Gnomon

Narrated by: Ben Onwukwe
Length: 29 hrs and 4 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (221 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A Best Science Fiction Book of 2017 - The Guardian

From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World and Tigerman, comes a virtuosic new novel set in a near-future, high-tech surveillance state that is equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle.

In the world of Gnomon, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of "transparency". Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens' thoughts and memories - all in the name of providing the safest society in history.

When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn't make mistakes, but something isn't right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter's death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. 

Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn't Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter's psyche: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game, and a sociopathic disembodied intelligence from the distant future. Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. In the static between these stories, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter - and, alarmingly, of herself. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.

A dazzling, panoramic achievement, and Nick Harkaway's most brilliant work to date, Gnomon is peerless and profound, captivating and irreverent, as it pierces through strata of reality and consciousness and illuminates how to set a mind free. It is a truly accomplished novel from a mind possessing a matchless wit infused with a deep humanity.

©2018 Nick Harkaway (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

Gnomon is an extraordinary novel, and one I can’t stop thinking about some weeks after I read it. It is deeply troubling, magnificently strange, and an exhilarating read.” (Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven)

“Opening a novel by Nick Harkaway feels like stepping into a theme park for the mind - every page you turn brings new delights for the mind and the senses. Gnomon is brilliant and terrifying, full of pleasures big and small. Basically, everything I want in a book.” (Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe)

“Beguiling, multilayered, sprawling novel that blends elements of Philip K. Dick-tinged sci-fi, mystery, politics, and literary fiction in a most satisfying brew.... Fans of Pynchon and William Gibson alike will devour this smart, expertly written bit of literary subversion.” (Kirkus, starred review) 

What listeners say about Gnomon

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent, challenging, not a “beach read”

This book was everything I’ve grown to expect from Mr Harkaway, and far more. Gnomon is his most challenging novel yet, & well worth it if you’re willing to give it your full attention and stick with it. I say it that way because there are times when I just want lighter fare; something I can absorb while editing or doing chores around the house.

With Gnomon, I still did those tasks, and dog walking, etc - but I also often found myself scrolling back to fully take on board story information. Even so, I know a second read/ listen is going to divulge items I’ve probably missed in this go ‘round.

It’s a great multi-genre novel & one I’d highly recommend.

Major praise is also due to Mr Onwukwe for his performance which had to be difficult at times (must listen to fully understand). He has a rich, complex & often soothing vocal range which served the story & listener well. If I were to complain for a small reason, it would be his occasional lack of distinction between characters or story arcs. There are so many different arcs and time/scene “flashbacks” (for lack of a better term), and without those vocal cues, there were a few times when I didn’t realize we were in a different scene or moment.

That said, it is a quite long, very dense & substantial book & it’s a small complaint- the performance was still a five star affair.

14 people found this helpful

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Intense and atmospheric

Not exactly a light, quick read, but Nick Harkaway doesn't really write that way to begin with. Gnomon is intense. I found myself having to go back and re-listen to passages that played while I was distracted or just not fully focused. Each chapter and each character bleeds into and builds onto someone or something else, and not always in the same direction. I really loved the mood it created and the feeling of something important hidden just beneath the surface.

I have to admit that I was a little put off by Ben Onwukwe's narration at first. It seemed a little dramatic and heavy-handed. But he did a brilliant job of creating distinctions between the characters and plausible female voices. As I got deeper into the story I appreciated his narration more and more. By the end I couldn't imagine hearing the story from anyone else.

If you're up for something with a little bit of heft and a palpable atmosphere, I definitely recommend Gnomon. Well worth the time and credit.

4 people found this helpful

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It’s excellent.

It’s so refreshing. It’s smart and exciting. The characters are robust. What more could one want.

I’m starting another of Nick Harkaway’s books in 5 minutes.

P.S. the narrator is fantastic.

3 people found this helpful

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A 2.5 Hour That Went On and On and On...

OMF'nG! Getting past the 2 hour and 40 minute chapter 2 is EXCRUCIATING! Are you F'n kidding me!? What the hell!?

Don't get this book.. It is a great and interesting story sprinkled in between these 2.5hour mythological fantasy and dream sequences that really seem rambling and meaningless--unless you are a scholar of myth, sybolism, and dream in literature, then you will love trying to figure out what the hell all this symbolism, imagery, historical referrences and myth mean to the story that I so wanted to hear!!

Chapter 1 was so amazing and interesting that I held out hope that I would be literally (and literarily) rewarded after suffering (this is not hyperbole!) through Chpt 2... The reward was only 40 minutes or so, and then on to another excruciating 2.5hour chapter about nothing...

Narrator needed some work on avoiding droning and differentiating character voices.

I will return this book with a significantly worse rating than I suppose it should deserve--if I were a scholar of this kind of mystical fantasy anyway.

2 people found this helpful

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A bit overwrought

I like Harkaway, and hoped I'd like this one. I really liked Angelmaker and liked Tigerman. But between the endless basso profundo of the reader and the constantly astonished, I've-discovered-something-new tone, i got tired of Gnomon. Its just not that sinister in EVERY paragraph to warrant that tone. Essentially, there is a bad ghost, and a bad government that tricks us, using all that new internet stuff, and the internet comes alive like HAL 9000. I actually believe that is true, too - the government will inevitably turn bad as they all do, except that we have invented and handed them the most effective tool for oppression ever imagined. We'll regret that, or the next generation will. It'll be hard to undo.

But as a novel, its been done before. He has a lovely vocabulary, and turns of phrase are often engaging and a little funny. that's as far as i can recommend it. Also 300 pages too long. Where was the editor?

2 people found this helpful

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Maltise Falcon in Christopher Nolan's Inception

This spectacular book cannot be contained here, but for the patient listener it can be acquired in you. A noir fiction of sorts, that is akin to the Maltise Falcon meeting Christopher Nolan's Inception.

2 people found this helpful

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Nick Harkaway is my favorite author.

Nick Harkaway has the privilege of being the ONLY author I'll listen to twice. His language is rich, powerful, and poetic. His story is imaginative and mind-blowing.

Having said that, this book is a CHORE. Speculation, followed by explanation followed by speculation, ad nauseam. Furthermore, he has failed on a basic level: making me care about the characters. Nope. Just don't care. Some may think that I'm not cerebral enough to truly appreciate it. That's not the case. There's story-telling, then there's showing off how many allusions and references one can jam in without actually adding value.

About 3/4 of the way through, I started listening at 1.5 speed just to get it over with. Then I started fast forwarding, then I began skipping whole chapters. I didn't miss anything.

Granted, I haven't finished the book yet, but I fail to see how, after slugging through all of that, the ending could be worth anything other than, "I'm glad that's over." I don't know if I will ever finish it. I'D RATHER DO SOMETHING FUN.

There is some really good philosophical discussion in there, but it's like a few berries among an acre of mundane high weeds.

You let me down, Nick. Bigtime. From now on, I'll be saying, Nick Harkaway is my favorite author, except for that one book . . .

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing and relevant with a killer ending.

Weaving five stories would be a kiss of death or clunky for many books but this does it and makes it look like magic.

1 person found this helpful

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Wild! Witty! Whimsical! What did I just read?

A wild ride that leaves you wondering why you took it. Prizes prose, wit, and motif over a plot with agency. Great detail and descriptions, but too often I didnt care about what was being described or felt things were happening less because of a characters effort, and more because its what the author wanted to have happen. Very much a story of things happening to people rather than people doing things.

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Confusing and impressive

It's hard to characterize this book. In many ways, it reminds me of some of Thomas Pynchonss oeuvre. I got lost sometimes, and drifted off sometimes, but I never considered giving up. I am in awe of the mind that created this novel.