Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

 Warning: Some Spoilers Below

The Gone-Away World is a book that I enjoyed thoroughly, yet wasn't excited by. I'm not sure why - it had many of the attributes that I usually love. A certain sense of surrealism, of humour, of a meandering storyline, and threatening things just out of the edges of my vision. Yet I finished it feeling satisfied, but not thrilled. What did it need to take it to the next level? Or am I being too demanding? Is this feeling of deep-down satisfaction, in itself, testament to what I've read?

This is a hard book to explain. It happens before and after a new weapon is tested, and then deployed, one they thought would eliminate objects without fallout. They were, of course, wrong. And the fallout drastically reshapes the world. I'm trying not to give specifics about this, as the descriptions of the Go Away bombs were horrifying, and I don't want to spoil that experience.

Gonzo Lubitsch and his best friend end up on the spot when the first Go Away bombs detonate, and see their effects, and, with the rest of their squad, manage to survive, and even to protect others. Until the Jorgmund Corporation finds a substance that neutralizes the Gone Away fallout, and starts building a pipe to disperse it, creating habitable zones. Then they work for the corporation for a while, and later as independent contractors.

The book starts with the contractors being hired to extinguish an incredibly dangerous fire on the pipeline, but then jumps backwards to Gonzo and friend as children, following them as children learning martial arts, student radicals, and finally soldiers. About two or three chapters in, I noticed that the narrator, Gonzo's best friend, had no name. I was pretty sure that was significant, and even without knowing anything about the nature of the rest of the book, my guess about what that meant ended up being pretty much spot on.

I'm making this sound too serious, though. The Gone Away World moves quickly, and is often very entertaining. There are ninjas. And Evil Corporations. And pirates. And exploding sheep. There is also a bit of romance, a lot of rough and tumble, and being shot in the chest.

There are also mimes.

I enjoyed the examination of the Evil Company quite a lot, and how Evil Companies become Evil Companies, and the very simple and horrifying mechanism that this particular Evil Company uses to take monstrous ideas and make them actions, without anyone ever taking responsibility. And the final reveal is truly chilling.

I've made this sound like a jumble, and it kind of is, but it's a thoroughly entertaining jumble, and somehow, it all sort of works together. It's probably not for everyone, though. If this laundry list of things that are in the book appeal to you, you'll probably like it. If not, not.

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