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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 (á 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.

©2008 Nick Harkaway (P)2008 Random House, Inc.

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  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 09-01-12

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.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

i am a worm genetiscist.

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.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 05-08-10

Awesome style, kickin' story with many tangents

This is only vaguely science fiction -- the premise (a superweapon wipes out most of the world, leaving the heroes to pick up the pieces) is not terribly original and only acts as a framework for the real story, which is one of love and friendship, duty, and responsibility. But lest you think this is just an exercise in literary fiction masquerading as scifi, there are also lots of explosions and ninjas.

Harkaway's writing -- many, many tangents, asides, inventive phrases, and other authorial indulgences, are the real attraction. If you like this kind of writing, you'll like this book, though if you're one of those people who likes Stephen King but thinks he needs to chop his books in half, you'll probably find this one overly-long also.

The narration by Kirby Heyborne is nearly flawless. I'm not sure if I'd like his narration for another story, but he captures the tone of this book perfectly.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Clever, funny, and touching. With ninjas.

It's hard to describe this book in more detail than what's on the cover blurb without giving spoilers. In theory, it's a post-apocalyptic science fiction/adventure story, but it's really about friendship, loyalty, doing the right thing, and ninjas.

This is one of those books where it's the way it's written that is more entertaining than the story itself. The style may or may not be to your liking, as the first-person narrator goes off on many, many tangents. Witticisms and inventive euphemisms abound. None of it is strictly necessary for the story -- if you just want a rollicking adventure, this book takes a while to get there, and the adventure is buried beneath a lot of wordy prose that at times begins to sound like the author is just trying to impress you with his cleverness.

However, it is clever and funny, and if style is important to you, this is a stylish novel. And there are some great characters. And ninjas.

If you're hesitating because this book is 2 credits, take a chance, it's worth it.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Well Worth the 2 Credit Cost

Wow! WOW! Completely wonderful, crazycakes novel! A story of love, friendship, loyalty, ninjas, revenger magicians, mimes and a mighty long pipe! Also kind of touching. Don't ruin it for yourself by reading any reviews. Unless you are an accountant or a worm geneticist, I think you'll love every moment.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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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.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

master craftsmen of words, both author and reader

The story was entertaining on the surface, and many many fragments of it were so extremely good that I wished it was easier to rewind my iPod a couple of minutes, and that there was bookmark capability. The reader gave it just the right voice for the main character, and the other characters were effortless to differentiate. The reader added much and detracted nothing. I enjoyed the length of the book, it was by no means tiresome. I wanted more and more, and it begs for a sequel.

It has the elements of a dystopian apocalypse, a martial arts thriller, political intrigue, and a deeply current satire on the military industrial complex and corporate pathology, and interesting religious perceptions. It's extremely funny, and very credible in it's depiction of the protagonist's thought life. The science fiction is uniquely imaginative and entertaining, and the enjoyment continues throughout, without any boring backwaters.

Best I've listened to of the many audio books I've heard over the years. Better than Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, or Ringworld, from my point of view. I've listened to it several times, and played excepts for family and sent quotes to friends.

But maybe I've oversold it just a little. Or maybe not.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Winston
  • A Very Cold Place
  • 04-22-12

Best Novel (and audiobook) of the year

What made the experience of listening to The Gone-Away World the most enjoyable?

Yes, the story is loopy, but it's so much fun. Well worth listening to twice - or even more. Harkaway brings something to Dystopian fiction that it seldom sees: - truly memorable characters, a wild, memorable story, and even worthwhile ponderings. Gone-Away has twists and turns that are well worth the effort it takes to getting your brain around. The narrator is superb.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • MENDON, NY, United States
  • 04-26-12

Exceptionally good narration

I didn't want to get involved in a whole review, but Kirby Heyborne's narration (it's a first-person narrative) in particular was so outstanding I just had to say something.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Tmag
  • San Francisco, CA United States
  • 08-08-13

Interesting Idea - Hard to visualize at times

I liked the ideas and the characters in this book. But there were a few things that were a bit confusing and made it difficult to visualize. First is geography. They went from a war in a far off land to being at home without much in between. Secondly, the science is weak and unconvincing. The science behind the magic of it all. If you put your doubt or you desire for more explanation aside, you can enjoy an eventful, imaginative adventure with unexpected twists and fun characters.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful