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Random House LLC
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Angelmaker Kindle Edition
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|Length: 498 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Beneath the frenetic action, "Angelmaker" is about Joe's coming into himself and coming to terms with his family's history. Even while maintaining a light and farcical tone, Joe's emotional life and growth are affecting and along with Harkaway's interest in philosophical questions give the book greater resonance than might be expected from the jacket blurbs and a plot summary. The central emotional journey is framed with appealing considerations of such heavyweight questions as the nature of free will, the knowability and implications of absolute truth. Not to mention considerations of faith and morality. Thankfully Harkaway doesn't overplay his hand and manages to integrate these considerations into the plot and character development with appealing breeziness.
The only significant missteps in the book are unfortunately centered on Joe's love interest, Polly. Oftern she is a woman to be reckoned with and her appeal palpable. At other times, however, she is reduced to an adolescent male fantasy figure. Her argument on why she and Joe should have sex is a brilliant piece of logic that, while funny, reads like something every teenage boy wishes had happened to him. At other points she fluctuates wildly between bracing competence and a caricature of a dumb moll. Really, it's just too much. Yes, female characters can like sex, but it makes her into a figure of fun instead of a real person that Joe, a fully realized and emotionally expansive figure, would come to love.
While it is a minor note, as with many novels by talented writers, the editors seem to have backed away from the last little bit of tightening that would have changed little, but made this an even more approachable and tightly crafted novel. I realize it's difficult to quash verbally inventive writing, but there were points where bit jokes were left in when they should have been cut and other points where a touch of extra clarification and emphasis would have tied together plot points in a way that could have helped the story pack an even harder punch.
Minor flaws aside, this is grand fun and I look forward to Harkaway's next outing and in the meantime, I'm planning to read his first book, "The Gone-Away World" though it's too bad he hasn't written more for me to delve into -- yet.
Then about two-thirds of the way through there's this long, brutal torture session, which really turned me off. After that, it became a simple revenge story with little cleverness or surprises. Just imagine any big action movie ending and you can skip the last third of the book.
Most of the characters were very one-dimensional - props for the main 2-3 characters. The good girlfriend, the evil bad guy who wants to destroy the world. He's bad because he's evil, you know. Oh sure there's some weak justification for it, but wanting to destroy the world is so cliche, so weak. A great nemesis can make a book but this did not have one.
I don't know if George R.R. Martin spoiled me, but every single thing in the book is relevant, is necessary, is brought back to be part of the revenge at the end. It's all so neat, so tidy. Nothing told in the book is tangential to the story or used simply for character development.
And most of all, the machine in this book has such immense potential for stories, and it was left completely ignored. Why think up a device like this only to go into the experience of it so vaguely, when you could literally generate thousands of interesting consequences. Show us why this is such a powerful thing, have it affect the main characters in a meaningful way. A week under its effects could be an mesmerizing story in its own right. Such a missed opportunity.
Despite those loose ends and the slow start, it was a very enjoyable read. I liked it more than his other book, Tigerman.
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