"'Destiny’ is the state of perfect mechanical causation in which everything is the consequence of everything else. If choice is an illusion, what’s life? Consciousness without volition."
Joe Spork has walked the straight and narrow his whole life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, working as a clockwork repairman. He's been trying to hide from the legacy left to him by his father, Matthew, who lived his life at the head of organized crime; Joe doesn't want to be his father's son. But when a friend brings in a strange mechanical book for Joe to repair, strangers start taking an interest in the horologist. And when that mechanical book triggers a hive of mechanical bees to take flight, someone frames Joe for terrorism, making him flee from the life he's lived to the life he tried to hide from.
Ever hear the expression "show, don't tell," with regards to writing? This book was fabulous, in that respect. Nick Harkaway doesn't shy away from flowery prose, large words, or long winded descriptions... and I loved every verbose sentence of it. He took a steampunk/fantasy story set in modern-day and and wrote it with the elegance one would expect to find in a storyline set in Victorian England. I could close my eyes and watch the story unfold in my mind's eye, and that was wonderful break from the modern mindset of "just get to the point already..." This was a story meant to be savored slowly, and you'll love it, if you're into that sort of thing.
Joe Spork, is our main character, but he's hardly the only one worth mentioning. His elderly client, Edie Banister and her blind dog Bastion are mysteriously connected to his story--Edie lived a colorful life as a secret agent, and the dog was a gift from her mad scientist lover, Frankie Fossoyeur. Frankie Fossoyeur, inventor of the machine to end all wars as commission by a blood thirsty dictator Shem Shem Tsien who is obsessed with becoming God. Speaking of bloodthirsty, there's also a fair amount of the deranged and dedicated, cops and cultists, who want to capture Joe and make him tell everthing he knows, even though he knows nothing... Which is what his lawyers, oversexxed Polly and criminally clever Mercer, tell him to say when confronted by agents of the law. And who could forget, Harriet Spork, Joe's mom: mobwife turned nun...
This plotline's got a little bit of everything. Mystery and humor, action and romance, espionage and torture; a serial killer here and an anarchist there...but beware sci-fi fans: though labelled steampunk, this is so light on science fiction I feel more comfortable calling it fantasy. It's an adventure and it's full of flawed characters...two things I desire most in a story right after superb spelling and grammar. And every flawed character, the good and the bad, is being lead to an epic battle for the universe, between old-timey gangsters, religious zealots, and automata minions.
This is one of those stories I enjoyed from the first sentence to the last, I hated having to put it down, couldn't wait to pick it back up. If you're like me at all, if you're the type of reader who wants to escape into a beautifully imagined adventure with a touch of magic and crazy characters galore(complete with strong females): this is the book to read.