The Gone-Away World

Nick Harkaway
The Gone-Away World Cover

Convoluted, Rambling Mess


I quit reading this book when, having read 175 of its rambling storyline, I still had no idea what the book was about. It might be SF, or perhaps it's just a satirical absurdist tale of two men growing up. There are ninjas, though I'm not quite sure. Some other reviews promised mimes later down the line.

Now, that all sounds clever, and you can definitely see that Mr. Harkaway believes in his own cleverness. I wish I did; instead, I found myself thinking that perhaps if he were not the son of a famous writer, some people along the path of his career would have instilled in him some humility. The writing is just so all over the place, and not in an interesting way; I frequently found myself zoning out, only to come back to the page wondering what the hell I was reading about. Segues go on for pages.

I think I wouldn't mind this so much if the characters rang true in any way. They don't. For all his unique, convoluted voice, the protagonist is a cipher, and so is his best friend. I have no clue what drives them forward, what motivates them. They have no personality, only an accumulation of quirky life experiences. For instance, the main character learns some mystical martial art, but there is no indication at all as to why he wanted to do it, and what impact it has on his personality.

I once tried a drink in a bar in Singapore called a Lamborghini. The bartender made it by throwing in a whole bunch of alcohols and mixing them all up. I think there was fire involved, too. The outcome was predictable: while each individual liquor had its own flavor and appeal on its own, thrown in together they just crowded each other into a chaotic, overpowering mess without any distinctive character. This book is pretty much the literary equivalent of that drink.