The Gone-Away World

the-gone-away-world1I’m having a difficult time pigeon-holing The Gone Away World, a novel by Nick Harkaway (an interesting tidbit: he is the son of John le Carré): the novel is a mishmash of several genres.

The novel’s narrator is unnamed, which is an important plot-point. I won’t give away his identity, but I will say that his memory may not be completely reliable.

Only a thin strip of our civilized world remains after an unanticipated by-product (stuff) from a purportedly ‘clean’ weapon (the Go Away Bomb, which removes information from matter) creates new life from people’s thoughts, and some of the ‘new’ are horrifying. The thin strip of civilization is protected by a mysterious mist (FOX: Informationally Extra-Saturated Matter) that is dispersed from the Jorgmund pipe, which snakes around the world.

As the novel begins, a section of the pipe is on fire: the  narrator is a member of a squad of disaster/hazmat specialists who set out to extinguish the fire.

Just as the hazmat team’s adventure begins, the narrator pauses the action to provide historic backdrop by relating the story of his life, from the age of five, until the apocalyptic event itself. The reader eventually discovers the narrator’s identity, and the story takes on an added dimension. After the pipeline fire is extinguished, the build-up to the climax of the real adventure/thriller/gong-fu/romance/science fiction-fantasy/comedy truly begins.

There are hints scattered throughout the book regarding the narrator’s identity; in retrospect, it is obvious, but I must admit that I didn’t quite get it right (although I did successfully foresee a couple of other ‘revelations’). It would be interesting to re-read the novel knowing the narrator’s identity, but — for me — it isn’t be worth the time investment: there are too many other novels unread, waiting on my bookshelf, and this one doesn’t quite warrant a re-read.

The ending was satisfactory, but too ‘Hollywood’ for my tastes, and the plot meandered unnecessarily; nevertheless, I enjoyed the book.