From the award-winning author of The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker—a novel at once heartfelt and thrilling about parenthood, friendship and secret identities, about heroes of both the super and the everyday kind.
“An irresistible delight, something like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand as played by James Bond.” —The Washington Post
Sergeant Lester Ferris is a good man in need of a rest. After a long career of being shot at, he's about to retire. The mildly larcenous, backwater island of Mancreu, a former British colony in legal limbo, belching toxic clouds of waste and facing imminent destruction by an international community afraid for their own safety, is the ideal place to serve out his time. There is an illicit Black Fleet lurking in the bay: spy stations, arms dealers, offshore hospitals, drug factories and torture centers. Lester's brief, however, is to sit tight and turn a blind eye, so he drinks tea and befriends a brilliant, Internet-addled street kid with a comic-book fixation. When Mancreu’s fragile society erupts in violence, Lester must be more than just an observer: he has no choice but to rediscover the man of action he once was, and find out what kind of hero the island—and the boy—will need.
All his tours of duty can't prepare British army Sgt. Lester Ferris, a veteran of the War in Afghanistan, for life on an island facing certain ecological destruction, in Harkaway's poignant morality tale, equally fueled by emotion and adrenaline. Though the fictional island of Mancreu, located somewhere in the Arabian sea, is no longer officially under the thumb of the British government the Brits ceded control to an international peacekeeping force Ferris is appointed brevet-consul, a largely ceremonial post that's supposedly a last stop for him before he can leave army life behind for good. Mancreu is anything but an island paradise. Long exposed to harsh mining involving the island's volcano, it's a ticking time bomb, with the residents waiting for the next in a string of toxic events, known as "Clouds." The sergeant's only real friend, and surrogate son, is a comic-book-loving, Internet-slang-spouting teenage boy he calls Robin (think Batman), who helps him navigate Mancreu's social and political intricacies. With a mishmash of countries all fighting for a piece of the island, either under the auspices of national pride or scientific experimentation, it's no surprise that Mancreu has a thriving black market, operating out of a flotilla of ships moored just outside the harbor. The murder of one of Ferris's acquaintances sets off a chain of increasingly violent events that coincide with an incoming Cloud, all of which threaten to destroy not only the bodies but the minds of Mancreu's inhabitants. Harkaway (Angelmaker) adroitly explores the lengths one man will go to save what he's come to love, even in the face of almost-certain failure.
What a great book!
If I were an author (dun’t look good for me, alas!), I would wait until everyone else was asleep and then I’d sneak onto iTunes to check for what readers had said about my book. How could you not? After such an act of creation, you’d want to watch nervously as your baby got onto the school bus for the first time… how would the world respond to the genius you created? Would it be appreciated on its own merits? Would it be loved?
So I’m going to assume that Nick Harkaway is as human as the rest of us and address my review directly to him:
I’m so sorry I didn’t write a GLOWING review for you the day your book came out. I read your other novels with such pleasure that when Tigerman appeared in my iPad, I discovered it was worth as much to me for purposes of anticipation as it was as a novel - I’d look at its little icon glowing on the screen and pat my iPad contentedly and think, “There it is - waiting for me. A treat. I’ll save it for just a bit longer before I start…”
So you were left without a review on iTunes for far too long. And that must have made you feel like you sent your darling off to the first day of school and he had to eat lunch at a large table in a busy lunch room all by himself, feeling awkward and lonely and upset.
And I LOVE your book, and will cherish it as I cherish the others! Your writing is effortless and visual and rhapsodic, your characters are flawed and warm and charming, and by God your plot is tight, exciting, and compelling. As expected I finished it in a day (the “work be damned!” attitude that required will have a price to pay tomorrow… but we see this. It happens.) and now I have no lovely novel waiting for me in my iPad.
Creation is hard, and it doesn’t get any easier for knowing there are fans restlessly waiting the next little kindergartener you want to put on the bus… I don’t mean to add to the pressure. Take your time; make the next book just as lyric and wonderful. But HURRY UP. I am already hungry for more!
An ambitious project with some flaws in motivation and character development. One identify so with the main character "the sergeant" but less so with others and it is difficult to emphasize with peripheral characters in the book. The plot stretches credulity to a breaking point that in my opinion cannot be sustained. A quick read and a diversion but don't look for a classic here.
Good but not Great
I think Nick is a truly amazing, imaginative, beyond creative writer who is able to develop interesting worlds & conflict that always take a bit of time to wrap your mind around. Gone-Away-World turned my head inside-out with WOW and Angel Maker had so many pieces with layers that ultimately & brilliantly climaxed with massive force & purpose.
I liked Tigerman and it was a good read, but it seemed to leave me wanting more. Having just finished reading it this instant as I write this, I am I guess still trying to discern what exactly I felt was missing...but I had the same feeling throughout the book. I kept wanted more detail or additional time/focus dedicated to aspects of the story. Maybe this was Nick's angle with this one? That it moved as fast as Tigerman, not always fully explained, and past it before you could over think anything. Maybe similar to how Lester was trying to understand & accept Tigerman? Or maybe I just always want more from Nick's story...or maybe I will just read it again...and would without a doubt read his next and next...
- Peter B.