Review: Gone Away World

By Nick Harkaway
Audio book: Great

If Kurt Vonnugent and the guy who wrote Catch 22 had an incredibly hyperactive baby, who at the age of 7 began producing novels while eating glue sticks, it would probably write Gone Away World.

The author’s voice in this book is fantastic. It could have had a horrible plot and the worst characterization in the world and I still would have finished it. I would read this guy’s grocery lists. Seriously. This book is in my top ten just on that strength alone. If you pick it up and aren’t charmed by the writing style in the first dozen pages, stop. It won’t be worth it.

The genre is ostensibly science fiction, but it’s sort of a magical realism approach to the genre rather than something Asimov would write. The science fiction elements are there, in the background, but mostly as a commentary on things you might see in the real world. The plot is only so-so and has some extremely strange pacing; some periods of the protagonists life seem to stretch out endlessly, while other parts go by quite quickly. The characterization centers primarily on the narrator and his brother, but the two person ensemble works reasonably well for this book. Harkway also has some interesting to things to say about war and bureaucracy, which is part of what reminds me of Catch 22. Gone Away World doesn’t revolve quite as tightly around its themes as Catch 22 does, but it certainly manages to be more than just another science fiction story.

If you’re looking for something weird, fun, and sometimes thoughtful, I’d recommend picking up this book and reading the first chapter. If you aren’t solidly sold on Harkaway’s rambling narration after that, I’d put it down.

“Dick Washburn is a type D pencil neck: a sassy, wannabe paymaster with vestigial humanity. This makes him vastly less evil than a type B pencilneck (heartless bureaucratic machine, pro-class tennis) and somewhat less evil than a type C pencil neck (chortling lackey of the dehumanizing system, ambient golf), but unquestionably more evil than pencil neck types M through E (real human screaming to escape a soul-devouring professional persona, varying degrees of desperation). No one I know has met a type A pencilneck in much the same way that no one ever reports their own fatal accident.”

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