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Review: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway


I loved this book so much that I posted a pre-review review, urging you all to go out and buy the book. It has been a long time since a book made me want to shout out loud and dance around my hotel room, but this book did.

It is the story of the survivors of the Go-Away War, a war fought with bombs that didn’t make things explode, but instead made them go away. The reasoning goes something like this: matter needs information to tell it what to be – whether it should be a table or a pumpkin or a schnauzer. Strip away that information and matter becomes just Stuff; shapeless, formless and harmless. In theory, these bombs just dissolve that bit of information and your enemies – and their cities, their houses, their furniture, their children – become so much dust in the wind. Problem is, things never work out in theory quite the way you expect. As nature abhors a vaccuum, Stuff hates to be formless. It yearns for that bit of information.

Our nameless narrator and his best friend, Gonzo Lubitsch, are on the front lines of this war and its aftermath. They are principals in the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, men and women who aren’t afraid to step into the breach. When they end up working for Jorgmund, the corporate behemoth that controls much of the post-war world, there is bound to be trouble.

The book is part kung-fu epic, part sci-fi romance, part philosophic screed on what it means to be human, plus post-apocalyptic adventure and frenetic, laugh-out-loud hilarity. The twists and turns in the plot leave you questioning everything that has come before. I don’t know how else to categorize it – a well-read friend described it as “Pynchon with dashes of P.G. Wodehouse and Alexandre Dumas.” The fact that it’s a first novel just floors me. I will be devouring the next book Nick Harkaway publishes as soon as it hits the shelves – sooner, if I can manage it.

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