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The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
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The Gone-Away World (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Nick Harkaway

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1,346775,730 (4.17)163
Member:faganjc
Title:The Gone-Away World
Authors:Nick Harkaway
Info:Knopf (2008), Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (2008)

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Back when the world was still our world, humanity came up with a weapon, as humanity always does. This weapon made the enemy simply go away. Unfortunately, as history should’ve taught us but never quite seems to, it wasn’t as simple as all that. Now humanity lives in a zone clustered around the Jorgmund Pipe, which delivers the FOX that keeps away the unreal horrors of the Gone-Away world. When part of the Pipe catches fire, threatening the supply, our unnamed narrator, his best friend, and their crew of freebooters are hired to manage the situation.

Based on that description, you’ll probably go in expecting a fairly straight post-apocalyptic dystopia. I did. You will probably then, by the end of chapter three, be wondering what the fuck is going on. I did that too. So I would advise that you not go in expecting post-apocalyptic dystopia, that you not go in expecting science fiction, that you definitely not go in expecting sobriety -- in fact, inasmuch as you are able, to go in expecting as little in regards to setting or genre as possible.

What you can expect is one of the funniest, most intelligent pieces of blistering anti-establishment satire that I have ever read. You can expect a bitingly cynical take on everything from corporate culture to our species’ need to engage in pissing contests on a devastatingly global scale over things we don’t really need. You can expect an examination of humanity, identity, and friendship, and how those things intertwine, that oscillates between the heartwarming and the bone-chilling. You can expect digressions and tangents that wind off down so many twisting corridors I started to lose track, and didn’t care in the slightest because I was giggling so inanely. You can expect a book that, perhaps chief among its many accomplishments, may very well cause you to like mimes.

Because yes, there are mimes. And ninjas. The mimes are a lot nicer than the ninjas. Although it’s intensely intelligent and humanistic and, dare I say, political, it’s not afraid to be a zany girls- and guns-filled adventure story at the same time. I learned from Sir Terry Pratchett that serious and humorous are not opposite ends of the same spectrum, and just about every part of this novel is an excellent illustration of that principle. For instance, our narrator’s gong fu master is full of sage advice, genial humour, and whacky quotes as befitting any cheesy martial arts film, but he’s also a sobering reminder of the loneliness of aging and the way our society treats the aged.

Approaching the end of the book, there is a twist, one which I saw coming -- at least in part -- a while before it arrived, and yet it still managed to rock me with the gravity of the revelation. It shines a whole different light on everything that’s come before, and yet does so in a way that clicks into place without feeling like shock value or, worse, a retcon. This would be a fascinating book to reread with that knowledge in mind, in addition to my desire to reread so I can take note of all the passages I found hilarious, because there were far too many to slow myself down doing that on a first read-through.

Harkaway’s writing is ineluctable; not flowery, not highly literary, but very deliberate even when conversationally rambling off down one of the many tangents, precisely pushing the reader’s patience just so far in setting up the most glorious punchlines.

I’ve refrained from sharing any of those so far, partly because I didn’t take the time to mark them all down and partly because I would hate to spoil the best of the giggles and the insights this book has to offer, but I must offer the passage about the shrew, which I also spent a day foisting off on anyone who would listen to me.

The building in which he works is a grey slab with stern windows and poorly chosen organic paint colours which are intended to produce a stable and relaxing working environment (as per directive Ev/9) but in fact cause the entire complex to resemble the messy interior plumbing of a sickly bison. The strip lighting (low energy as per directive Ev/6) is responsible for much of this, because it emits in the green and purple areas of the spectrum, which are not tints favourable to a feeling of general good health. Further, this illumination is produced by ultra-high-frequency discharges of an electric current through a tube of fluorescing gas, meaning that they flicker at a given (enormously rapid) rate, this frequency being one which sadly produces tension, annoyance and migraines in 81 per cent of adult humans, and has the interesting side effect of causing tachycardia in shrews. Shrews being very susceptible to stress, and having in any case ill-designed cardiovascular systems, it is safe to assume that any shrew entering Mr. Hoare’s workplace with the intention of asking him for a job would be dead before it had gone five metres down the long corridor I am currently attempting, and would thereby instantly convert itself into organic waste and be disposed of by the sanitation crew. Should the shrew turn out to contain elevated or even toxic levels of chemical waste, or should there be cause to suspect, by reason of signs of aberrant and un-shrew-like behaviour or outward symptoms of transmissible disease such as, but not limited to, rashes, bleeding, elevated temperature and coughing, evidence of pre-mortem deliquescence, or petechial haemorrhaging, that the aforementioned shrew was in fact the carrier of a biological agent, the business of disposal would be handed over to a hazmat team trained in these matters, and the tiny body would be removed in a suitable container by men and women wearing spacesuits and taken to a place of investigation to ascertain the level of the threat and also to tease from the tiny, terrified corpse any forensic evidence suggesting that it might be involved in anti-statist activities, that it might, in fact, be a suicide shrew.

If that passage doesn’t make you want to read this book, there’s something wrong with you, my friend.

Review from Bookette.net ( )
1 vote Snumpus | Aug 10, 2016 |
ordered for FF discussion ... // ... was not enjoyed & discussed.

Tried to read anyway. Could not get into it. Seems like it over-reaches, and doesn't live up to the hype.

Long sentences that have digressions and aspects of stream-of-consciousness and other awkwardnesses are not a sign of creative genius and cannot disguise lack of heartfelt and complex characters and a fully rich plot... which are flaws I can see coming in this book as I meander through the first dozen dramatic but unsatisfying pages.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
I don't think I can say enough good words about this. Whatever hyperbole there is, isn't enough. This is the third copy I've bought for myself. I buy them, and give them away. I may knock on your door and say, "Have you heard about the Gone-Away World?"

It is another surreal, what the hell is going on, page-turning romp of a book. With an ending that makes you go 'wtf?' and want to start re-reading it almost immediately.

Please read it, and let me know what you think. ( )
1 vote A.E.Wasp | Apr 20, 2016 |
CLever and well-written sci-fi. ( )
  seschanfield | Mar 7, 2016 |
The narrator's tone is a cross between that of Pushing Daisies, Spider Jerusalem, and Kurt Vonnegut. Trippy, stylized, rambunctious and weird, with a highly political undertone. Years ago, mankind's most fearsome weapon was invented: the Go Away bomb. Simply put, it removed its targets from existence. Completely. But what was supposed to consequence-free proved to have fall-out beyond mankind's wildest nightmares--or rather, *comprised* of mankind's wildest nightmares. After months of fighting back intangible enemies and twisted chimera, a savior appears. The Jorgmund corporation has produced FOX, a liquid that dematerializes the unreal. With FOX constantly spraying above and about them, the remnants of humanity can go about their daily business as though nothing has changed.

When the pipe that sprays FOX is attacked, only the ragtag group of ex-covert ops soldiers that comprise the Haulage and HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company can save the day. But before this, the Company's shining hour, we flashback to their childhoods and training. And that's where the fun really begins. Zaher Bey and his band of raucus, piratical revolutionaries; the nature of corporations; martial arts training; belling ones windows against ninjas; the gritty horror and boredom of war; falling in love; a fleet of desperately loyal mimes--all this and more!

There are some serious twists and turns in this book. Literally 350 pages in, the entire story is turned on its head--and I bought it completely. It made perfect sense. The twists, betrayals, paradigm shifts and last-minute reveals continue right until the very last few pages. THIS BOOK IS VERY EXCITING!




SPOILERY SENTENCES THAT I LOVED FROM THE LAST PARAGRAPH:
"The world we knew is gone for good this time. The new one is beautiful and dangerous. It is *us*." ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nick Harkawayprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Biavasco, AnnamariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guani, ValentinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.
This, I did.

-- T.E. Lawrence
Dedication
For my parents.
You know who you are.
First words
The lights went out in the Nameless Bar just after nine.
Quotations
The tree of nonsense is watered with error, and from its branches swing the pumpkins of disaster.
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Book description
Alternate Title: The Wages of Gonzo Lubitsch
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307389073, Paperback)

A hilarious, action-packed look at the apocalypse that combines a touching tale of friendship, a thrilling war story, and an all out kung-fu infusedmission to save the world.Gonzo Lubitch and his best friend have been inseparable since birth. They grew up together, they studiedmartial arts together, they rebelled in college together, and they fought in the Go-Away War together. Now, with the world in shambles and dark nightmarish clouds billowing over the wastelands, they have been tapped for an incredibly perilous mission. But they quickly realize that this assignment is not all it seems, and before it is over they will have encountered everything from mimes, ninjas, and pirates to one ultra-sinister mastermind, whose only goal is world domination. Unlike anything else, The Gone-Away World is a remarkable literary debut that will be remembered and rediscovered for years to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:56 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Gonzo Lubitsch and his best friend have been inseparable since birth. They grew up together, they studied kung-fu together, they rebelled in college together, and they fought in the Go Away War together. Now, with the world in shambles and dark, nightmarish clouds billowing over the wastelands, they have been tapped for an incredibly perilous mission. But quickly they see that this assignment is more complex than it seems, and before it is over they will have encountered everything from mimes, ninjas, and pirates to one ultra-sinister mastermind, whose only goal is world domination.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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