15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The Gone Away Too-Quickly World,
This review is from: The Gone-Away World (Hardcover)
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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.