So, a bit of a review of Nick Harkaway’s book, The Gone-Away World [ Powell’s | Amazon ]. As I said before [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], “It’s about what you would have gotten if Booth Tarkington and James Joyce had sobered up and collaborated on some post-apocalyptic cyberpunk.” That only scratches the surface of what’s going on here.
I know not everyone liked the structure of this. fjm for example said that the book she wanted to read was 300 pages shorter. I take her meaning — much of this plot arc is backstory — but I was fine with that. It’s voicy writing, and I’m a sucker for well-executed voice. The world-building wobbles between rubber science and theatre of the absurd, in a bravely unselfconscious way. But this novel is driven by character, and by the language of character. Most of all, it’s a beautiful, horrible journey.
I don’t know if Harkaway is destined to be a science fiction writer. He’s publishing with Knopf, he has a literary pedigree to match Joe Hill’s, and whatever his auctorial ambitions are, they happen to be entirely his business. But he’s at least dropped into our clubhouse for a spell, and done something which struck me as a refreshing and fascinating without committing the too-common literary sin of gross disrespect for genre’s sources and traditions. I liked the book so much that I recommended it for a Nebula, and will almost certainly do the same when Hugo season rolls around.