The Gone-Away World - Nick Harkaway
Publisher: UK - Windmill Books
The Jorgmund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it’s on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out – but there’s more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgmund Company itself. Equal parts raucous adventure, comic odyssey and geek nirvana, The Gone-Away World is a story of – among other things – love and loss; of ninjas, pirates, politics; of curious heroism in strange and dangerous places; and of a friendship stretched beyond its limits. But it also the story of a world, not unlike our own, in desperate need of heroes – however unlikely they may seem.
Now, I don't know about you guys, but when I encounter a book that is covered in endorsements from basically every publication in existence, I get nervous. Normally these books are so up-themselves, so convinced of their own intelligence, that they leave me cold. The Gone-Away World has many, many such endorsements, and... I loved it.
The book is narrated by the best friend of a hero. That is not to say our protagonist is un-hero-like, but his rating on the hero-scale pales into insignificance next to his lifelong friend - the good-looking, intelligent, military-gifted, and also thoroughly likeable, Gonzo. The story takes us through many years of their lives and, ultimately, through an over the top look at war and its results, but with many a home truth. What if you could invent the perfect weapon? What if you could simply make your enemies Go Away?
The breadth and detail of Harkaway's imagination throughout this book is simply astonishing, and there are many laugh out loud moments too. It is about 2/3rds of the way through the book that he deals the sucker-punch though - a twist of such unexpected magnitude that it is truly gut-wrenching. Very few authors are willing (and capable) enough of hiding and deploying such a shock, and it guarantees that The Gone-Away World will live long in the memory.
Please read it, it's a classic, and hard to quantify - think epic Tom Holt, or James Barclay's The Raven books all mushed into one. 9.5 out of 10.