Monday, 21 January 2013

Thoughts on The Gone-Away World

Note: not in anyway a review, just some rambling.

This book is nothing short of a tiny miracle. It manages to take so many ingredients and blend them together so you never really know what’s coming in the next bite. Sweet, sour, subtle, zesty, surprising, even earthy. All flavours are present but compliment each other in ways that would have combined to be disgusting for a lesser chef. I mean writer.

This a post-apocalyptic novel that manages to be warm, charming, fun and has real heart beating at its center. The Gone-Away World is bright sunbeam in a market place packed with dark, gritty, bleak, or outright horrible tales.

The action focuses on Gonzo Lubitsch, as seen through the eyes of his trusty side-kick and wingman. Gonzo is one of life’s natural heroes, bouncing through life like a very muscular Tigger, seemingly unconcerned by mortal concerns such as doubt, worry or much of anything. And then the world ends and things become distinctly more complicated for everyone.

The novel starts out with Gonzo and his compatriots about to embark on a big job so perilous it’s doubtful everyone will come back. Then the story shifts to give the rich (and it is so rich) backstory of all the events that led to the formation of the Gone-Away World and Mr. Lubitsch himself, ever reliably told to us by his wingman. It is by turns laugh-out-loud funny (I lost track of how many times I made people nervous on the tube with sudden outbursts of giggling), harrowing, poignant and moving.

By the time the novel catches up to the point where the reader came in you are wondering if there is anything Gonzo and Co. can’t do. Surely they are unbeatable, right? They’re so cool, and funny and are the sort of characters you want to invite to dinner (excepting Ronnie Cheung, perhaps. Bumhole).

Hanging over all of this is the threat of the mission they have signed up for, and that’s when the wheels come off for Gonzo. That’s when things become really interesting for the reader. The plot moves much like the students of The Voiceless Dragon do. It’s a soft form martial art that twists, turns, avoids and dodges trouble, and turns things around so you never know quite what is going to happen. The Voiceless Dragon, incidentally, is at the heart of the novel, and there’s a strong Kung Fu movie ethic running the novel’s length, which was essentially cat nip to me.

And all of this is wrapped up in the most assured, flowing prose I’ve had the good fortune to read in a while. Harkaway’s facility for language is poetic, lyrical and playful. I can’t say much else for fear of spoiling the story, but if you fancy a world of big-hearted heroes, apple cake-eating kung fu teachers, meticulously-planned plotting and even a little romance, the you could do far worse than read The Gone Away-World.


  1. Sounds very interesting to say the least Den! Really should give Nick Harkaway a shot, what with the Kitschie's nomination for Angelmaker.

  2. It was a birthday present from Tom Pollock, who is also a Kitschies nominated author. Nice coincidence, huh?