Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Gone-Away World

by Nick Harkaway
499 pgs

I believe that for the first time ever, I'm at a serious loss as to how to describe/summarize/review a book--and it's not that this is the first book by Nick Harkaway that I've ever read. Awhile back I read his second book Angelmaker and really enjoyed it. But this one is unlike anything I've ever read before.

To start with, I can't decide what genre if fits in. It doesn't easily fit into any of the already established ones. It's part science fiction, but not in a science fictiony way. It's post-apocalyptic, but not in a Cormac McCarthy's The Road kind of way. It's got ninjas battling mimes in it, but they doesn't help classify it. It is what it is, and it really deserves its own bookshelf at the bookstore.

The next problem I have with writing this review is that I can't really decide how much I liked it. Parts of it were absolutely brilliant, but I'll admit that sometimes my mind tended to wander. Harkaway's writing talent is undeniable though and if I hadn't known better, I would have assumed that this book was written by someone who had a Stephen King-sized bibliography already under his belt. He really is that good. Even at the times in the book when my mind wanted to venture elsewhere, I have to admit that those parts were still well written.

The story is narrated by a character whose name is never revealed but who works for the Haulage & Hazmat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company of Exmore County. As the story begins, he and his crew are called upon to put out a fire that has erupted somewhere along the Jorgmund Pipe, which delivers a substance known as "stuff." The world was destroyed during the Gone-Away War, and stuff is what makes the remaining world livable.

The book is absurd and witty, and it's every creative-writing teacher's dream come true. But it's not a beach read, and it's not the type of book that can be read in ten minute installments. You have to be willing to immerse yourself in the story and let Harkaway's writing talent take over. Overall, well worth the effort it took to read it.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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