The Gone-Away World

  • by Nick Harkaway
  • Narrated by Kirby Heyborne
  • 24 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A wildly entertaining debut novel, introducing a bold new voice that combines antic humor (think Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut) with a stunning futuristic vision (√° la A Clockwork Orange and 1984, with a little Mad Max thrown in) to give us an electrifyingly original tale of love, friendship, and the apocalypse.There couldn't be a fire along the Jorgmund Pipe. It was the last thing the world needed. But there it was, burning bright on national television. The Pipe was what kept the Livable Zone safe from the bandits, monsters, and nightmares the Go-Away War had left in its wake. The fire was a very big problem.Enter Gonzo Lubitsch and his friends, the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, a team of master troubleshooters who roll into action when things get particularly hot. They helped build the Pipe. Now they have to preserve it - and save humanity yet again. But this job is not all it seems. It will touch more closely on Gonzo's life - and that of his best friend - than either of them can imagine. And it will decide the fate of the Gone-Away World.Equal parts raucous adventure, comic odyssey, geek nirvana, and ultra-cool epic, The Gone-Away World is a story of - among other things - love, pirates, mimes, greed, and ninjas. But it is also the story of a world, not unlike our own, in desperate need of heroes - however unlikely they may seem.


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Exhaustively witty, but unsatisfying

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.
Read full review

- Ryan "Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good."

Often funny and brilliant, but also exhausting

This is a science fiction/post-apocalyptic/kung fu/romance/war novel/comedy/drama/horror/adventure story written by John le Carré's son. If the description is a bit exhausting, so is the book. It feels like Harkaway threw in the kitchen sink into the book, and then the remaining sinks in the house, and other plumbing, for good measure.

The book is often entertaining and exciting, with wry comments and some laugh-out lines. But it is also very discursive: wandering through flashbacks and asides, switching tone between satirical and emotional. It isn't hard to follow, exactly, but rather tiring. The plot is interrupted so frequently that you sometimes want to shout "Get on with it!" at your audio player.

For example, the story is framed in a fascinating post-apocalyptic setting. Within that story, there are flashbacks to the vaguely absurdist Gone Away War that led to the apocalypse. Part of the story of that war involves an epic escape. In the middle of the escape, a secondary character dies, and the author decides to tell you what is going through the mind of the character during its death, which includes a flashback of the character's entire life, for a full 10+ minutes. It was a funny flashback, but I really wanted to just keep the main plot going.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that it is an audio book, so, suddenly realizing that you are now going to spend 10-30 minutes listening to a discursive discussion can be really annoying.

On the other hand, the book is really interesting, very imaginative, and well-read. If you are okay with the meandering plot and willful switches of tone, this is a good choice.
Read full review

- Ethan M. "On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-16-2008
  • Publisher: Random House Audio