Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic science fiction

The Gone-Away World

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Gone-Away World [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Nick Harkaway.

Harkaway The Gone-Away World

Although I came to this novel on the basis of my appreciation of a later work by the same author, it made an eerily good match for the most recent feature film I enjoyed. If you liked the martial arts action, twisted humor, melodramatic pathos, and reality-warping mindfuckery of Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, you might find that Nick Harkaway’s doorstop 2008 first novel actually delivers a kindred experience.

The Gone-Away World contains about half a dozen major anagnorises or revelatory plot pivots, each with perfectly adequate narrative preparation and often outright foreshadowing. After getting caught with my pants down by a couple of these, I got really vigilant, paying special attention to what the story hadn’t told me at that point, and my effort was rewarded with being able to anticipate the next big surprise by maybe two or three pages. Then as I kept on reading, feeling pleased with myself, I got surprised again! (Well, I sort of saw that coming.) And again! (OMG, how could I fail to have seen that coming!) It was like losing a sparring bout.

The semi-fantastic post-apocalyptic setting is definitely sui generis (although comparisons others have made to Vonnegut have some merit), and it took me a few of the book’s longish chapters to get comfortable with the narrative framing. But even before that point I found the prose fast-moving and congenial.

There’s possibly an allegory here, certainly a parable. I had to wonder if Harkaway named “FOX”–“the gunk … inFOrmationally eXtra-saturated” (259) that stabilizes reality after the Go Away War has totally disrupted it– as a conscious poke at US propaganda media. The book takes aim at even bigger troubles, though, if you want to read it that way. The repeated tacit references to Andromeda in the final arc were poignant.

On the whole, I liked this novel a lot and found it to be a lively ride. It fell a little short of the tremendously high esteem I have for Harkaway’s Gnomon, but that’s hardly grounds to dismiss it. It is perhaps, as I’ve seen some suggest, more accessible than the later book, while still delivering a considerable taste of what the writer has to offer.

These are the things that life is all about. These moments. It’s not about the rituals. It’s not about getting by. It’s about the stack of tiny little moments of joy and love that add up to a lifetime that’s been worthwhile. You can’t measure them; you can only capture them, like snapshots in your mind. All that joy, all that greatness, that’s God.

C Robert Cargill, Sea of Rust: A Novel [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Cargill Sea of Rust life moments not rituals not getting by about little moments joy love add up lifetime worthwhile all joy greatness god

“It’s all math to you, isn’t it?” “Everything is math, Brittle. All of existence is binary. Ones and zeros. On and off. Existing or not. Believing anything beyond that is simply pretending.” “That’s all anything means to you?” “Meaning is a function set to zero in this universe. Maybe in the other places beyond us there is something more than simply maintaining existence, but here, in this universe, it is the only thing that matters.”

C Robert Cargill, Sea of Rust: A Novel [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Cargill Sea of Rust all math everything existence binary ones zeros on off existing not meaning maintaining existence matters

“This is our land!” he screamed. “It is not your land! I’ve got two big guns, and you ain’t got none. I’ll blow your head off, if you don’t fuck off! This land was made for only me!” He was singing. Angry. Having the time of his life.

C Robert Cargill, Sea of Rust: A Novel [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Cargill Sea of Rust our land not your land made for only me