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 Romantic Epic, "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.
Shortlisted for BSFA Best Novel Award 2009
"Bewilders, amazes, entertains. . . . a Catch-22 for the 21st century. . . . a work of extraordinary imagination and charisma. . . genius"--The New York Observer
“[A] post-apocalyptic triumph…This is a jigsaw puzzle of a novel. Not one of those quick, easy, rainy Sunday afternoon puzzles, but a complex, clear-the-kitchen-table-for-a-week type of a puzzle, a mysterious configuration of tiny pieces that eludes all reason until you succeed in getting the basic frame in place. At which point you suddenly catch a glimpse of the prize, and from then on it’s simply a matter of slotting pieces in until finally, exhausted but elated, you complete the picture…Immensely rewarding…The post-apocalyptic world that he is constructing is so unlike most standard-issue post-apocalyptic worlds…This dystopia is, quite literally, everyone’s worst nightmare. It is both collective and tailored to the individual - each and everyone’s own private, personalised hell. It is not only clever, it is also genuinely terrifying…The ascent to the book’s summit…is as colourful and engaging as the descent is action-packed…Has the pace and action of an episode of 24…The agility of the narrative is one of the great strengths of this book: for a first-time novelist, Harkaway is robustly confident…Particularly effective are his Matrix-like fight scenes, brought to life in meticulous yet flowing prose…This is clever sci-fi with a light heart and a winning smile: a killer combination.”—The Times
“Breathtakingly ambitious…A sprawling odyssey of a novel, half swashbuckling adventure, half science-fiction, but with such engaging characters that neither genre threatens to overpower the barnstorming narrative…It is a bubbling cosmic stew of a book, written with such exuberant imagination that you are left breathless by its sheer ingenuity. Comparisons are mostly futile, but it recalls Joseph Heller – Harkaway is a deft comic writer – and parts of it can best be described as what Thackeray might produce if he were on acid.”—Observer
“Hits exactly the note of dazed and comic awesomeness…There is a very funny extended conversation of super-dry wit between two civil servants…a disquisition on the use of sheep on the battlefield; a wonderfully sarcastic anatomy of political belligerence…and the exhilarating unveiling of unexpected allies…There are delightful moments aplenty…Any author who has come up with the beautifully silly plan of melding a kung-fu epic with an Iraq-war satire and a Mad Max adventure has to be worth keeping an eye on.”—Guardian
“[A] magnificent, sprawling, epic work…Could easily become a modern classic. Its scope and ambition are extraordinary, its execution is often breathtaking, and its style is by turns hilarious, outrageous, devastating, hip and profound…Its bleakly humorous futuristic vision is not dissimilar to that of Kurt Vonnegut, while its visceral, scattershot energy brings to mind landmark American books like The World According to Garp and Catch-22…The ghosts of Douglas Adams and P G Wodehouse haunt some of the finest passages here…There are profound meditations on war, commercialism and the nature of humanity, and there are also hugely entertaining passages featuring pirate monks, ninjas, mime artists, ridiculous military escapades and much more. It should be made clear that it is also very often arse-kickingly funny. Throw in some perfectly plotted revelations, an unforgettable finale and a life-affirming and thought-provoking denouement, and you’ve got a tale which will live long in the memory, and a writer destined for great things.”—Independent on Sunday
“The Gone-Away World is a genuine panoramic, 3D, surround-sound, total-immersion, thrill-factor ten miracle – it is the kind of book that you just don't want to end! …Harkaway relates the story of our intrepid heroes – and their tale is engrossing, action-packed and moves with fanatical momentum, never dawdling to admire the view. The reader is propelled through this novel with abandon and the experience is entirely an undeniably joyful one, even in the sadder and nastier bits….What really stands out here is Harkaway’s narrative style – his voice is suffused with whip-crack humour, pointed philosophy and deeply felt emotion and the consistently perfect balance he strikes throughout is a truly beautiful thing to behold. There is both great heart and great intellect in The Gone-Away World, as well as pathos aplenty and Harkaway offers a narrative that is forever fractal, curling and spiralling off into tangential observations and ruminations, side-stories, myths, anecdotes, fables and legends – all of which are related with pithy wit and are never showy but instead integral to the development of the story…Very highly recommended.”—SFRevu
Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall in 1972. He studied philosophy, sociology, and politics at Clare College, Cambridge, and then worked in the film industry. The Gone-Away World is his first novel. He lives in London with his wife.