The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway

Nick Harkaway's new novel The Gone Away World may have its problems. Its weirdness is sometimes too self-conscious, in a way common to first-time writers, throwing together as he does ninjas, monsters, mimes and other oddities. His view of corporations, around which much of the book hinges, is naive and simplistic; corporations in The Gone Away World are uniformly and inherently dehumanizing and evil without variation or exception, and the hierchy of their employees can be measured in exactly how dehumanized and evil they've become. Yet, whatever its faults, this is exactly the kind of novel I want to read. There's a temptation to call the novel cross-genre, as it mixes both science fiction and fantasy elements (to the extent that they can be distinguished or even defined) with a "literary fiction" sensibility (to the extent that that exists or can be defined). However, cross-genre for me brings to mind someone deliberately taking bits of two genres and joining them together-- the SF detective novel, the literary urban fantasy novel, the paranormal romance and so on. The Gone Away World doesn't so much do that as ignore genre boundaries all together; things happen according to the internal logic of the book, and not because of some loose system of conventions hobbled together over the decades. In the end, he creates something like a map of the human psyche, populated by freakish embodyments of friendship, fear and love.

I'm intentionally avoiding a plot summary because any one I gave would spoil the many twists and turns of the narrative. All you really need to know is that this is a book which is highly entertaining and also contains depth of character and elements of social commentary and satire. It is at turns fun and serious, wacky and emotionally tough, and is representative of a new kind of fiction gradually emerging, a fiction which knows no boundaries.