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Nick Harkaway Fan Club

September 13, 2012

Recently I realized that I’ve been trying to get all my friends and acquaintances to join a Nick Harkaway Fan Club. Ever since I read The Gone-Away World and it increased my expectations for what fiction could be (one day I’m going to write about the wonderful moment when you find out the big secret of that novel, but not yet because I’m still trying to get more people to read it), I’ve been sending out my recommendation and sometimes a copy of the book.

So far, almost almost everyone who has read it has loved it. Eleanor, Walker, and Ron all loved it. Elizabeth, a SF reader, loved it, and so did her husband. My friend Phyllis, a fellow English major at Hendrix College, loved it. Mr. PQV and Jenny both loved it, when they got around to reading it.

Then Angelmaker came out, and I thought it was just as good, even perhaps a little more tightly plotted. More Americans seem to be reading it and recognizing how good it is (to judge from the number of reviews). But this is not enough adulation. If you haven’t yet been convinced by my enthusiasm, here are a few links to other blog reviews.

The Book Catapult on The Gone-Away World:  What would happen if our government was able to devise a weapon that would actually just make our enemies disappear? To literally cease to exist. This would seem to be a perfect form of warfare, right? No blood, no mess, no collateral damages. Not so much. In Harkaway’s world, the damages left behind by making things “go away” are far, far worse than the initial threats. And when your enemies manage to devise a similar weapon for use against you, the world ends up with more substantial gaps in its very existence than anyone anticipated. When the earth is erased, it seems that our imaginations cross over into reality – creating monstrous figments come to life to fill in the gaps. All of our worst fears are physically realized: war is a physical presence, sweeping across the landscape like a black cloud; hideous, half-human creatures roam the landscape; images torn from our very nightmares confront their makers.

In Order of Importance on Angelmaker:  And what do you call this thing anyway? It’s like Nick Harkaway shook a whole bunch of books and tropes and images from the back of his brain into a blender, hit the button, and walked away to make an Old Fashioned, or maybe check his email. There’s a good bit of steam punk in here. Some late Philip K. Dick with the idea of identity replication and transmission through data recording. Plenty of Jules Verne. Some Dickens London underworld business. And the idea of the world being destroyed by the truth couldn’t have happened without post-modernism. Parts of it read like what you’d expect from a penny dreadful; you know, Opium Khans, automatons, baby war elephants, and all that. Also, Ruskinites building trains and submarines.

The Book Lady’s Blog on Angelmaker:  The story sounds crazy–I mean, mechanical bees that can end the world?–but it all makes perfect sense within the logic of the world Harkaway has created. If that’s not the mark of excellent fiction, I don’t know what is. (And for the record, at least one character questions it: “Who makes mechanical bees, for God’s sake? Who creates a superweapon or a superwhatever-it-is and makes it so bloody whimsical?”)

Reader Dad on Angelmaker:  The characters are beautifully drawn, real people in a world that’s slightly off-kilter: the old woman who was, once upon a time, one of England’s deadliest agents; the fast-talking lawyer with a gift for the dramatic; his sister, with her outrageously sexy toes and her slightly skewed views on equal rights; the evil and cracked Shem Shem Tsien, who wants to become God, but who feels the need to surround himself with bug-zapping lights because of a piece of fiction he once read; the oddly-mismatched Titwhistle and Cummerbund, Angelmaker’s answer to Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar (“hilarious though they are to look upon they are less funny than Typhoid Mary and more serious than the whole of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs”). And holding everything together the easy-going Joe.

So what do we need in order to form a Nick Harkaway fan club?

1. Copies of the novels to lend out. I have those; let me know if you want to borrow one.

2. A secret handshake. This will be a feeble touch of fingers to palm, as anyone who has read the paper copies has little strength left after holding up one of these big books for as long as it takes to read it.

3. Eventually, perhaps, contributions to a list of questions to ask the author, who is generally a very obliging citizen of the internets. You will have to do your homework, though, and try not to submit any questions that he has already addressed. Read his blog, his non-fiction book (The Blind Giant), and his author interviews (here’s one to start with).

Anything else? Lapel buttons? An annual convention? Photos of participants putting their teeth on doorknobs?

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2012 6:27 am

    I’ve always thought Harkaway’s books were too “out there” for me. I can’t help but wonder if I’m smart enough for them.

    • September 14, 2012 7:38 am

      I think the cleverness is part of the fun, but then I like reading Jonathan Swift, too. It would be nice if his books were available on audio; I think they’d read well out loud.

  2. September 13, 2012 7:10 am

    I read mine on my Kindle. Perhaps that’s why I’m only an almost member.

    • September 14, 2012 7:38 am

      Perhaps. You are the entire reason for that “almost.”

  3. September 13, 2012 8:10 am

    Thanks for sharing – I haven’t read any of Harkaway’s books before, so I’ll be checking more into his works.

  4. September 13, 2012 8:15 am

    We need to add in the secret war cry of “NYAH!” You already know what a fan I am of his work — and he needs to write more, and more quickly!

  5. freshhell permalink
    September 13, 2012 9:38 am

    Eh, I couldn’t get very far into GAW so I probably won’t join this club.

    • September 14, 2012 7:40 am

      We would have you as a member, so you probably don’t want to join (to reverse Groucho Marx).

  6. September 13, 2012 11:45 am

    This really sounds good! I will check it out. Thanks!!

    BBAW: Time to read Feynman

  7. September 13, 2012 12:53 pm

    Never read any of Harkaway’s books. THANKS for the feature.

    Elizabeth
    Silver’s Reviews
    http://silversolara.blogspot.com/2012/09/book-blogger-appreciation-week-day-4.html

  8. September 13, 2012 1:28 pm

    Your enthusiasm for the author is contagious! I’m afraid I’ve never heard of him, but now you have me wanting to read his books.

  9. September 13, 2012 1:48 pm

    All right, all right, all right — it’s on the list!

  10. September 13, 2012 3:14 pm

    Harkaway has been on my radar for ages, but I’ve yet to actually pick one of his books up. You’ve convinced me. I’ll read one ASAP.

    • September 14, 2012 7:47 am

      Great! I think you will really like it–for one thing, you are equipped to like it because of all you’ve read before.

  11. florinda3rs permalink
    September 13, 2012 4:53 pm

    I’ve heard of Nick Harkaway. I’ve read the love for his books, and I’m intrigued. I haven’t actually read the books yet, but you’ve about sold me on making the attempt (although, like Kathy, I’m a little intimidated).

    • September 14, 2012 7:48 am

      They’re clever, but they’re not at all intimidating. A lot of the action is based on old pulp fiction, and the author’s background is in screenwriting.

  12. September 23, 2012 11:44 am

    I could have sworn I commented on this post already! But I guess not. As soon as Angelmaker comes out in paperback (October!) I am going to buy it and read it because i’ve seen so many good mentions. I love this sort of fiction.

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