This is the second book I ever read on a Kindle. (The first was Deathless, but this digression seemed more at home here.) A friend very kindly lent me one of hers when I was on a trip last week, so I didn't have to deal with the extra weight that comes with packing a book for every day I'd be gone. And I am very grateful for the loan, not least for the great array of books she had on the Kindle, and which I've had great fun perusing.
But the actual experience of reading on a
Kindle? Give me a book any day. (Except if I'm travelling. And, in this
case, I'll read more off it, because there are books on there I want to
read, and our local library is not great at SF/F. So, you know, I'm not
dogmatic about it.)
But I missed the materiality of books so keenly while I was using the Kindle. It seems right that Ulysses has a different physical presence than does a slim little book like The Nothing That Is.
My arm should be a little achy after I'm done a bout with it. It seems
fitting. And the font, and the type size, and the smell - the Kindle
flattens all that out. It makes what was once a varied experience into a
consistent one. It's not hard to read a book on the Kindle, but I
missed seeing the cover of the book, the weight of the book, the feel.
it drove me crazy that it was difficult or impossible to find the page
where the publication date was listed, which in one case led me to start
a series in the middle because I could not figure out which book came
first. It also makes it much more difficult to flip back a few pages to
check on something you didn't quite catch the first time.
experience isn't bad, but I came out of it both grateful for having had
it for travelling, and glad to pick up a real book again when I got
So, what does this have to do with Angelmaker,
other than that this was one of the first books I read on it? More than
you might think. One of the threads running through this book is
individual craftsmanship against mass production. The Ruskinite Order of
Monks, dedicated at one point to creating machines of beauty that were
literally unique, that were handcrafted, and made with love and care and
attention, have been perverted, and are now monstrous echoes of what
they once were.
This is a hard book to describe. It is
rollicking, it is tense. It slips back and forth in time. Some of the
book relates the adventures of the now almost-nonagenarian spy Edie,
back in World War II, when she was part of an elite group, and was
responsible for liberating a brilliant female scientist from the
clutches of the Opium Khan, who had employed her to make a doomsday
device. To protect the scientist, with whom she forms a very personal
connection, she has to fight the Opium Khan all through Europe, time and
In the present, Edie has set said doomsday device
running, with the best of intentions, and has used Joe Spork,
clockmaker, as her cat's-paw setting it in motion. Soon, little gold
bees are flying around the globe, awakening other gold bees, and the
governments of the world are fucking terrified. Joe is swept up in this,
taken into custody by a branch of the government not beholden to any
laws, which feels justified in taking any measures to do whatever they
bloody well like.
But Joe is not just a mild-mannered
clockmaker. Somewhere deep inside him sleeps the Joe who learned at the
feet of his stylish gangster father, Mathew, who waged a spree with
panache across Europe. Joe learned more than he knows, and with Polly, a
supervillain in her own right by his side, and Edie, and Edie's
absolutely wonderful blind dog Bastion by his side, he might just take
the fight to them.
I am be a sucker for fictional dogs and cats, when they're written well. I adore Bastion.
book is strange and funny and spooky and rollicking and serious. It
uses the modern security state as the tool of Joe's enemies, and the
ways in which government is perverted to serve the desires of whoever is
pulling the strings is truly frightening.
And I have a weak spot
for calls to arms, so when Joe calls on all the old criminals of London
to come together for one huge assault, one with some derring-do, a few
tears came to my eyes.
This book is crazy. It is all over the place. And yet it hangs together, better than I thought Harkaway's previous book The Gone Away World did. I enjoyed The Gone Away World even though I didn't think the story, in the end, quite jelled. This one did, and I loved it.
though I read it on the Kindle. And felt vaguely guilty, because this
book, of all books, deserves the physical presence that print could give