Heinemann £17.99

The Gone-Away World, By Nick Harkaway

There were whispers of nepotism when this debut novel by John le Carré's son was bought for a reputed £300,000 last year. But on reading this magnificent, sprawling, epic work, it's clear it was published on its own merits, and is probably worth considerably more than the amount Heinemann paid for it.

With the right wind behind it, The Gone-Away World could easily become a modern classic. Its scope and ambition are extraordinary, its execution is often breathtaking, and its style is by turns hilarious, outrageous, devastating, hip and profound.

It is not a book that springs out of nowhere. Its bleakly humorous futuristic vision is not dissimilar to that of Kurt Vonnegut, while its visceral, scattershot energy brings to mind landmark American books like The World According to Garp and Catch-22. But there is also something very English about Harkaway's writing, specifically his acute sense of the ridiculous, and the ghosts of Douglas Adams and P G Wodehouse haunt some of the finest passages here.

We begin in a post-apocalyptic world of mostly uninhabitable badlands, the exception being around the Jorgmund Pipe, a globe-straddling construction pumping out something called FOX which makes the few surrounding miles fit to live in.

Gonzo Lubitsch is the heroic leader of a former military unit which now specialises in freelance troubleshooting, either fighting the monstrous entities emerging from the wastelands or, as we open the story, heading off to put out a dangerous fire further up the pipeline. The story is told by Gonzo's best friend and sidekick, the sensible yin to Gonzo's gung-ho yang, a narrator who remains nameless for reasons which become apparent in shocking fashion later.

From there we spool back through Gonzo and the narrator's upbringing, fleshing out both figures and revealing how the world came to be in its current state. A local conflict in a Himalayan state escalated into a world war involving a newly developed weapon of mass destruction, the Go Away Bomb.

This was supposed to be a fallout-free alternative to nuclear weapons, but something went wrong and the result is a world populated by demons and monsters, by humans' worst nightmares made real, a world in which the tiny remaining human population are struggling to survive the continual onslaught.

This is only a hint of what The Gone-Away World is about. There are profound meditations on war, commercialism and the nature of humanity, and there are also hugely entertaining passages featuring pirate monks, ninjas, mime artists, ridiculous military escapades and much more. It should be made clear that it is also very often arse-kickingly funny. Throw in some perfectly plotted revelations, an unforgettable finale and a life-affirming and thought-provoking denouement, and you've got a tale which will live long in the memory, and a writer destined for great things, famous dad or not.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?