The Gone-Away World

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The Gone-Away World
Author Nick Harkaway
Country England
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
June 2008
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 544 (Hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-434-01842-0
OCLC 213382271

The Gone-Away World is a science fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic world crippled by the 'Go-Away War'. First published in June 2008 by Heinemann, it is the first novel written by Nick Harkaway.

The book is written from the perspective of an unnamed character, part of a group of ex-special operatives turned truckers that collectively make up the 'Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company'. The story largely focuses on the lives of the unnamed narrator and that of Gonzo Lubitsch, one of the members of the company.

Plot summary[edit]

The book is primarily a science-fiction fantasy/comedy/epic that focuses on the events of the unnamed main character and his best friend Gonzo Lubitsch. The book starts with the characters in the "Nameless Bar," a title that is a reference to the main character's namelessness. They are in a world that is profoundly different from our own, with constant references to "The Go-Away War" and the "Reification." They are all shocked when there are power failures and a news report shows that the Jorgmund pipe is on fire. The pipe is referred to as being the backbone of the world, with the characters all thinking that this is the end of the world. The Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company is hired by Jorgmund, which seems to be half corporation, half government body. As the company sets off, the unnamed protagonist starts thinking about his past, from the day he first met Gonzo. It then goes from this to a recount of a war between all of the world's factions with "Go-Away Bombs," which remove information from matter, making it disappear entirely. The unnamed country that the protagonist is from uses these bombs in a mysterious foreign war, thinking that it is a revolutionary secret weapon. This sparks a war between all of the world's factions using these go-away bombs, reducing the world's population to 2 billion. The bomb that was supposed to be the cleanest weapon ever has an unexpected side effect in that the matter left over, referred to as "stuff," remains, floating around the world in great storms. Because it has no information, however, whenever it comes into contact with the noosphere it takes the form of whatever that person is thinking about. This causes horrific apparitions and creates people out of nothing who become known as "new." However, there is a way to stop this "Stuff": the material that comes out of the Jorgmund pipe, known as FOX, which allows for a small strip of the world to become livable. In this way it is similar to nuclear holocaust fiction, as the world is completely different from what we know today.


Linda L. Richards, editor of January Magazine, praised the novel saying that it "leaves the reader gasping for both adjectives and description. It’s a powerful and accomplished first novel that weaves elements of romance, mystery, SF/F and -- yes -- thriller together in a way that leaves no doubt that the master storyteller gene really is something that can be passed along." She also said "Harkaway’s style puts me a bit in mind of the very best of Douglas Adams for the pure skittering, off-the-wall humor and of Douglas Coupland’s keen eye for cultural detail and well-developed sense of the ridiculous."[1] Steven Poole was mixed in his review for The Guardian said "Reading The Gone-Away World is a bit like spending a week with a hyperactive puppy: there are delightful moments aplenty, but it's slightly wearing over the long run. Still, 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."[2] Ed King was again somewhat mixed in his review for The Daily Telegraph saying "but amid the chapter-long digressions and manic proliferation of characters, the narrative threatens to collapse under the weight of its own excess. Words clearly come easily to Harkaway (his father is John le Carré; perhaps it runs in the family) but he tends to lose sight of the plot and his duty to the reader. Nevertheless, The Gone-Away World is an impressive feat of imagination and a wildly exuberant ride."[3]

The Gone-Away World was nominated in 2009 for a Locus Award for Best First Novel and a BSFA Award for Best Novel.[4]


  1. ^ Linda L. Richards (2008-09-22). "January Magazine: New This Month: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway". Archived from the original on 2008-10-18. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  2. ^ Steven Poole (2008-05-24). "Review: The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2008-10-18. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  3. ^ Ed King (2008-06-26). "What happens after reality ends - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 2008-10-18. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Nick Harkaway". Science Fiction Awards Database. Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 2016-08-31. 


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