronic Audiographic Steampunk Archive to capture images and sounds of events he has been to and individuals he has had the pleasure of speaking with. You can follow his ramblings on Twitter or explore the current iteration of the archives on YouTube.