Despite the 700-page cyclopic volume, Englishman Nick Harkaway’s “The Gone-Away World” reads more like a synopsis of a novel than a novel itself. The action in it rushes at a gallop with a breathless haste, almost without the participation of adjectives and adverbs. In addition, having begun with a vigorous action, the novel’s plot suddenly lays a flashback loop of three hundred pages – seemingly unmotivated and too long by any measure.
This is where the bad news ends and good news begins, because, despite all the above, The Gone-Away World is one of the most unusual, funny, and dizzyingly unpredictable books you can imagine. The novel Nick Harkaway is both postapocalyptic fiction, and the story of growing up, and the detective story, and the university novel, and the antiwar pamphlet, and God knows what else. And in the middle (okay, a little farther from the beginning than we would like) the reader is waiting for such a trap on such a scale that, having reached it, it will be difficult to resist the temptation to return to the beginning and read everything again – already in the context of new knowledge.
The magnificent Gonzo Lubitsch and his best friend are a far less colorful storyteller hero who remains unnamed for the time being, they grow together in a small provincial town, they grow up together, go to the university together, and then end up in a very strange war. A small, picturesque and, in the recent past, an exceptionally prosperous power has become the scene of confrontation between several states, each of which pursues its own — for the most part very far from the ideals of humanism — goals. One of the warring parties arranges a chemical attack, and in response, America decides to use its secret super-weapon, the so-called “go-away bombs”. According to the creators, “go-away bombs” pulls information out of matter, and that, having lost the organizing structure of the meaning, simply ceases to exist. However, as is usually the case, reality makes its own adjustments, and the local campaign of intimidation rapidly develops into a global apocalypse of the most unexpected sense: the disincarnate matter does not disappear, but begins to reincarnate, taking the form of the most terrible and dark human fears, dreams and fantasies. Gonzo and his friend manage, more or less without loss, to survive the end of the world and even participate in the construction of a new world, but what can be passed away for a happy ending, on closer examination, is only one of the stages of a complex and evil plan, in which only to play their roles.
Friendship, love, madness, betrayal, the end of the world, the opposition of the ancient clans, the sinister world conspiracy, merry absurdity and the abyss of elegant cultural allusions – in a single novel, Nick Harkaway managed to pack something that another author would have needed for a good ten books, turning most literary debut in this exhibition of the achievements of the literary industry.
“The Gone-Away World” is the first novel by Nick Harkaway, and to say that this is not felt at all will be an exaggeration. Sometimes it becomes really hard to wade through the dense thorns of nouns and verbs, it hurts you a little from excessive tempo, and the deliberate lack of descriptions and psychological characteristics does not allow you to really fall in love with the characters (minus the two main ones) and become attached to them. Nevertheless, the ingenuity of Harkaway (perhaps inherited from his father – the writer John le Carré), his reckless writing generosity and lively, vigorous energy make “The Gone-Away World” worthy of the closest – and benevolent – attention. Chimera, of course, but outstanding and beautiful in its own way.