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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 9 March 2017
excellent and different read - well written
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on 25 September 2015
I loved this book. Harkaway blends effortlessly tension and humour. Even when the world is in the process of being destroyed, he has the ability to slip in a line that will literally have you laughing out loud. Even reading the lines out of context brings a smile to your face. Although it is a book about the end of the world, it doesn’t read that way due to the enjoyment slipped into each page.

His characters are rounded and well developed. All of them are likeable. Even the ones the main characters do not like are presented with charm and wit. The narrator is a complex and real individual, with failures, hopes and dreams like the rest of us. His development is the most profound in the book, which only leads to the twists and turns on the way being more powerful. Harkaway knows how to write his characters – and our engagement with those characters is what turns a potentially confusing book into a brilliant story.

The majority of the book is written in the past with events finally catching up with themselves before the last quarter moves things on. It works. There is no jumping around in the timeline; it goes back to the beginning and it progresses forward. The writing style is fluent though. When events start moving forward rather than catching up, there is no sudden change or jolt to distract you from your reading. The tense subtly shifts and takes you with it.

The plot itself is genius. Trying to describe it is hard – it makes no sense. While reading, it is clear in your mind. You know where you are and what is happening at all times, despite the absurdity of the situation. The characters reactions mirror your own. Discovering things at the same pace as the characters means any confusion is subsequently cleared up through dialogue and action taking place in the book itself. You know what is happening as much as they do – you are along for the ride too.

The only reason it was not given 5/5 was there were a few pages where I had no idea what was going on. Admittedly neither did the character. But the sudden jolt from knowing to being confused distanced me from the book for a chapter or so until things began to move forward again.

Definitely a recommendation for anyone interested in fantasy novels.
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Imagine a future world where a chemical solution is the only thing that keeps us from the ghastly mutated barbarism of the Gone Away World.

Now imagine the wacky, quirky upbringing that led to such a future, and an absurdist autobiography filled with ninjas, cowardly revolutionaries, apocalyptic monsters and the Go Away Bomb. Nick Harkaway's "The Gone Away World" plants him firmly in the center of clever, forward-thinking fiction, as a sort of postapocalyptic Robertson Davies.

One night in the Nameless Bar, there's a blackout. Nothing new -- except the TV shows that the Pipe -- a vast network of hoses and lines that keeps the Livable Zone that way -- has caught fire.

Along with his pal Gonzo Lubitsch and a bunch of random bar weirdos, the narrator sets out to save the day. But this takes him back to his earlier life -- a strange childhood mentored by the quirky ancient martial-artist Master Wu, mutating into Angry-Young-Manhood complete with dissatisfaction and lots of sex. He's arrested as a revolutionary ringleader, and joins up with the cake-esque named Zaher Bey.

And then came the War that transformed the world into a place of monsters, darkness and utter weird. And in the present day, his road trip takes a sudden and bizarre turn when Gonzo shoots him. And as the narrator struggles to find what is going on at the heart of the mysterious Jorgamund Company, he learns of who has masterminded all the most horrific events of this twisted world...

Nick Harkaway is one of those rare authors who can capture the surreal in a single observation -- a woman's hair, a phone call, a big mean dog. So in a book with "shark things with legs," people melded with horses, and ninja assassins, one can expect that things are going to get pretty strange. And "The Gone Away World" explores how that strange world came to be.

Admittedly it starts off in a rather scatterbrained, manner in the first chapter, but levels out when it goes back to the narrator's shared history with Gonzo. But despite all the weirdness, Harkaway's writing has a curious, contemplative dignity that reminds me of Robertson Davies on crack ("may giant badgers pursue him for ever through the Bewildering Hell of Fire Ants, Soap Opera and Urethral Infections), but also has splatters of shocking vividity ("high towers and pale houses. The wind carries a murmur from its streets").

Seriously. Where else can you find a man proclaiming that he is "such a totally terrifying concentration of nerdhood" that he's "cracked the code for human social behavior using mathematics"? And it doesn't seem totally absurd?

And the Gone-Away world is the strangest place of all -- it's got ninjas, mutants, revolutionaries and mystery corporations that Just Have To Be Bad, all interlinked. But Harkaway doesn't neglect the poignancy inherent in a world that has been wrenched out of shape -- we get to see the sad, ruined creatures that have lost not only their human bodies but their minds as well.

The relationship between hero-stud Gonzo and the narrator is what really drives the novel onward, and there's absolutely nothing typical about their weird, slightly awkward friendship. Harkaway peppers the book with other oddities -- extremely mysterious women, odd bar-people, and the delightfully quirky little old martial-arts master who molded the narrator. Ah, Master Wu, we will not forget you soon.

"The Gone Away World" sounds like the title of a suburban-ennui tale, but it's actually the tame description of a wildly surreal postapocalyptic thriller, with plenty of unusual twists and deliciously odd characters.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Imagine a future world where a chemical solution is the only thing that keeps us from the ghastly mutated barbarism of the Gone Away World.

Now imagine the wacky, quirky upbringing that led to such a future, and an absurdist autobiography filled with ninjas, cowardly revolutionaries, apocalyptic monsters and the Go Away Bomb. Nick Harkaway's "The Gone Away World" plants him firmly in the center of clever, forward-thinking fiction, as a sort of postapocalyptic Robertson Davies.

One night in the Nameless Bar, there's a blackout. Nothing new -- except the TV shows that the Pipe -- a vast network of hoses and lines that keeps the Livable Zone that way -- has caught fire.

Along with his pal Gonzo Lubitsch and a bunch of random bar weirdos, the narrator sets out to save the day. But this takes him back to his earlier life -- a strange childhood mentored by the quirky ancient martial-artist Master Wu, mutating into Angry-Young-Manhood complete with dissatisfaction and lots of sex. He's arrested as a revolutionary ringleader, and joins up with the cake-esque named Zaher Bey.

And then came the War that transformed the world into a place of monsters, darkness and utter weird. And in the present day, his road trip takes a sudden and bizarre turn when Gonzo shoots him. And as the narrator struggles to find what is going on at the heart of the mysterious Jorgamund Company, he learns of who has masterminded all the most horrific events of this twisted world...

Nick Harkaway is one of those rare authors who can capture the surreal in a single observation -- a woman's hair, a phone call, a big mean dog. So in a book with "shark things with legs," people melded with horses, and ninja assassins, one can expect that things are going to get pretty strange. And "The Gone Away World" explores how that strange world came to be.

Admittedly it starts off in a rather scatterbrained, manner in the first chapter, but levels out when it goes back to the narrator's shared history with Gonzo. But despite all the weirdness, Harkaway's writing has a curious, contemplative dignity that reminds me of Robertson Davies on crack ("may giant badgers pursue him for ever through the Bewildering Hell of Fire Ants, Soap Opera and Urethral Infections), but also has splatters of shocking vividity ("high towers and pale houses. The wind carries a murmur from its streets").

Seriously. Where else can you find a man proclaiming that he is "such a totally terrifying concentration of nerdhood" that he's "cracked the code for human social behavior using mathematics"? And it doesn't seem totally absurd?

And the Gone-Away world is the strangest place of all -- it's got ninjas, mutants, revolutionaries and mystery corporations that Just Have To Be Bad, all interlinked. But Harkaway doesn't neglect the poignancy inherent in a world that has been wrenched out of shape -- we get to see the sad, ruined creatures that have lost not only their human bodies but their minds as well.

The relationship between hero-stud Gonzo and the narrator is what really drives the novel onward, and there's absolutely nothing typical about their weird, slightly awkward friendship. Harkaway peppers the book with other oddities -- extremely mysterious women, odd bar-people, and the delightfully quirky little old martial-arts master who molded the narrator. Ah, Master Wu, we will not forget you soon.

"The Gone Away World" sounds like the title of a suburban-ennui tale, but it's actually the tame description of a wildly surreal postapocalyptic thriller, with plenty of unusual twists and deliciously odd characters.
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on 9 May 2012
This was a difficult piece to read... The problem may be that English is not my mother tongue? I find this book ambitious, bordering on pretentious. Sadly not in a good sense. I read books by Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, China Melville and George RR Martin (although I find him more than a tiny bit sexist) to give you an idea of my normal frame of mind.

But a 100 pages into this book I gave up. It felt like reading Ulysses but without the award of being able to bragg about it afterwards (or actually enjoying parts of the book which I did :) )

So if you are looking for satire, action, or drama that is accessible for a normal reader, my advice is: Look elsewhere!
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on 16 June 2010
I just don't get all the criticism that has been levelled at this book: it is certainly one of the best books I have ever read. Don't get me wrong, it is complex, convoluted and verbose. These are precisely the things that make it superb. The book is very, very clever (which may explain why some people are so opposed to it); very, very violent (which may explain why some people are so opposed to it); very, very funny (which may explain why some people are so opposed to it) and very, very enjoyable (which probably doesn't explain why some people are so opposed to it, but you can never tell). Whenever I run out of books to read (which is often, since I read 3 to 4 books a week, if not more), I always come back to this and everytime i do I love it. After all, what's not to love? Ninjas, Pirates, post-apocalyptic world, very bad bad-guys, very bad good-guys, murder, kidnap, intrigue and social divide.

And did I mention funny? Because it really needs to be stated at least twice. Admittedly, the first time I read it, I needed to consult a dictionary more than once (and that's quite impressive- I'm rather wordy myself), and several times I needed to google up some reference or another. However, it was all worth it. I find myself waiting to see what Mr Harkaway puts out next. It's either going to be truly magnificent or complete and utter tosh. Either way, I'll give it a go!
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VINE VOICEon 27 June 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Always a fan of post-apocalyptic plots, I wasn't disappointed by Harkaway's exploration of his particular ideas about a reconstructed, shattered world. An eclectic mix of shock and dark humour, and some engaging, expertly drawn characters mean that there is a lot to get your teeth into. The idea of the inevitable cycle of rise and fall is played out in an intriguing mish-mash of the war and sci-fi genres.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a holiday novel or a light read, then this probably isn't it - it's a book you have to approach with the same kind of heavyweight attitude that the writer injects into it with some very carefully crafted prose. And perhaps that is the book's sticking point - it's so carefully constructed along rather orthodox lines that at times it feels a little false. That said, if you have the patience with it, there are some fascinating tableaux to explore. Stick with it when it loses pace - there is light at the end of the tunnel, and your reward for pushing through is a very enjoyable end to the book.
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Mixing a range of styles - from Joseph Heller's "Catch 22", through the wacky world of "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, to the attention to detail and plot complexity of "Cryptonomicon" by Neil Stephenson - this is a superb book.

A post apocalyptic vision of the Earth, with most of the planet contaminated by an Information Bomb that makes Matter "Gone Away", and populated by refugees from the "Mad Max" films - I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even the various flash backs into a kung fu childhood.

If you have enjoyed any of the above authors - give this a go.
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VINE VOICEon 25 June 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm a fan of weird dystopian fiction, so I looked forward eagerly to receiving my copy of The Gone Away World for review. Apart from a few minor points, I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read- and a surprisingly quick one for such a thick volume. If you don't like deliberate eccentricity, then this is probably not a book you'll enjoy. If ninjas, mimes, student anarchists and shrew tachycardia make you giggle, then read on.

The tone of The Gone Away world can slightly frenetic, and it does feel a bit like spending time with a hyperactive and slightly pretentious teenager, but in the context of the post- and during apocalyptic world in question, this served to set the scene rather well. Harkaway is fond of descriptive passages that go off on tangents to the main story. I'm a biologist by training, so my inner nerd rejoiced at soliloquies on shrew tachycardia or the use of sheep in battle. I loved the narrator's descriptions of growing up in Cricklewood Cove, childish relationships and rumoured cannibal dogs, and Master Wu made me burn with the desire to take up Tai Chi; many details of the world drew me in and held me mesmerised. Others, such as the shrewdly observed student anarchists, made me snort. There were moments where The Gone Away World felt uncomfortably close to our own, and the weird mix of characters and humor revealed a lot more than I expected.

I can see how some of the descriptive writing could be described as froth, and is utterly tangential to the main story. However, the main story isn't why I read novels. As it stands, the apparently simple plot of The Gone Away World is revealed to be not so simple- delivering a whopping and highly original twist that I didn't see coming even when it had hit me over the head several times. This twist reveals the real cleverness of this novel- as suddenly whole structures and details are made clear.

The (over)use of italics jarred a bit, and cast an aura of pretension- there were times when it felt appropriate and times when it was overdone. At one point there was a mathematical reference that seemed designed to impress during a description of the narrator's fighting skills- a pity, then, that it was incorrect. All in all, however, Harkaway has created an enormous cast of extremely memorable characters and set them free to save the world with great enthusiasm, and a few exploding sheep.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Overall, I liked this novel and would recommend it.

Harkaway can't be faulted for creating a new world forged from disaster, I couldn't put the book down when this world was being explored. The story was both fascinating and horrifying, and also very funny - I was laughing out loud at times. This could so easily have been my favourite novel from the last few years, it just fell a bit short.

I think this can be put down to the fact that this is Harkaway's first novel. It seems like he picked up a set of instructions for writing a novel and followed them religiously, from the hook at the start to the twist and the conclusion. The problem is that some of this was a bit tedious and forced. Some of the other reviewers stopped reading during the chapters that set out the history of the characters and essentially brought the reader up to speed. I agree that this section was unnecessarily long and at times boring when compared to the first chapter, but I say keep reading because the second half of the novel is much more enjoyable and engaging, earning the book 4 stars from me.

My only other complaint is that Harkaway either wrote this with his head in a thesaurus, or was determined to use just about every word in his extensive vocabularly. Either way it was pretty grating at times.

To sum up, read this novel - try to forgive the drawn out history section and get stuck into the story as it builds from then on - and hope that Harkaway won't try so hard in future because he could be an excellent fiction writer.
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