Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gone Away

Time for Book Review Corner kiddies. Note that this will not be a regular or even occasional feature of these screedy scriblings but the spirit moves me just now upon finishing "The Gone Away World". This not very recent release (June 2008) has been covered and reviewed extensively elsewhere but since I just got my hands on it you will be subjected to a spot of literary promotion and a thumping wadge of abject groveling worship of author Nick Harkaway. Reports recieved of the huge advance given to Mr. H., before any reading of the text, aroused suspicions that it might be due, in part at least, to the circumstance of Harkaway being the scion of perennial best selling scrivener John LeCarre'. Consider the suspicions 100 percent without merit. Mr. Harkaway has erupted forth a novel, his first, which may be nominally classified as science fiction but that would be rather like describing Sophia Loren as "some old Italian broad".

Now I have cared little about whether or not any genre work "rises above" its narrowly cast appeal and ascends to the lofty heights of Litrachure. An inescapable feature of the world of letters, and every other human enterprise come to that, is Sturgeon's Law which pungently holds that "90 percent of everything is crap". Well to whatever niche this work may be consigned it sure as hell isn't crap and can stand with the output of the leading lights beloved of the NYT Review of Books. And then some.

The book seems to get off to a slow start, repeatedly interrupts any developing narrative structure, and meanders off in one seemingly irrelevant digression after another. To one's shock after about 50 pages in one is moved to observe that, despite the aimlessness and near frustrating slowness at times, a holy hell of a lot has actually happened plot-wise. It's a genuine forehead smacking moment and warns you to pay attention or you might miss something important as well as mass quantities of metaphorical fun. By a hundred pages only your cold dead hands will release this manuscript before it's finished. Lordy but it's a fun read.

This is one of those times where too much plot discussion will ruin appreciation but I was entirely captivated by its central macguffin and its many-splendored macguffinettes which comprise some of the most original ideas I've ever tripped over in any fiction, genre or otherwise. And I ain't gonna mention a single one of any of them for I wouldn't spoil any of it for my worst enemy. Which makes further discussion a little difficult I suppose but it's just as well for I refuse to commit the felony of litcrit upon such a triumph of tasty machine-gun wisenheimery and way the hell outside the container Class AA speculative fiction ideation. Just read the damn book already. You'll thank me, love Nick Harkaway forever (maybe even in a gay way), and upon finishing will cradle the hardbound in your arms so as to bask a little longer in the warm afterglow of Gonzo Lubistch, the Jorgemund Pipe, Master Wu, and the Matahuxee Mime Combine. Then open it up and read it again.

I pity Nick Harkaway. Having to follow up something as brain-blindingly fine as this will be daunting as hell. If his personal flying wedge of muses do not allow him to top this effort "The Gone Away World" will be the most wondrous one-hit-wonder of all time.

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