nationality: UK (Cornish)
Joe Spork fixes clocks. He has turned his back on his father’s legacy as one of London’s flashiest and most powerful gangsters and aims to live a quiet life. Edie Banister retired long ago from her career as a British secret agent. She spends her days with a cantankerous old pug for company. That is, until Joe repairs a particularly unusual clockwork mechanism, inadvertently triggering a 1950s doomsday machine. His once-quiet life is suddenly overrun by mad monks who worship John Ruskin, psychopathic serial killers, mad geniuses and dastardly villains. On the upside, he catches the eye of bright and brassy Polly, a woman with enough smarts to get anyone out of a sticky situation. In order to save the world and defeat the nefarious forces threatening it, Joe must help Edie complete a mission she abandoned years ago, and he must summon the courage to pick up his father’s old gun and join the fight.
I finished this and immediately wished I hadn't. I wanted back in that world. Not that it wasn't a satisfying ending-rather that it could've been twice as long and I would have been just as happy (even though it was over 550pgs!). Safe to say, I love it.
I guess, it isn't much of a surprise. There were traces of what I love in Mieville's work without any of the over your head, being really clever, logistics and realities. Instead what you get is a really accessible blend of styles that cohere into a very quickly moving brilliance. It gets really, really grim at times-Sheamus and Shen Shen are truly chilling and terrifying villians and there's those points where everything just seems impossible to resolve but then there's so many absurdist elements liberally sprinkled throughout that you end up chuckling. Then there was the fact that you didn't need to worry about getting emotionally invested in a character only to have them disappear. Harkaway resolves every character he introduces. Yes, some of them die but some pop in and out again delightfully.
Harkaway manages to pack so many lessons into an action packed plot. They were lessons I could really get behind (and there's a definite reason I call them lessons). There's overall the value of handmade and unique items and individuals. He has you asking hard questions about genius and truth-can we be trusted?-the strictures of things and whether religion has benefits to us or the things around us. There are so many ways he explores the ideas of identity. Are we our predecessors? How much can we be known by another...and how much should we be? He points out how there are so many ways to subvert and redefine situations-there's a 'lawyer' called Mercer who is an absolutely brilliant character and the main character Joe has the most incredible rebirth I've read.
This is on my to buy and keep forever list. I look forward to reading more by Harkaway because on the strength of this book, I will be.