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The Goneaway World is a novel that aspires to be a whole bunch of things at once. It's a breathless adventure story, with pirates, ninjas, mad scientists, and covert military units. It's a coming-of-age story about a young man and his best friend. It's a sardonic satire, criticizing the excesses of capitalism and militarism in a Kurt Vonnegut-like style. It's a post-apocalypse story. It's an absurd, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-style romp, complete with a crack unit of mimes. It's a metaphysical tale about how "real" the things in our mind are.
You'll either find this book delightfully witty or self-indulgent and exhausting. I leaned a little more in the latter direction. On one hand, I admired how clever and inventive Harkaway is, his effortless talent at satirizing human foibles and turning even the most mundane scenario into a madcap adventure (or the most exotic into something perfectly routine). On the other hand, the story careers around the map so wildly, I found it hard to care about any of the characters or what was happening. Even Gonzo, whom the protagonist is obsessed with (for reasons that become apparent later), is about as interesting as a video game character's user manual bio -- e.g. "Gonzo: a manly, cool-under-pressure guy with Polish parents and a stubborn streak." I eventually got bored with the story and all the tone switches, and stopped listening before I got to the final chapters, even though I'm sure there was an exceedingly clever ninja/pirate/mercenary/corporate honcho/mime battle I missed out on.
Don't get me wrong, I think Nick Harkaway is a smart guy with an impressive imagination. But he really needed the firm hand of a good editor here, who might have stopped him from running with arms waving after every butterfly that flitted past, and gotten him to have focused more on the novel as a whole.
Still, other readers might enjoy the unrestrained zaniness more than I did. Doctor Who or Terry Pratchett fans, take note. Lots of dry British humor here.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful
Just kidding. I have to agree that I enjoyed the book and it's action. The depth of theme isn't radical or stunning, but it's clearly about acceptance, tolerance and change. But forget that, there's mutants. Fire. Love. Betrayal. Bad guys. Good guys. The misunderstood. The changed. It's a grab a bowl of popcorn or hit the road trip audio book that explores our nasty corporate tendencies as well as our love for big loud trucks, shiny things and heroes. Fun. That's the ticket. And seriously, mutants make almost anything more interesting. Science fiction often makes me depressed with it's lack of originality - or flowing phrasology. Like I know?! This was just darn solid good fun. Grab your wheel and head for a tri-state road trip with it - you'll be there before you want.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful