The Gone-Away World
By Nick Harkaway
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307268860, 512pp.)
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
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About the 'neon fuzz': a note on the book jacket from designer Jason Booher...
"When you read Harkaway's novel, a gigantic sense of weirdness and cool and doom surround the characters. To capture all that plus the absurd humor that pervades this amazing book, the jacket obviously had to be something special. So the otherworldliness that perhaps only neon fuzz can bring hopes to evoke these feelings and add to the strength of and interplay between the words in the title and author's name."
A wildly entertaining debut novel, introducing a bold new voice that combines antic humor with a stunning futuristic vision to give us an electrifyingly original tale of love, friendship and the apocalypse.
There couldn’t be a fire along the Jorgmund Pipe. It was the last thing the world needed. But there it was, burning bright on national television. The Pipe was what kept the Livable Zone safe from the bandits, monsters and nightmares the Go Away War had left in its wake. The fire was a very big problem.
Enter Gonzo Lubitsch and his friends, the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, a team of master troubleshooters who roll into action when things get particularly hot. They helped build the Pipe. Now they have to preserve it—and save humanity yet again. But this job is not all it seems. It will touch more closely on Gonzo’s life, and that of his best friend, than either of them can imagine. And it will decide the fate of the Gone-Away World.
Equal parts raucous adventure, comic odyssey, geek nirvana and ultracool epic, The Gone-Away World is a story of—among other things—pirates, war, mimes, greed and ninjas. But it is also the story of a world, not unlike our own, in desperate need of heroes—however unlikely they may seem.
Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall in 1972. He studied philosophy, sociology and politics at Clare College, Cambridge, and then worked in the film industry. The Gone-Away World is his first novel. He lives in London with his wife.
"Very funny and hugely entertaining. . . . And brilliant. Read it."--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Bewilders, amazes, entertains. . . . a Catch-22 for the 21st century. . . . a work of extraordinary imagination and charisma. . . genius"--The New York Observer
"The Gone-Away World, is a gripping, satirical, postapocalyptic war epic populated with mimes, ninjas, bureaucrats, chimera, and gun-toting nerds."--New York Magazine
"The Gone-Away World, an epic, stupendous outburst of a book, is more friction than science, more dark than fantasy, and more than anyone would've expected had they known the author's true identity. It's about the end of the world, the perils of thinking too hard (about anything), and friendship, family, and love. In that sense, it's a lot like War and Peace - huge, unexpected, and written by some guy you probably should have read already and can't wait to hear more from - with better ordnance and nearly the same mental and moral heft. . . . Harkaway's absurdist humanism reads like a surrealist smashup of Pynchon and Pratchett, Vonnegut and Heller, but his voice is his own, thick with creamed idealism, grim jaw-set hope, and a palpable tang of the here and now, the war and the peace. . . . The Gone-Away World is a flat-out ferociously good novel, and Harkaway has heralded his own coming with one hell of a bang."--Austin Chronicle
"Leaves the reader gasping for both adjectives and description. It's a powerful and accomplished first novel that weaves elements of romance, mystery, SF/F and -- yes -- thriller together in a way that leaves no doubt that the master storyteller gene really is something that can be passed along."--January Magazine
"Harkaway delivers plenty of action and surprises. . . . With an absurdist streak reminiscent of Vonnegut, Pynchon or Heller. . . . Likely to be this season's major conversation-starter."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Vivid and exciting. Harkaway manages to meld a vision of war more germane to today's world, and take it to its most horrifying, apocalyptic conclusion."--Charleston City Paper
“A brilliant, stunning novel, The Gone-Away World is smart and funny and capacious of heart; the writing is fluid, the storytelling utterly fearless. It's the best book I've read in quite some time.” —Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
“Nick Harkaway is hot stuff. You’ll need asbestos gloves for this one.” —Len Deighton, author of The IPCRESS File
“The Gone-Away World grows richer, smarter, and more entertaining with every page. In the weeks after I finished reading it, my mind kept roaming free of other books and dreaming about this one instead.” —Kevin Brockmeier, author of The View from the Seventh Layer
“A big new book by a big new writer. Harkaway describes the Gone-Away World in words that whiz and ping like bullets ricocheting off the walls of the reader’s mind. He’s the real thing.” —Russell Hoban, author of Riddley Walker
Praise from the UK:
“[A] magnificent, sprawling, epic work…Could easily become a modern classic. Its scope and ambition are extraordinary, its execution is often breathtaking, and its style is by turns hilarious, outrageous, devastating, hip and profound…Its bleakly humorous futuristic vision is not dissimilar to that of Kurt Vonnegut, while its visceral, scattershot energy brings to mind landmark American books like The World According to Garp and Catch-22…The ghosts of Douglas Adams and P G Wodehouse haunt some of the finest passages here…There are profound meditations on war, commercialism and the nature of humanity, and there are also hugely entertaining passages featuring pirate monks, ninjas, mime artists, ridiculous military escapades and much more. It should be made clear that it is also very often arse-kickingly funny. Throw in some perfectly plotted revelations, an unforgettable finale and a life-affirming and thought-provoking denouement, and you’ve got a tale which will live long in the memory, and a writer destined for great things.”—Independent on Sunday
“[A] post-apocalyptic triumph…This is a jigsaw puzzle of a novel. Not one of those quick, easy, rainy Sunday afternoon puzzles, but a complex, clear-the-kitchen-table-for-a-week type of a puzzle, a mysterious configuration of tiny pieces that eludes all reason until you succeed in getting the basic frame in place. At which point you suddenly catch a glimpse of the prize, and from then on it’s simply a matter of slotting pieces in until finally, exhausted but elated, you complete the picture…Immensely rewarding…The post-apocalyptic world that he is constructing is so unlike most standard-issue post-apocalyptic worlds…This dystopia is, quite literally, everyone’s worst nightmare. It is both collective and tailored to the individual - each and everyone’s own private, personalised hell. It is not only clever, it is also genuinely terrifying…The ascent to the book’s summit…is as colourful and engaging as the descent is action-packed…Has the pace and action of an episode of 24…The agility of the narrative is one of the great strengths of this book: for a first-time novelist, Harkaway is robustly confident…Particularly effective are his Matrix-like fight scenes, brought to life in meticulous yet flowing prose…This is clever sci-fi with a light heart and a winning smile: a killer combination.”—The Times
“Exuberant…Wildly inventive”—Michael Gove, The Times
“A debut novel of the kind that comes along only once every couple of years, overflowing with imagination yet powered by the kind of cleverly twisting plot that marks him out as a master storyteller…But there’s far more to The Gone-Away World too, so much that it resists categorisation. It has the scattergun inventiveness and confident, extended comic riffs that you’d find in Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut, yet is more rooted in a recognisable world, even one savagely altered by a new kind of war. There’s a dusting of satire on messy foreign wars and corporate culture, but it’s mixed in with splendidly absurd adventures, political fables, philosophical musings and epic conflicts…there’s love and loss in the mix too. The only thing there isn’t is boredom: this may be a long novel, but it’s one that holds your attention…A quirkily original writer…If The Gone-Away World reads just like a dam-burst of dreams, then that might be because that is literally what it is.”—The Scotsman
“A stunning debut…By turns thrilling, silly, gripping, crazy, daring and outrageous. I loved every minute...The Gone-Away World is brakes-off fiction.”—Scotland on Sunday
“Breathtakingly ambitious…A sprawling odyssey of a novel, half swashbuckling adventure, half science-fiction, but with such engaging characters that neither genre threatens to overpower the barnstorming narrative…It is a bubbling cosmic stew of a book, written with such exuberant imagination that you are left breathless by its sheer ingenuity. Comparisons are mostly futile, but it recalls Joseph Heller – Harkaway is a deft comic writer – and parts of it can best be described as what Thackeray might produce if he were on acid.”—Observer
“Hits exactly the note of dazed and comic awesomeness…There is a very funny extended conversation of super-dry wit between two civil servants…a disquisition on the use of sheep on the battlefield; a wonderfully sarcastic anatomy of political belligerence…and the exhilarating unveiling of unexpected allies…There are delightful moments aplenty…Any author who has come up with the beautifully silly plan of melding a kung-fu epic with an Iraq-war satire and a Mad Max adventure has to be worth keeping an eye on.”—Guardian
“With his debut The Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway has created a fictional universe that is out of this world.”—Tatler
“The Gone-Away World is a genuine panoramic, 3D, surround-sound, total-immersion, thrill-factor ten miracle – it is the kind of book that you just don't want to end! …Harkaway relates the story of our intrepid heroes – and their tale is engrossing, action-packed and moves with fanatical momentum, never dawdling to admire the view. The reader is propelled through this novel with abandon and the experience is entirely an undeniably joyful one, even in the sadder and nastier bits….What really stands out here is Harkaway’s narrative style – his voice is suffused with whip-crack humour, pointed philosophy and deeply felt emotion and the consistently perfect balance he strikes throughout is a truly beautiful thing to behold. There is both great heart and great intellect in The Gone-Away World, as well as pathos aplenty and Harkaway offers a narrative that is forever fractal, curling and spiralling off into tangential observations and ruminations, side-stories, myths, anecdotes, fables and legends – all of which are related with pithy wit and are never showy but instead integral to the development of the story…Very highly recommended.”—SFRevu