New Review: Nick Harkaway

Today was quite a busy day. So I only just caught wind of this. But you can read my review of Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World in today’s Barnes & Noble Review. The novel seems to have been strangely categorized as science fiction by the few American newspapers who have bothered to review it. But feel free to judge for yourself. Here’s the first paragraph of my review:

The Gone-Away World is a narrative cloudburst loaded with mordant dust devils whirling close to Iain M. Banks, a philosophical cumulus reminiscent of Neal Stephenson, and a bold downpour of mimes, gong fu, and other torrential tomfoolery. It is not, despite Nick Harkaway’s suggestive nom de plume, a svelte Jazz Age meditation on affluence and perception. But it does tackle these two conditions in a universe close to ours, one that involves Cuba joining the United Kingdom and the All Asian Investment and Progressive Banking Group standing in for the World Bank. Harkaway has written a first novel with an assured and clever voice, riddling his readers with brio and a few unusual thought experiments.


  1. I think probably any book which doesn’t fit recognised genre shapes and isn’t starkly realist gets shunted towards the science fiction. It’s a lot like the story of an English public school in 1935 which hired a French teacher to teach French, Russian, Japanese, and Greek, on the basis that he was ‘a foreigner’ and these were all ‘foreign’ languages…

    Glad you had fun, though, and thanks for pointing up the fact that it isn’t all rocket ships and silver suits. It always makes me nervy when someone uses the term science fiction to describe TGAW, because although I personally enjoy SF, lots of people flat out will not read anything they think is in that category – and yet I know some of them would enjoy my book. Ah, well.

  2. […] At the moment, I think I would find a discussion about whether or not literary taxonomy is a useful practice, never mind whether it is somehow a distinctively British practice, tedious in the extreme, so I’ll skate over that; and because it’s a posted email discussion, I’ll try not to be too judgmental about the “just” in front of “historiography”, though I am mildly offended on behalf of historiographers of my acquaintance. Later in the post there’s a deal of stuff about sf-the-publishing-category, too, which I’ll also avoid, except to say that I don’t think Nick Harkaway is wary of the sf label because he thinks the interesting things are happening outside sf, more that he’s concerned the label will stop people reading his book. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *