Tag: Nick Harkaway

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

Posted August 7, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Thriller / 0 Comments

Tigerman by Nick HarkawayTitle: Tigerman (Goodreads)
Author: Nick Harkaway
Published: William Heinemann, 2014
Pages: 372
Genres: Literary Fiction, Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Edelweiss

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Nick Harkaway is fast becoming a favourite author of mine; Angelmaker was his take on the espionage novel while The Gone-Away World (I hate to admit this but still haven’t read this one) saw him take on the post-apocalyptic. His third novel Tigerman is his take on the superhero genre. While you might be surprised to see me speaking so highly on genre fiction, it is Harkaway’s approach that needs to be admired. His novels have a real focus on the genre but still manage to blend a high amount of literary fiction into the book and this is done so masterfully that you can read it without looking at the themes if you are so inclined (I don’t know why).

Lester Ferris is a sergeant in the British Army, serving in Afghanistan. That was until he was reassigned to the island of Mancreu, where he can serve out his remaining time before retirement without burning out. Mancreu is a former British colony on the verge of destruction. The island is described as the most toxic place on the planet; this is all thanks to the years of pollution and chemical dumping. The United Nations and the World Health Organisation has sent representatives to turn Mancreu into an “Interventional Sacrifice Zone”, which basically means everyone leaves so we can obliterate the island.

This island gives the novel an interesting background; on one hand it is home to a range of ethnicities, from Arabs, Africans, Asians and of course Europeans. Since this is a former British colony you can look at this novel through the lens of post-colonialism and get some great value out of it. Also, as the island is scheduled for destruction there is  a typical side effect; the lack of laws being enforced has led to a hotbed of unwanted criminals. Using the island to support their smuggling operations, a ring of illicit ships known as ‘the black fleet’ lurk in the bay.

Now you have a protagonist in Lester Ferris who is on the verge of burning out. He is nearly forty and has no family to speak of, his life seems to be the army and the horrors he would have seen serving in Afghanistan may have ruined him. His job is to try and keep the peace without stirring anything up; his position as a sergeant in the British Army on this former colony is purely decorative and he has been sent there to keep him out of the way.

On the island, he friends a street smart, comic obsessed kid which sparks a pseudo-paternal instinct within him. He doesn’t know how to look after a kid but the desire is there. He turns to a masked hero known as Tigerman in the effort to make the island a little better without causing a diplomatic incident. The concepts of being a vigilante and paternal instincts play a big part of Tigerman.

I find that Nick Harkaway often uses a great deal of wit, ambition and irony within his novels and I find Tigerman to be a much more mature offering. Harkaway has already proved his skills in the world of genre fiction but now his is flexing some serious literary muscle. Tigerman is proof that he should be taken seriously as a literary author for this emotionally touching and intellectually satisfying novel. For a fan of literary theories there is plenty to explore in Tigerman; I personally would put on my feminist, post-colonial or psycho-analytical hat if I was to approach this novel as a literary theorist, but I can see many different ways to go about analysing this novel. That is before considering all the intertextuality that runs wild within the novel.

This may be the fanboy within me speaking but I was yet again very impressed with Tigerman. I still hold a special place in my heart for Angelmaker and I think that will always remain my favourite but I have to wonder why I have not read The Gone-Away World yet. I have The Gone-Away World on my shelf and will make sure that I visit it in the not too distant future. What can I say, I’m impressed with Nick Harkaway and I love his unique and well balanced blend of wonderfully energetic genre fiction and smart, witty literary fiction.


Lexicon by Max Barry

Posted August 12, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Lexicon by Max BarryTitle: Lexicon (Goodreads)
Author: Max Barry
Narrator: Heather Corrigan, Zach Appelman
Published: Hachette, 2013
Pages: 384
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

They are an ancient secret society known only as the Poets; words are their weapons and the art of manipulation is their game. When one young woman breaks the rules for love, things start to unravel. Street-wise runaway Emily Ruff finds herself as a new recruit, training in a facility disguised as an exclusive school outside of Arlington, Virginia. She learns to use language to manipulate minds. While an innocent man is ambushed in an airport bathroom; they claim he is the key to winning a secret war that rages on. Lexicon is a fast paced thriller that explores the power of language and coercion.

I’ve been meaning to read a Max Barry novel for a while now; they all seem to be corporate or in the case of Jennifer Government marketing satires but never got around to trying them. Then Lexicon was released and it seems to tick a few of my boxes to make me sit up and take notice of it. While this has been getting a bit of buzz in America (well done fellow Australian, Max Barry) I just knew I had to read this one. I wasn’t trying to jump on the bandwagon it just seemed like my type of book and I had an opportunity to read it, so I took it.

While this is obviously a fast paced thriller (as I think most of Barry’s books) I can see where the idea a satire comes into play with his works. In Lexicon we look at modern ideas on privacy, identity and information and using an old idea that language is power we can see how Max Barry is toying with the idea that all those things we hold sacred can be manipulated and lost.  This is where the corporate satire comes into play; even in Lexicon, privacy, identity and data-collection are all important and need to be protected and Barry plays with the readers fears to suck them into his thrilling world.

Not only is this a thrilling and addictive read, I really enjoy the way the two different stories are weaved together. You get the story of Emily as she discovers this secret society and learns to coerce through the power of language and then you get the other plot thread and discover what happened in Broken Hill. I love the way this was done and it’s nothing new but it worked really well for a book like this one.

The problem with reviewing a book like Lexicon is there are so many things I want to say about the book but I think anything I do say will possibly be a spoiler. Max Barry really knows how to mix satire into a thriller and produce an altogether addictive read. I hate to do this normally but in an effort to give people an idea what this novel is like; Rebecca Schinsky (from Bookriot) says this about the Lexicon;

“Imagine X-Men plus The Magicians with a side of Nick Harkaway”

Which is a good way to describe the book; the X-Men idea really works as a way to describe the training facility disguised as an exclusive school that Emily is training at. I’ve not read The Magicians but it’s been on my TBR for a while but I tend to avoid fantasy that but I love the Nick Harkaway shout out. Angelmaker was my favourite book of 2012, it is also an addictive thriller with some literary merit and I think this is definitely the case with Lexicon. I know this seems like a glowing review, I did really enjoy it and highly recommend it but it does have flaws but honestly I didn’t care, I was immersed and wanted to know what happens next.


My Top Five Reads of 2012

Posted December 27, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top 5 / 0 Comments

top-5I’ve already done a post about 2012 but I wanted to do another. The typical top five post of the best books you’ve read in 2012 but because I split my books into released in 2012 and all others, I think I need two top five lists here. So here are my top reads for the year;

Top Five Reads Released in 2012

5. Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

4. Dare Me by Megan Abbott

3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

2. The Fault in our Stars by John Green

1. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Honourable mentions need to be made to Colour of Milk, The Yellow Birds, The Cocktail WaitressTigers in Red Weather, The Dinner and The Age of Miracles.

Top Five Reads in 2012

5. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

4. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

3. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

With honourable mentions to When Gravity Fails, The Little Prince, Factotum, He Died With His Eyes Open, The Devil All the Time, The Master and Magarita and Ethan Frome.

Now it’s your turn to let me know of your favourite books, the new releases and the older books. It doesn’t matter; just what you discovered and loved.


Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Posted July 14, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Thriller / 0 Comments

Angelmaker by Nick HarkawayTitle: Angelmaker (Goodreads)
Author: Nick Harkaway
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2012
Pages: 482
Genres: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Thriller
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Joe Spork is the son of an infamous gangster “Tommy Gun” Spork, trying to live a quiet life fixing antique clocks. His plans were uprooted when he finds an unusual clockwork mechanism. Turns out that device is a doomsday machine and Joe has triggered it. Now Joe Spork has to face the wrath of both the British government and the diabolical villain Shem Shem Tsien. Angelmaker is an adventure unlike anything I’ve read before, featuring a mystery involving Joe Spork and his quest to stop the evil villain and his doomsday device.

Angelmaker blends elements of Steampunk with some literary writing into the story; while reading this book I kept thinking how much this book reminds me of an old Victorian novel, with the prose and style. The back drop to this story is the criminal underbelly of London which is packed with atmospheric charm. All this is mixed with an action adventure that would remind you of a James Bond plot. Never have I read a book that blends so many genre elements so masterfully to make my pick for Best Novel of 2012 (so far).

I’ve heard this book being called a Charles Dickensian romp and while I’ve not read enough Dickens to accurately agree with this statement, I do feel that the writing does resemble the Victorian era nicely. I think this is what makes the Steampunk elements of this book feel more authentic. I know a lot of people can argue this book isn’t really true Steampunk but when I think of this genre, I think of Victorian alternative history and this book does fall under that style.

Angelmaker is either a literary Steampunk novel or a Cold War-style espionage adventure, either way this is definitely a book worth trying. I had so much fun reading this story; it pleased the genre and literary reader inside of me. I hope to find more books like this that would please both types of readers, so if you have any recommendations I would love to hear about them in the comments below.


What Books Have Been Trending – April-June 2012

Posted June 25, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book Trends / 0 Comments

Back in March I did a post where I talked about what books I’ve noticed were trending for the first three months of 2012. I loved doing this post and thought it was really interesting looking at what was popular and what was been talked about. There is no real science to the books I’ve picked for this post, I looked at Goodreads and Twitter and book blogs and just picked the books that seemed to be mentioned. Sure there are probably other books that were trending but the post was just an interesting way to reflect on what was popular. Since this post I’ve had been thinking about trending books more and more and have been keeping an eye on what seems popular so I thought maybe I could do something similar again. In fact maybe I can do this every quarter as a way to look at what’s been happening in book trends. I’d like to have a better system and I hope with practice and help maybe these trending posts will become more accurate and maybe more frequent.

In the last post I tried to predict a book that would be trend in the next few months; my pick was Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway.   While it seemed to do really well, unfortunately the book was outshined by the ever annoying popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. So let’s look at what I’ve noticed trending for the past three months (minus Fifty Shades) and for the sake of not flooding the post with YA novels I will only pick one or two of the most popular Young Adult book for each month (YA book bloggers might want to focus on these books, I would rather have more of an overview from all genres).

April

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a mostly true memoir of one of the most known bloggers of our time; Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess. Her blog averages close to half a million page views a month; now that is the kind of readership I can only dream of.

 

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa looks like it has every key ingredients to make this book a popular YA novel; Vampires, Paranormal Romance and a dystopian world, so it was no surprise this book trended from the very start of publication. The Immortal Rules is a fantastical is the story of Allison who has to face the difficult choice; to die or become one of the monsters (vampire).

The Selection by Kiera Cass is another dystopian young adult romance, but this one seems to be written to be more like a fairy tale. Maybe this book would be more suited as a gateway between YA romance and chick lit, but I’ve not read it so couldn’t tell you. The Selection is about a woman named American hoping to win the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

May

Book twelve of the ever popular Southern Vampire Mysteries (or should I call it the Sookie Stackhouse series or maybe True Blood), Deadlocked was always going to trend. This time there is trouble and bad timing for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially when the body is of a woman whose blood he just drank.

 

Insurgent by Veronica Roth is book two in the popular dystopian YA; Divergant series. Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

 

Book five in The Mortal Instruments series, City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clair is another paranormal romance YA novel, this one features vampires, angels and demons. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg was released back in February but it wasn’t till May that I seemed to see this Non-Fiction novel being mentioned. This might have something to do with the #fridayreads giveaway of this book. In this book, Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed.

June

Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel is back with the next book in the Wolf Hall series; Bring Up the Bodies. This book continues the Tudor history, but this time focusing mainly on the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. Read my reveiw of Wolf Hall here.

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn seems to be the first mystery/thriller to trend since last year’s Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. Amy’s disappearance leads to a gripping and chilling book of love, hate and revenge. I’m currently enjoying this book at the moment.

 

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead is the second book in the Bloodlines series; which is a spinoff of her popular Vampire Academy series. This is another vampire, paranormal YA novel that always seems to be popular and dominate the book trends.

 

Nick Harkaway does make it into the book trends but not with the expected Angelmaker but with is non-fiction book The Blind Giant. The digital age;an age of isolation, warped communication, disintegrating community. Where unfiltered and unregulated information pours relentlessly into our lives, destroying what it means to be human; or an age of marvels.

I did try to cover both fiction and non-fiction book as well as adult and young adult books. I hope I didn’t flood this post with too many YA novels. While I’ve not read any of these books there is a few that look interesting and I’m looking forward to checking out. Like the last post, I feel I should try and predict a book that will trend next quarter (not a YA novel, as they are a little easier to predict. So my pick for next quarter is The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. This Post-Apocalyptic novel follows the story of Hig a pilot that has survived the flu that killed everyone he knows and loves. I’m expecting it to be a book of love, loss, risk, rediscovery and battling against the odds. I would love to know what other thing of the books that have trended, which books did I miss and what should we keep an eye out in the next three months.


ArmchairBEA 2012: Best of 2012

Posted June 5, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 0 Comments

As I try to explore books both old and new, a best of 2012 list is difficult. Do I do a list of the best books released in 2012 or just pick from the books that I’ve read in 2012? I took some time to think about what I wanted to do and I decided to would be best to give my top five books I would recommend to read based on the books I’ve read this year. So here they are;

5. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

I picked this book because there are so many great YA novels out there but it’s nice to read a book with a protagonist full of angst not only having to deal with her teenage years but also having to deal with love and lost.

4. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

For all book lovers out there, this is just a fun read. Some great and interesting things have been said in a book store but my favourite from this book would be; “Do you have this children’s book I’ve heard about? It’s supposed to be very good. It’s called Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.”

3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I wanted to pick a classic piece of literature but it’s hard to pick something that you can recommend to everyone.  But A Wrinkle in Time is probably a book that everyone should at least read and I think most people would enjoy.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I do hate that I’ve got two YA novels in this list but when it comes to recommendations they are probably the easiest to recommend because they are a gateway read into the world of finer literature. John Green is a brilliant writer and this book is a touching; it’s hard not to have it as a recommendation.

1. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

My favourite book of the year (so far). Combining a plot made for a Bond movie with a writing style that has been compared to Charles Dickens; I think this is an exciting Victorian style adventure well worth reading.

While there are other books I thought were better than some of these books, including Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes, When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger, Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky they really aren’t books you can recommend to everyone for many reasons.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


ArmchairBEA 2012: Introduction

Posted June 4, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 0 Comments

Most book bloggers or book lovers in America would know about the BEA that will be happening over the next week. BEA is the Book Expo of America, held in New York, and a Book Blogger Convention is run alongside it as a way to get book bloggers to meet as well. While us poor Australian book bloggers don’t have this kind of opportunity we can still participate with Armchair BEA. This is a virtual conference for people that can’t make it to BEA. Over the next few days I will be joining in with this event and their daily blog post topic suggestions.

  • Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Michael, I’m a new bibliophile and new to book blogging; but not new to blogging. In 2009 I started reading and I’ve never stopped, I started my cultural blog as a way to blog about topics that interest me and what I’ve learned about those topics. I generally blog about Art, Culture, Literature and Philosophy over at Knowledge Lost. I started Literary Exploration as a way to share everything I want to share about books without flooding my other blog.

  • What are you currently reading, or what is your favourite book you have read so far in 2012?

Currently I’m reading All That I Am by Anna Funder, Railsea by China Miéville and Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer which is a bit of a cross section of genres; Literary Fiction, YA and Romance. The best book I’ve read in 2012 would have to be Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway; it was just a thrilling read and a nice example of Genre and Literary styles working well together to make a book that is the best of both worlds.

  • Where do you see your blog in five years?

In five years I’m hoping to still be blogging about books. I hope the readership continues to grow and I want to continue producing great and fresh content. I’m enjoying the momentum I’ve currently got for this blog and I hope I will still have it in five years. Also I hope to have a better theme.

  • Which is your favourite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

My favourite post would have to be my Confessions of a Reader post, in which I reveal all my bookish sins to the world. I think it was a great idea for a post and hope everyone reads it.

  • Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?

I think my tastes will continue to evolve. I try to explore all types of genres and literary styles (as the blog name suggests) and I hope to continue to do so. I have noticed I’ve been picking up books that I would have never considered reading and have been trying to read new release books as well. I like the idea of exploring old and new books and I hope my readers enjoy it also.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots

Top 5 Page Turners

Posted May 29, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top 5 / 0 Comments

I just did a post which answered the question ‘Have you read a book that has insisted you keep turning over the page?’ and I thought it would be nice to add a Top 5 post to accompany this post with my favourite page turners. So here they are (in no particular order)

  • Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan – This was the most recent page turner that I’ve read. I was lucky enough to get this book as an ARC and I was so excited about reading this book because I considered The Last Werewolf as one of my favourites of 2011.
  • Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway – This is easily my favourite book of 2012 so far. This book may feel much like a plot for a Bond movie, but the writing feels more like Charles Dickens wrote it. The Victorian writing style mixed with the existing adventure makes this book well worth a mention.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – If you are a nerd like me that grew up in the 1980’s, you will know why this book has made this list. The novel is a nostalgic nerdfest jammed packed with 80’s pop culture references.
  • Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – The book is dark and chilling; as a reader I want things to be dark and disturbing, but this even left me feeling uneasy at times. It was this darkness and the desire to know what will happen that made this book so great.
  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – I would recommend this book to everyone and I get disappointed when people don’t like this book as much as I do. This book has something for everyone in this novel and, for a bibliophile like me, the extra bonus of being about books.

Monthly Review – April 2012

Posted April 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

April has been a great month, not only with the amount of reading that I’ve been able to do but also with the celebration of, firstly, my wife’s birthday and then my sister-in-law’s. Also during the month I was able to take a mini vacation from work, a great chance to recharge and enjoy some reading. In terms of reading, I managed to read more books than I imagined, including some great recent releases, a chilling classic and unfortunately a high amount of below average novels.

Surprisingly, I read a few Magic Realism books with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and the massive 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; while this genre is weird and not really my style, it was good to experience some the genre first hand. I also read a few novels that have recently been adapted into movies in preparation for their releases; The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Overall this month has been a great month of reading for me, knocking out twelve different books.

Highlights for this month included the steampunkish action adventure novel Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway; imagine if Charles Dickens wrote a good James Bondish novel and that is what you’ll find in this book.  Also the dark disturbing story of a woman suffering the effects and after effects of a very unhealthy relationship in Elizabeth Haynes’ brilliant debut novel Into the Darkest Corner. As well as the Henry James classic, a gothic horror masterpiece; The Turn of the Screw.

April’s Books


My Search for Good Steampunk Literature

Posted April 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 7 Comments

Steampunk and literature is an odd combination and I’ve often found it hard to find decent examples of this genre. It has gotten to the point where it is easier to look for the genre Alternate History instead of trying to find good Steampunk that isn’t the generic mass produced Young Adult novels. I’m not saying all Steampunk or YA novels are mass produced rubbish but when I look at the most popular Steampunk list on Goodreads I find the top ten are pretty much 4 different YA book series;

  • Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
  • Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest
  • The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare

I’ve not read many books from these series but I tend to think of those books are either Paranormal Fiction or Fantasy with very small elements of Steampunk. I know this genre is hard to categorise because it often features elements of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror, and paranormal but from a literary point of view it’s hard to find to find exceptional novels in this genre. Often this genre is generalised as Victorian alternative history featuring anachronistic technology, or futuristic innovations.

So if we leave out the obvious influences, such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and even Mary Shelley are there any Steampunk novels that a wannabe literary snob like me would consider worthy? I can only think of two.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling

Often considered one of the first Steampunk novels this had pretty much everything  I want in a Steampunk novel; the Victorian/Sci-Fi mix worked really well and it was nice to read a book with one of my heroes, Lord Byron, in it. The book follows a world changing with the invention of a mechanical and analytical computer. The book focuses not only on the technological boost but also the social change that come with it. Although at times it did drag on a little, this is definitely a recommended read for someone interested in getting a feel for the Steampunk genre.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Having recently mentioning this book in my trending books post, I thought Imight read this book before everyone else does. I’m glad I did. I hope this book gets read by many people; it has so much to offer. Angelmaker is a Steampunk adventure unlike anything I’ve read before, featuring a mystery involving Joe Spork the son of a gangster, a spy and his quest to stop the evil villain Shem Shem Tsien and his doomsday device. While this book  may feel more like a plot for a Bond movie the writing is what makes this book so great; while many people compare the style to Charles Dickens, I think that it was the Victorian writing style that made this book such a standout.

I’m interested in the Steampunk genre, so I would love to know what people think about it and what they would recommend to others. I will continue my search from great books,

even in the Steampunk genre and I hope to never rule out a popular YA books as good literature.