The Gone-Away World

The Gone-Away World

by Nick Harkaway


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307389077
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/11/2009
Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 287,604
Product dimensions: 5.24(w) x 8.04(h) x 1.02(d)

About the Author

Nick Harkaway is the author of Tigerman and Angelmaker, and a nonfiction work about digital culture, The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World. He is also a regular blogger for The Bookseller’s FutureBook website. He lives in London with his wife, a human rights lawyer, and their two children. 

Read an Excerpt

The Gone-Away World

The lights went out in the Nameless Bar just after nine. I was bent over the pool table with one hand in the bald patch behind the D, which Flynn the Barman claimed was beer, but which was the same size and shape as Mrs. Flynn the Barman's arse: nigh on a yard in the beam and formed like the cross-section of a cooking apple. The fluorescent over the table blinked out, then came back, and the glass-fronted fridge gave a low, lurching hum. The wiring buzzed—and then it was dark. A faint sheen of static danced on the TV on its shelf, and the green exit lamp sputtered by the door.

I dropped my weight into the imprint of Mrs. Flynn the Barman's hams and played the shot anyway. The white ball whispered across the felt, came off two cushions, and clipped the eight cleanly into a side pocket. Doff, doff, tchk . . . glonk. It was perfect. On the other hand, I'd been aiming for the six. I'd given the game to Jim Hepsobah, and any time now when the power came back and everything was normal in the Nameless Bar, I'd pass the cue to my hero pal Gonzo, and Jim would beat him too.

Any time now.

Except that the lights stayed out, and the hollow glimmer of the TV set faded away. There was a small, quiet moment, the kind you just have time to notice, which makes you feel sad for no good reason. Then Flynn went out back, swearing like billy-o—and if your man Billy-O ever met Flynn, if ever there was a cuss-off, a high noon kinduva thing with foul language, I know where my money'd be.

Flynn hooked up the generator, which God help us was pig-powered. There was the sound of four large, foul-smelling desert swine being yoked to a capstan, a noise pretty much like a minor cavalry war, and then Flynn let loose some of his most abominable profanity at the nearest porker. It looked as if it wanted to vomit and bolted. The others perforce followed it in a slow but steady progression about the capstan, and then pig number one came back around, saw Flynn ready with another dose and tried to stop. Lashed to the crosspiece and bundled along by its three fellows, it found it couldn't, so it gathered its flabcovered self and charged past him at piggy top speed, and the whole cycle accelerated until, with a malodorous, oinking crunch, the generator kicked in, and the television lit up with the bad news.

Or rather, it didn't light up. The picture was so dim that it seemed the set was broken. Then there were fireworks and cries of alarm and fear, very quiet but getting louder, and we realised Sally Culpepper was just now turning on the sound. The image shook and veered, and urgent men went past shouting get back, get clear, and ohshitlookatthatfuckerjesus, which they didn't even bother to bleep. In the middle distance, it looked as if maybe a figure was rolling on the ground. Something had gone absolutely, horribly awry in the world, and naturally some arsehole was present with a camera making himself 10k an hour hazard pay when he could have been rolling up his arsehole sleeves and saving a life or two. I knew a guy in the Go Away War who did just that, dumped the network's prized Digi VII in a latrine trench and hauled six civilians and a sergeant from a burning medical truck. Got the Queen's Honour back home and a P45 from his boss. He's in an institution now, is Micah Monroe, and every day two guys from the Veterans' Hospital come by and take him for a walk and make sure the medal's polished on its little stand by his bed. They're sweet old geezers, Harry and Hoyle, and they've got medals of their own and they figure it's the least they can do for a man who lost his mind to giving a damn. Harry's kid was in the medical truck, you see. One of the ones Micah couldn't reach.

We stared at the screen and tried to make sense of what was on it. It looked, for a moment, as if the Jorgmund Pipe was on fire—but that was like saying the sky was falling. The Pipe was the most solidly constructed, triple-redundant, safety-first, one-of-a-kind necessary object in the world. We built it fast and dirty, because there was no other way, the gone-away world and then after that we made it indestructible. The plans were drawn up by the best, then checked and re-checked by the very best, and then the checkers themselves were scrutinised, analysed and vetted for any sign of fifth columnism or martyr tendencies, or even a serious and hitherto undetected case of just-plain-stupid, and then the contractors went to work under a scheme which emphasised thoroughness and adherence to spec over swift completion, and which imposed penalties so dire upon speculators and profiteers that it would actually be safer just to throw yourself from a high place, and finally the quantity surveyors and catastrophe experts went to town on it with hammers and saws, lightning generators and torsion engines, and declared it sound. Everyone in the Livable Zone was united in the desire to maintain and safeguard it. There was absolutely no chance that it could imaginably, conceivably, possibly be on fire.

It was on fire in a big way. The Pipe was burning painful white, magnesium, corpse-belly, nauseating white, and beside it there were buildings and fences, which meant this wasn't just the Pipe, but something even more important: a pumping station or a refinery. The whole place was wrapped in hot, shining smoke, and deep in the heart of the furnace there was stuff going on the human eye didn't know what to do with, weird, bad-news stuff which came with its own ominous soundtrack. On the screen something very important crumbled into noise and light.

"Fuuuuuuck," said Gonzo William Lubitsch, speaking for everyone.

It was a funny feeling: we were looking at the end of the world— again—and we were looking at something awful we'd never wanted to see, but at the same time we were looking at fame and fortune and just about everything we could ever ask for delivered by a grateful populace. We were looking at our reason for being. Because that thar on that thar screen was a fire, plus also a toxic event of the worst kind, and we, Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together, were the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company of Exmoor County (corporate HQ the Nameless Bar, CEO Sally J. Culpepper, presiding) and this was the thing that we did better than anyone else in the entire Livable Zone, and therefore anywhere. Sally was straightaway talking to Jim Hepsobah and then to Gonzo, making lists and giving orders.

She set Flynn the Barman to brewing his chews-through-steel espresso, and at last even Mrs. Flynn was up off her on-board cushions and moving at flank speed to make provisions, prepare tallies, and take letters for loved ones and estranged ones and people glimpsed and admired across the floating ash of the Nameless Bar. We ran to and fro and bumped into one another and swore, mostly because we didn't have anything important to do yet, and there was hubbub and brouhaha until Sally jumped up on the pool table and told us to shut up and get it together. She raised her phone above our heads like the thigh bone of a saint.

Sally Culpepper was six feet tall and much of her was leg, and on her right shoulder blade she had an orchid tattoo inked by some kid a quarter-inch shy of Michelangelo. She had strawberry lips and creamy skin and freckles across her nose where it'd been rebuilt after a bar fight in Lisbon. Gonzo claimed to have slept with her, to have had those legs wrapped around his hips like conjoined Italian calf-skin boa constrictors. He said she left him all but dead and grinning like a crescent moon. He said it happened one night after a big job, beer running from the rafters and everyone shiny as an egg yolk with success and soap-scoured skin. He said it was that time when Jim and Sally were trying not to be a thing, before they just gave in to the inevitable and got a place together. Every time we all met up, me and Gonzo and Sally and Jim Hepsobah and the others, Gonzo'd throw her a wicked grin and ask her how her other tattoo was, and Sally Culpepper would smile a secret smile which said she wasn't telling, and maybe he knew what that other tattoo looked like and maybe he didn't. Jim Hepsobah just pretended he hadn't heard, because Jim loved Gonzo like a brother, and love like that recognises that your buddy can be an ass, and doesn't care. We all loved Sally Culpepper, and she ruled us with her transparent lashes and her milkmaid's face and her slender arms that could drop a punch on you like a steam hammer. So there she stood, and there was a reasonable facsimile of calm and attention, because we knew that if the call came it would come on that phone, and we knew she had five-offive reception here, and that was one of the reasons why the Nameless Bar was our place of business.

So we stopped hunting for lost socks and packing bags, and fretting that we'd somehow miss the starting gun, and settled in to Mrs. Flynn's provender. After a while we got quietly chatty and talked about small domestic chores, like cleaning gutters and chasing bats out of the loft. When the phone did ring (any time now), we could go and be heroes and save the world, which was Gonzo's favourite thing, and perforce something I did from time to time as well. Until it kicked off, we might as well not fuss. And then the Nameless Bar went quiet again; in little groups and one by one we fell silent as we beheld a vision of awful destiny.

The vision took the form of a small child carrying a snot-crusted and elderly teddy bear. It marched out into the room with much gravitas, surveyed us all sternly, then turned to Mrs. Flynn the Barman to gather in details for the prosecution.

"Why was it all dark?" it demanded.

"The power went out," Mrs. Flynn the Barman said cheerfully.

"There's a fire." The child glowered around the room.

"These are loud men," it said, still annoyed, "and this one is dirty."

It indicated Gonzo, who winced. It considered Sally Culpepper.

"This lady has a flower on her back," it added, having found conclusive proof of our unsuitability, then sat down in the middle of the floor and helped itself to a cheese and bacon roll. We goggled at it, and tried to make it go away by rubbing our eyes.

"Sorry," Mrs. Flynn the Barman said to us in general. "We don't let him in here normally, but it's an emergency." She eyed the child without approval. "Sweetie, you can't eat that; it's been on the floor near the dirty man."

Gonzo would probably have objected to this, but he didn't seem to hear her; he was still gazing in mute horror at the kid in front of him, and so was I, and so was everyone else. It was unquestionably a human toddler, and from the context certain conclusions had to be drawn which were uncomfortable and even appalling. This infant, swaddled in a bath towel and presently attempting to jam a four-inch-diameter granary bap into one ear, was the Spawn of Flynn.

Now, the fire on the Jorgmund Pipe was deeply unsettling. It represented danger and opportunity and almost certainly deceptions and agendas and what all. It was, however, well within our common understanding.

Things burned, things exploded, and then we came along and made them stop. A breeding population of Flynns was another proposition altogether. We looked on Flynn as our personal monster, a safe, disturbing ogre of corrosive profanity and sinister glassware. He was ours and he was mighty and we grew great by association with him, and proof of his dangerous overmanliness was to be found in his fearless sexual trystings with the vasty Mrs. Flynn, but we didn't really want to live in a world entirely composed of Flynn-like beings in their serried ranks, vituperative and grouchy and unwilling to take an IOU. That was a new order even the bravest of us would find inhospitable, and the glimmer of it, the Spawn of Flynn, was even now throwing pieces of mushed-up cheese at Gonzo's boot. Mrs. Flynn the Barman, oblivious, finished whatever domestic task she was about amid a flurry of folding cloths and wiping, and trotted out. The Spawn of Flynn blithely ignored his mother and took a chomp from the side of the soiled roll.

"Crunchy," said the Spawn of Flynn.

Sally Culpepper's phone made a little chirrup, and everyone pointedly didn't look.

"Culpepper," Sally murmured, and then, after a moment, snapped it shut. "Wrong number." We all made faces to suggest we weren't fussed.

For a while, the Nameless Bar was filled with the sound of a small child eating and a lot of rough and tough-talking men and women thinking perturbed and unfamiliar thoughts about time and mortality and family. Then the quiet was broken, not by a phone call but by a sound so deep it was very nearly not a sound at all.

You heard it first as a kind of aggressive quiet. The whoosh and snarl of the desert all around us was still going on, but somehow it was subsumed by this deep, bass silence. Then you could feel it as a coldness in your knees and ankles, an unsteady, heart-attack feeling of weakness and vibration. A bit later it was audible, a thrumming gnognognogg which echoed in your lungs and let you know you were a prey animal today. And if you'd ever heard it before you knew what it was, and we all knew, because when we'd first met it was the noise we'd made together: the sound of soldiers. Someone was deploying a decent-sized military force around the Nameless Bar, and that meant they were emphatically not kidding about security. Since it seemed unlikely that they were deploying in order to arrest us, and since in any case if they were there would be absolutely nothing we could do about it, we all crowded through the big pine door of the Nameless Bar to watch them arrive.

Outside, it was cold and dry. The night had set in, witching-hour black, and the sands had given up their heat, so a chill wind was gusting across the wooden rooftops of the bar and the outbuildings, and the gloomy shacks and clapboard homes which made up the no-hope town of Exmoor, pop. 1,309. Off against the brow of Millgram's Hill was our section of the Jorgmund Pipe; a single shadow-grey line lit by Flynn's bedroom window and the work light in the paddock, and every now and again by the gleam of another lonely little house along the way. It ran in both directions into the dark, and somewhere on the other side of the globe those two lines met and joined, surely at a place which was as vibrant and alive as Exmoor was not. On the top of the Pipe, every few metres, there was a little nozzle spraying good, clean FOX into the sky; FOX, the magic potion which kept the part of the world we still had roughly the same shape day by day. No one quite knew where it came from or how you made it; most people imagined some big machine like an egg with all manner of wires and lights condensing it out of air and moonshine, and drip-drip-dripping it into big vats. There were thousands of them, somewhere, vulnerable and vital, and let them never stop. I'd once seen some of the machinery involved: long black lozenges with curved sides, all plumbing and hoses, and rather eerie. Less an egg than a space capsule or a bathyscaphe, except this was the opposite; not a thing for journeying through a hostile place, but a thing which makes what is outside less hostile.

Most people tried very hard to avoid noticing the Pipe. They had euphemisms for it, as if it were cancer or impotence or the Devil, which it was. In some places they painted it bold colours and pretended it was an art project, or built things in front of it or even grew flowers on it. Only in pissant remora towns like this one did you get to see the thing itself; the rusty and despised spine of who we were, carrying vital solidity and safety, and the illusion of continuance, to every nook and cranny of the Livable Zone.

In truth it was not a loop at all, but a weird bird's-nest tangle. There were hairpin bends and corkscrews, and places where subsidiary hoses jutted out from the main line to reach little towns on the edges, and places where the Livable Zone pulled close about the Pipe like a matron drawing up her skirts to cross a stream, where the weather and the lie of the land brought the outside perilously close; but taken all together it made a sort of rough circle girdling the Earth. A place to have a home. Get more than twenty miles from the Pipe (Old JP, they called it in Haviland City, where the Jorgmund Company had its headquarters, or sometimes the Big Snake or the Silver) and you were in the inimical no-man's-land between the Livable Zone and the bloody nightmare of the unreal world. Sometimes it was safe, and sometimes it wasn't. We called it the Border, and we went through it when we had to, when it was the only way to get somewhere in any reasonable length of time, when the alternative was a long drive around three sides of a square and the emergency wouldn't wait. All the same, we went in force and we went quickly, lightly, and we kept an eye on the weather. If the wind changed, or the pressure dropped; if we saw clouds on the horizon we didn't like, or strange folks, or animals which weren't quite right, we turned tail and ran back to the Pipe. People who lived in the Border didn't always stay people. We carried FOX in canisters, and we hoped it would be enough.


"It's time to eat," Ma Lubitsch says, a broad expanse of apron topped by a summit of greasy peanut-coloured hair. Old Man Lubitsch doesn't hear over the buzzing of his hives, or he doesn't care to join us, because his baggy white figure remains out in the yard, tottering from one prefab bee house to another with a can of wispy smoke. Ma Lubitsch makes a noise like a whale clearing its blowhole and sets out knives and forks, the delaminating edge of the table pushing into her belly. Gonzo's mother is big enough that she takes up two seats in church and once near-killed a burglar with a rolled-up colour supplement. Gonzo himself, still able to count his years without resorting to two hands, has his father's more sparing construction.

One of my first memories, in all the world: Gonzo, only a few months before, staring into my face with a stranger's concern. He has been playing a game of indescribable complexity, by himself, in the corner of the playground. He has walked from one end of the sandpit to the other and rendered it flat in a particular place, and he has marked borders and bridges and areas of diffusion and lines of demarcation and now he needs another player and cannot find one. And so he turns to look about him and sees a small, lost child: alone in a moment of unfathomable grief. With presence of mind he directs his mother's attention to the crisis, and she trundles over and asks immediately what is the matter and am I hurt and where are my parents and where is my home? And to these questions I have no answer. All I know is that I am crying.

Gonzo answers the disaster by approaching the white ice-cream truck at the far gate, purchasing there a red, rocket-shaped ice with a sticky centre, and this he hands me with great solemnity. Ten minutes later, by the alchemy of sugar and artificial flavours and the security they represent, I have joined Gonzo's incomprehensible game and am winning—though perhaps he is going easy on me—and my tears are dry and crusty on my smock. During a momentary ceasefire, Gonzo informs me that this afternoon I may come to his house and meet his father, who is wise beyond measure, and partake of his mother's cooking, which is unequalled among mortal men, and even feed biscuits to the Lubitsch donkeys, whose coats are more glossy and whose eyes are more lambent than any other donkeys in all the wide world of donkeykind. Ma Lubitsch, watching from a small distance, recognises by the instinctual knowledges of an expat Polish mother that her family has grown by one, and is not perturbed.

In her oven gloves and enveloping apron, Ma Lubitsch gazes through the French windows a bit longer, but Gonzo's father is now chasing a single errant bee around the hives with the smoke gun. Political dissent among the bee houses is not permitted. Ma Lubitsch makes a seesaw turn, stepping from one foot to the other once, twice, three times to bring herself back to the table to dish up, swearing the while in muttered Polish. The infant Gonzo, mighty with filial affront, dashes out to rebuke and retrieve the Old Man; I follow more slowly, five years of age and cautious with brief experience; appearances deceive. Honest faces lie and big boats sink where small ones ride out the gale. But ask me how I know, and I will not be able to tell you.

"Ma says lunch," Kid Gonzo says firmly. Old Man Lubitsch holds up a single gloved hand, a sinner lost to apiarism, requesting indulgence. The bee is on the flagstone in front of him, presumably coughing. It appears for a moment that Gonzo will stamp on it, rid himself of this impediment to family harmony, but his father is fast for all that his face looks like faded wool, or maybe it is just that Old Man Lubitsch understands the value of strategic positioning: he swoops, his body blocking Gonzo's line of attack, and, lifting the bee in gentle fingers, he pops it into hive number three.

"Lunch," Old Man Lubitsch agrees, and for a moment I believe he smiles at me.

We return to the house, but Gonzo's mother is not mollified.

Things are strained. They have been strained since before I arrived, since Gonzo's older brother Marcus went to soldier, and neglected to duck on some forgotten corner of a foreign field that is forever Cricklewood Cove. Lunch is Ma Lubitsch's small white witchery, her article of faith—if she can provide Gonzo with hearty nutrition and a solid, dependable centre, he will be well-fitted to the world. He will conquer, he will survive, he will feel no need to seek adventure. He will not leave her. For Ma Lubitsch, lunch defies death. Old Man Lubitsch, however, knows that sometimes, for reasons which are obscure even to bees, the hive must disgorge its children and see them set upon the wind. And so he prepares for the moment when this son either finds a queen and starts a family, or flies and flies until he cannot continue and falls to the dirt to become once again a part of the mossy meadow carpet all around.

Ma Lubitsch doesn't speak to her husband during the meal. She doesn't speak from the first potato to the last flake of chocolate icing, and she doesn't speak over coffee, and she doesn't speak as Gonzo removes himself to the creek to fish. It seems that she will never speak to him again, but when I return unannounced for a forgotten tackle box, I glimpse her, the enormous body racked with sobs, cradled in the arms of her tiny mate. Old Man Lubitsch is singing to her in the language of the old country, and his shadowed, sharp little eyes lay omertà upon me, dark and deep; these are secrets between men, boy, between the true men of the heart. I know it. I understand.

It is this image which comes to mind later whenever Gonzo is about to embark on some act of unconsidered heroism: a bird-like man in white overalls lending his strength to a shattered mountain. Gonzo fishes. He catches two tiddlers of uncertain species, and throws them back when they appear unhappy. I never tell him what I have seen, and when I turn around, five years have passed.

Excerpted from The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway. Copyright © 2008 by Nick Harkaway. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Gone-Away World 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
with sentences that are unapologetically incomprehensible, and a plot that is if possible more so, this should be a frustrating read. but indeed, from the first few pages harkaway paints a world so frenetic, edgy, and impossible that the reader can't help but be drawn in. while the book's ultimate motive is, as with the best science fiction, to make a point about politics and human nature and culture and their intersection - and it has no little success here - it continues at the same time to be an engrossing and entertaining read. it is a story about the apocalypse, but not the one we were expecting; it's a story about growing up in the world, and how to be an adult in it; it's a story about... well... all the stuff stories are supposed to be about. and it's told in a style that is reminiscent of vonnegut, or kesey, or HST (it's no coincidence that one of the main characters is named gonzo!), one that keeps you rolling through a mad max universe for the sheer surprise of what will happen next. from pancakes as the clear solution to the decimation of the world, to a martial arts master who invents a secret so he can have one to not tell people who want to know the Inner Teachings, to the indescribably awful image of a professor's flaking scalp, this is writing as vivid as it is ungainly, and as ass-backwards as it is self-conscious and deliberate. read it, read it, read it!
GRendell More than 1 year ago
The Gone-Away World is the best piece of speculative fiction I've read in years. Brilliantly conceived and finely crafted, it presents an internally consistent alternate (I hope!) reality, populates it with four-dimensional characters, and doesn't let up until the last page. Harkaway must have a truly twisted (and I mean that in the best possible sense) imagination to be able to create such an original world situation, while still keeping everything eminently believable, even compelling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of the more original stories I have read in a long time with great twists and turns. I became quite attached to the main character and was routing for him the entire time. The author's writing style does take some getting used to and I will admit I agree with other reviewers that his flashbacks can ramble and get quite tedious. I too skimmed through some pages to get back to the main story line. However, the original story and the author's dry and sarcastic humor made me an instant fan. I look forward to more from the author.
prestoniscrazy More than 1 year ago
Nick Harkaway has really done a work here for his first novel. He has a very unique writing style that vaguely resembles Douglas Adams with a sarcastic Kurt Vonnegut thrown in there. The rhythm of the book takes a little getting use to but once you do you will enjoy every word of it. The characters and plot of this book are masterful and the book is wrapped up in a nice clean way. To the reviewer, Very Confusing... perhaps if you hadn't "skimmed through many pages just to finish", the book might have been a little less confusing. I'd recommend this novel to anyone, it is fun, adventurous. wacky and quiet outlandish at times but a work of art non the less. Keep your eyes out for Nick's next book, I know I am.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best crazy book ever
atomheart More than 1 year ago
I truly believe in time, this will sit on a shelf next to the likes of Catch 22 and Slaugherhouse 5.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For a rare time the government¿s claims re the Go Away Bomb is not obfuscated with the usual disinformation and misinformation. The assertion that the weapon was not of mass destruction just capable of erasing nasty reality elements made people euphoric with the no damage to property concept. However, the reality modification proved in reality a bit more convoluted as Einstein was right about relativity. Soon after the release of the Go Away Bomb, people¿s nightmarish thoughts started to turn into real monsters of the under the bed variety. The Jorgamund Pipe is built like a belt around the world that releases FOX, an elixir to counteract the Go Away Bomb effect at least for the few kilometers nearby. When a fire threatens the pipe and consequently the shrunk world, Gonzo Lubitsch, his best friend, and their HazMat emergency team go to put out the blaze and repair the damage. They know they enter a world of horrific chaos, but as Gonzo¿s pragmatic best friend says that is the norm for his pal going back to childhood under the tutelage of a Kung Fu guru, his military time building a bomb of not mass destruction and seeing its collateral damage shrinking the globe to a small Livable Zone. --- With nods to Vonnegut and Pratchett, THE GONE AWAY WORLD is an engaging satirical science fiction cautionary tale that takes a strong anti-war stand based on the justifications proving reality is relative. Those who believe will insure the facts fit their thesis those who do not likewise (Cheney and Anti Cheney Effects). The story line is non linear as the unnamed best friend narrates by providing readers with Gonzo¿s biography. This is for the most part entertaining and relevant even with a final monster twist but also at times at least to the reality envisioned by this reviewer feels as if a sidebar hijacked the plot temporarily. Still cerebral sci fi fans with plenty of time will want to read Nick Harkaway¿s thrilling thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
afyfe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. I did feel like it was rather long and epic which made it hard to continue at times. In some of the begining parts I had trouble keeping up but by the time I got to the end I was fully into the story. The one thing that bothered me was how not everything was explained, especially during the war, you knew that things happened and the outcome of those things but there was never an explaination. Besides that it was a great story and a book I'd reccomend!
tinLizzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is among the top maybe 5, for sure 10, books I've ever read. The prose and language is beautiful, the storytelling compelling and engaging, the plot twisty and rollercoastery, the resolution I didn't remotely see coming. I laughed, I cried, I shouted out loud while reading it in public places. I will revisit this in years to come.
BookMason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this up in the store because the PINK FUZZY cover grabbed my attention. This is Nick Harkaway's first novel and I generally give a new writer the first 4 or 5 pages in the bookstore to decide whether I will buy their book or not. I liked it enough last fall to pick it up, wasn't sure why as little of the actual tale is told at the start, I just liked the feel. Finally made it to top of my TBR pile a week ago and should have been there right after I bought it.I compare this a little to the Sci Fi tined tales written by Jonathan Lethem, but only because both are brilliantly written and compelling. Gone Away World exceeds on every level. The story surprises you with plot twists you didn't see coming, but that make perfect sense in the world created by Harkaway. It is at times a coming of age story, a comedy, a tragedy and a martial arts primer. Harkaway appears to have melded everything he loves seamlessly into a whole; ninjas and Mad Max meet in a tale of love and redemption.Highly recommended to anyone looking for something completely unexpected.
Turrean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant, funny, twisty, heartbreaker of a story, by a genre-defying first-time author who must have been getting paid by the word. I found myself getting a little impatient at times with the pace of the story, only to discover that scenes I thought should have been edited out upon first reading them were absolutely essential to understanding the hell of a finale. It's a story of friendship, the perils of memory, the futility of war, and the dangers of complacent bureaucracy. If you plan to read this book, DON'T stop halfway through. I submit for your approval the fact that many of the one- and two-star ratings of this book on Amazon are from people who abandoned the book before reaching the first of several fantastic plot twists. (Plot twist actually is an understatement--the plot takes the reader through a Klein Bottle, Möbius strip, Alice universe twisty story.)Go forth and enjoy!
brettjames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like a big bowl of sugar.
little_prof on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Okay, I promise not to do the entirety of this review in green and hot pink. It's just that they made the book cover hot pink, green, and fuzzy, people. Hot pink, green and fuzzy. Anyway, to the review proper. Except I don't know that it can be a proper review, since this really isn't a proper book. It's insane, tragic, hysterical, illuminating, exculpating, fascinating, ludicrous, surreal, brilliant - all in a few pages. Easily a contender for book of the year in the not-at-all-famous Drew Williams' best book of the year contest. And 2008 was a damn good year. I won't say that Harkaway writes like a young Jonathan Lethem, because, well, he doesn't; more that he reminds me of Lethem before Lethem forgot that it was possible to have fun in any sort of un-ironic manner. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much on both an intellectual level (in the sense of me going 'my, what fascinating sentence structure. My, what an interesting way to collapse the plot in around itself. My, this cat is insane') and on an emotional level (in the sense of me going 'wheeeeee!'). Now, I'll grant that I have an extreme fondness for genuinely likeable, I'd-like-to-have-a-beer-with-this-guy narrators, ala Max Barry or Christopher Moore. But it's been a really, really long time - if ever - since I met that sort of guy in the pages of a book that wasn't just an out-and-out comedy. Especially one that does kung-fu (kung-fu!). The writing style sits at that razor edge of almost incomprehensible just because you're so, so deep into this guy's head, which makes for a fascinating read (Harkaway writes like Chuck Palahniuk fans think Chuck Palahniuk writes, except unfortunately he actually writes like a twelve year old who's only purpose in life is to gross you out, except with a better vocabulary and unfettered access to the internet). Also, I'm a big fan of the half-of-this-novel-is-a-flashback-structure, and this one's not actually laden with 'but the doom that would soon encompass us all, bum bum bum bah dahhhhh'. So I should probably do some sort of plot synopsis, huh? Except, really, that's kind of a cheat; half the fun of Gone Away World is it's ability to take you places not only did you not expect to go, I'm fairly sure Harkaway didn't expect to go. Like when the mimes show up. Mimes! For a post-apocalyptic anti-war protest head-trip, in retrospect, there's actually a great narrative through-line here. It's just not the sort of thing one dwells too much upon when there's so much fun to be had. Alright, in closing: Harkaway's a great new talent, and I expect great things from him, mainly because this debut is already a great thing. Also, he's John Le Carre's son. Really, really wierd. not at all what one would expect. -Drew
Alirambles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Caveat #1: This isn't my usual genre of choice. Caveat #2: Had this book been about 100 pages shorter (assuming that the deleted pages came from the first half) I'd give it a much higher rating. Much of the background information of the first 300 pages was important and many of them were fun to read, but it was slow going. Get past the middle, though, and suddenly the narrator's world is turned upside-down and the rest of the book is fairly riveting. I'm still not sure I'm straight on what happened and how it all ties together, but I'm glad I stuck with it to get there.
suetu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a reader given to pronouncements like: I hate science fiction. And for the most part it's really not my cup of tea. Well, The Gone Away World is undeniably science fiction, and it is the most interesting novel I've read in quite some time. The back copy on the galley I read compared it to Kurt Vonnegut meets Joseph Heller meets Mad Max. I immediately assumed that was hyperbole of the worst kind, but damn if that doesn't sum it up perfectly! How can I describe the plot? As the novel opens, we're in a post-apocalyptic version of the world we know. We meet our first-person narrator and his team of trouble-shooting compatriots. Something possibly disastrous has happened, and they're off to save the day--as long as they'll be adequately compensated for the job. That's what they do. They're the Haulage & Hazmat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company of Exmoor County, a tight-knit group of life-long friends and war buddies. The first chapter was nearly 50 pages, and I have to admit it was very strange and confusing, but undeniably funny. After that first chapter set in the novel's present, the clock is rolled back several decades, and the next 250 pages tells the life story of the unnamed narrator. And suddenly the book became far more accessible, because there were references to things like Elvis Pressley and Tupperware. It was a world I could recognize. And gradually all the weird stuff from the first chapter was explained. What was the "Go Away War," why it was called that, and how the radically altered (not for the better, I can assure you) world came to be. It's a strange, deeply disturbing story leavened with a lot of humor and some wonderfully whimsical and likeable characters. Around the 300 page mark, we are back where we were at the top of the novel, and our heroes are off to save the world. But nothing goes according to plan. And just when you think you've got a grasp on the rules of this strange world and this odd novel, Harkaway pulls the rug from under your feet and suddenly all the rules change and everything you think you know has changed! This is a dense and challenging 500-page novel. Some parts of it are wonderfully light and comic. Other parts were so dark and disturbing I wasn't sure I wanted to continue reading. But I did continue, often forcing friends to listen to me read pages of text aloud. The language is fabulous and the many tangents and asides are priceless--such as a meandering discussion of the role of sheep in times of war. Other times it's a single sentence such as: "You have to worry about someone even mimes find creepy." that you want to stitch onto a pillow and place on your couch. I wouldn't recommend this novel to everyone I know, but for readers with an open mind and a tolerance for absurdity, satire, and speculative fiction it's a must read. It may be one of the best debut novels I've ever read. It is the most interesting novel--period--that I've read in years.
LisaLynne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much that I posted a pre-review review, urging you all to go out and buy the book. It has been a long time since a book made me want to shout out loud and dance around my hotel room, but this book did. It is the story of the survivors of the Go-Away War, a war fought with bombs that didn't make things explode, but instead made them go away. The reasoning goes something like this: matter needs information to tell it what to be - whether it should be a table or a pumpkin or a schnauzer. Strip away that information and matter becomes just Stuff; shapeless, formless and harmless. In theory, these bombs just dissolve that bit of information and your enemies - and their cities, their houses, their furniture, their children - become so much dust in the wind. Problem is, things never work out in theory quite the way you expect. As nature abhors a vaccuum, Stuff hates to be formless. It yearns for that bit of information. Our nameless narrator and his best friend, Gonzo Lubitsch, are on the front lines of this war and its aftermath. They are principals in the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, men and women who aren't afraid to step into the breach. When they end up working for Jorgmund, the corporate behemoth that controls much of the post-war world, there is bound to be trouble. The book is part kung-fu epic, part sci-fi romance, part philosophic screed on what it means to be human, plus post-apocalyptic adventure and frenetic, laugh-out-loud hilarity. The twists and turns in the plot leave you questioning everything that has come before. I don't know how else to categorize it - a well-read friend described it as 'Pynchon with dashes of P.G. Wodehouse and Alexandre Dumas.' The fact that it's a first novel just floors me. I will be devouring the next book Nick Harkaway publishes as soon as it hits the shelves - sooner, if I can manage it.
guy-montag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The man says he never met a word he didn't like and this book follows that maxim down a very twisty road indeed. It's literally all over the place, and while the gonzo writing style makes it notable, it also makes it fatiguing to read. A very skilled writer, a book well worth reading if you have the fortitude!
kren250 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set partially before and mostly after the "gone away" war, this clever post-apocalyptic novel is about what happens when the world goes crazy. Everything from mimes to ninjas to centaurs make an appearance, and, as strange as it sounds, they all fit perfectly into the story. Harkaway has a real knack for making the ridiculous believable. Everthing fits into place by the end of this highly imaginative book.
bnbooklady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At the halfway mark, I'm thoroughly enjoying this inventive debut novel that defies description and categorization. Part futuristic speculative fantasy fiction, part humorous riff on modern warfare and government secrecy, part dystopian exploration, and all topsy-turvy in the tradition of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut, this wonderful book is utterly unique.Harkaway's writing is strong and interesting, and his language is whimsical and enjoyable. A great read for fans of books in which things are just not quite right.
gkleinman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! I didn't see this one coming. This big pink fuzzy book is like nothing I've read before (and that's both a good and bad thing). The Gone Away World is a richly textured and fantastically unique universe where anything can and will happen. Harkaway's verse is so tightly wound, so complex that it makes for a very very slow and often difficult read. But don't let that deter you from reading this book, if you're up for it the journey is well rewarded.Even though Nick Harkaway is John Le Carré's Son he writes more like the son of Thomas Pynchon with linguistically fireworks and paragraphs that read like prose. Harkaway is a smashing new voice and I look forward to reading what he does next.
omphalos02 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exceptional first novel from Harkaway.
mojacobs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful, strange, lovely, horrible, nice, funny, sad book about the post-apocalyps world. Hard to put it in a category, but great reading. The characters and images will be staying with me for a while yet, I think.
clfisha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing multi-layered dystopian fantasy. With Ninjas.A brilliant Frankestinian mesh of ideas and tropes. I mean we get a dystopian future to die for, ninjas, love triangles, the harsh reality of modern war, mimes, political satire, pirates, terrorists and freedom fighters, a variety of circus acts and murderous bees. Do I need I say anymore? I mean dystopian ninjas? Come on!Of course all these ideas would be nothing without the characters and plot to hold them together and Nick Harkaway writes brilliantly. He imbues everything with a wry humour and then smacks you with the heartfelt highs and lows and of humanity. This balance is everything; he can write tense, dramatic action sequences, quiet romantic moments, zany madcap escapades and horrible acts of war. The man is an alchemical genius.The characters are superb. Written in 1st person we have a fantastic protagonist: a funny, intelligent, self depreciating side-kick to his overly heroic best friend. Add a cast of a lifetime (don¿t worry it¿s not too much), all wonderfully portrayed, and you have a real gem.The story is a breath of fresh air, imaginative, fast moving and constantly challenging expectations. I mean what starts out as a zany band of heroes going to save the world, switches straight into memoir territory as we quietly (and grippingly) catch up to the present day and into the future. Of course this mucking about with your expectations could, I guess, be a problem because you will realise this book is about something else. There other minor problems. This being a 1st person means you really have to enjoy the company of the protagonist and all those brilliantly written ideas are packed so tight it's overwhelming and the initial start can seem slow. What this story needed was an evil, heartless editor to rip out some of good stuff but make a tighter plot. Although then again the build up is worth it so who I am to say?It's one of those books that when you finish and finally stop stuffing the words into brain in a madcap frenzy, pause and think and then smile at what Harkaway has managed to achieve. It's his bloody debut too. Highly recommended to everyone!
raycun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not as funny, exciting, or dramatic as it needs to be, or thinks it is. I wanted to like it, but it just got draggy.
FuguTabetai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book a while back, and once I started reading it I had a hard time putting it down. This was my first time reading anything by Nick Harkaway, and I found his writing style to be a bit verbose, but very refreshing. The setting is interesting; a broken world after a scientific disaster that allows the fantastic to leak into (or completely overrun) the world we are familiar with. The story isn't as much about the fantastic creatures and events, but about how people deal with things, and in particular, the protagonist and his circle of friends. There is also a very interesting comment on society and capitalism and the role of corporations.Also, ninjas. I really enjoyed the book, and in a way it reminded me of works by Haruki Murakami (one of my favorite authors) where there is some underlying fantastic element to life. It is much more obvious here, but I felt the same sense of an awakening wonder as I read.