The Gone Away World
by Nick Harkaway
Usually when it comes to writing my book reviews, I don’t like to include an outside source for plot summary, but when it comes to describing The Gone Away World, I don’t even know where to begin. This is a crazy book. It’s positively maniac in all ways. So I’ll let Publishers Weekly take a stab at it:
From Publishers Weekly
This unclassifiable debut from the son of legendary thriller author John le Carré is simultaneously a cautionary tale about the absurdity of war; a sardonic science fiction romp through Armageddon; a conspiracy-fueled mystery replete with ninjas, mimes and cannibal dogs; and a horrifying glimpse of a Lovecraftian near-future. Go Away bombs have erased entire sections of reality from the face of the Earth. A nameless soldier and his heroic best friend witness firsthand the unimaginable aftermath outside the Livable Zone, finding that the world has unraveled and is home to an assortment of nightmarish mutations. With the fate of humankind in the balance, the pair become involved in an unlikely and potentially catastrophic love triangle. Readers who prefer linear, conventional plotlines may find Harkaway overly verbose and frustratingly tangential, but those intrigued by works that blur genre boundaries will find this wildly original hybrid a challenging and entertaining entry in the post-apocalyptic canon. (Sept.)
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I had to read this book in small doses, because the action is so densely packed one must take a bit of a breather in order to sort things out. But it is very, very funny. It is also very, very random owing to the fact that war has managed to dismantle basic rules of reality, and thoughts are literally capable of coming to life. So if a character has a dream that he is a mermaid, and he is not in one of the protected “safe” areas, he just may wake up with a fish tail. There’s also an unusual excess of mimes and ninjas when compared to the usual novel. Pirates and killer bees and martial arts masters, too, frequent these pages. In this strange world where countless people simply disappeared when the Go Away bombs were dropped, none of these things seem especially out of place, but the book is so weird and yet so close to our world that the whole of it is vaguely disconcerting as you read. But really, you’re too busy laughing to let the absurdity trouble you for long.
The dialogue is the greatest strength of this book, by far. There’s an old married couple selling saffron, Rao Tsur and his wife, who lovingly spend every encounter with the narrator verbally eviscerating their spouses. It’s obvious they adore each other, making the barbed gibes all the funnier. I am truly regretful that I do not have a final copy of the book so I could confirm the quotes and share them with you. They’re priceless. At times, though, the words are quite overwhelming; Harkaway is an extremely verbose writer and like I said at the beginning, I had to stop once and a while to let the story sort itself and settle before continuing.
Did I mention that neon pink covers are awesome? It almost makes me think of a watermelon.