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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (3,495 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Nick Harkaway Narrator: Kirby Heyborne Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2008 ISBN: 9780739370346
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A wildly entertaining debut novel, introducing a bold new voice that combines antic humor (think Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut) with a stunning futuristic vision (á la A Clockwork Orange and 1984, with a little Mad Max thrown in) to give us an electrifyingly original tale of love, friendship, and the apocalypse.

There couldn’t be a fire along the Jorgmund Pipe. It was the last thing the world needed. But there it was, burning bright on national television. The Pipe was what kept the Livable Zone safe from the bandits, monsters, and nightmares the Go-Away War had left in its wake. The fire was a very big problem.

Enter Gonzo Lubitsch and his friends, the Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company, a team of master troubleshooters who roll into action when things get particularly hot. They helped build the Pipe. Now they have to preserve it—and save humanity yet again.

But this job is not all it seems. It will touch more closely on Gonzo’s life—and that of his best friend—than either of them can imagine. And it will decide the fate of the Gone-Away World.

Equal parts raucous adventure, comic odyssey, geek nirvana, and ultra-cool epic, The Gone-Away World is a story of—among other things—love, pirates, mimes, greed, and ninjas. But it is also the story of a world, not unlike our own, in desperate need of heroes—however unlikely they may seem.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Very funny and hugely entertaining. . . . And brilliant. Read it. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Bewilders, amazes, entertains. . . . a Catch-22 for the 21st century. . . . a work of extraordinary imagination and charisma. . . genius -The New York Observer
  • The Gone-Away World, is a gripping, satirical, postapocalyptic war epic populated with mimes, ninjas, bureaucrats, chimera, and gun-toting nerds. New York Magazine
  • The Gone-Away World, an epic, stupendous outburst of a book, is more friction than science, more dark than fantasy, and more than anyone would've expected had they known the author's true identity. It's about the end of the world, the perils of thinking too hard (about anything), and friendship, family, and love. In that sense, it's a lot like War and Peace - huge, unexpected, and written by some guy you probably should have read already and can't wait to hear more from - with better ordnance and nearly the same mental and moral heft. . . . Harkaway's absurdist humanism reads like a surrealist smashup of Pynchon and Pratchett, Vonnegut and Heller, but his voice is his own, thick with creamed idealism, grim jaw-set hope, and a palpable tang of the here and now, the war and the peace. . . . The Gone-Away World is a flat-out ferociously good novel, and Harkaway has heralded his own coming with one hell of a bang. Austin Chronicle
  • 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. January Magazine
  • Harkaway delivers plenty of action and surprises. . . . With an absurdist streak reminiscent of Vonnegut, Pynchon or Heller. . . . Likely to be this season's major conversation-starter. San Francisco Chronicle
  • Vivid and exciting. Harkaway manages to meld a vision of war more germane to today's world, and take it to its most horrifying, apocalyptic conclusion. Charleston City Paper
  • A brilliant, stunning novel, The Gone-Away World is smart and funny and capacious of heart; the writing is fluid, the storytelling utterly fearless. It's the best book I've read in quite some time. Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
  • Nick Harkaway is hot stuff. You’ll need asbestos gloves for this one. Len Deighton, author of The IPCRESS File
  • The Gone-Away World grows richer, smarter, and more entertaining with every page. In the weeks after I finished reading it, my mind kept roaming free of other books and dreaming about this one instead. Kevin Brockmeier, author of The View from the Seventh Layer
  • A big new book by a big new writer. Harkaway describes the Gone-Away World in words that whiz and ping like bullets ricocheting off the walls of the reader’s mind. He’s the real thing. Russell Hoban, author of Riddley Walker
  • Breathtakingly ambitiousA sprawling odyssey of a novel, half swashbuckling adventure, half science-fiction, but with such engaging characters that neither genre threatens to overpower the barnstorming narrative…It is a bubbling cosmic stew of a book, written with such exuberant imagination that you are left breathless by its sheer ingenuity. Comparisons are mostly futile, but it recalls Joseph Heller – Harkaway is a deft comic writer – and parts of it can best be described as what Thackeray might produce if he were on acid. Observer
  • “[A] magnificent, sprawling, epic work…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…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…The ghosts of Douglas Adams and P G Wodehouse haunt some of the finest passages here…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. Independent on Sunday
  • “[A] post-apocalyptic triumph…This is a jigsaw puzzle of a novel. Not one of those quick, easy, rainy Sunday afternoon puzzles, but a complex, clear-the-kitchen-table-for-a-week type of a puzzle, a mysterious configuration of tiny pieces that eludes all reason until you succeed in getting the basic frame in place. At which point you suddenly catch a glimpse of the prize, and from then on it’s simply a matter of slotting pieces in until finally, exhausted but elated, you complete the picture…Immensely rewarding…The post-apocalyptic world that he is constructing is so unlike most standard-issue post-apocalyptic worlds…This dystopia is, quite literally, everyone’s worst nightmare. It is both collective and tailored to the individual - each and everyone’s own private, personalised hell. It is not only clever, it is also genuinely terrifying…The ascent to the book’s summit…is as colourful and engaging as the descent is action-packed…Has the pace and action of an episode of 24The agility of the narrative is one of the great strengths of this book: for a first-time novelist, Harkaway is robustly confident…Particularly effective are his Matrix-like fight scenes, brought to life in meticulous yet flowing prose…This is clever sci-fi with a light heart and a winning smile: a killer combination. The Times
  • Exuberant…Wildly inventive Michael Gove, The Times
  • A debut novel of the kind that comes along only once every couple of years, overflowing with imagination yet powered by the kind of cleverly twisting plot that marks him out as a master storyteller…But there’s far more to The Gone-Away World too, so much that it resists categorisation. It has the scattergun inventiveness and confident, extended comic riffs that you’d find in Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut, yet is more rooted in a recognisable world, even one savagely altered by a new kind of war. There’s a dusting of satire on messy foreign wars and corporate culture, but it’s mixed in with splendidly absurd adventures, political fables, philosophical musings and epic conflicts…there’s love and loss in the mix too. The only thing there isn’t is boredom: this may be a long novel, but it’s one that holds your attention…A quirkily original writer…If The Gone-Away World reads just like a dam-burst of dreams, then that might be because that is literally what it is. The Scotsman
  • “A stunning debut…By turns thrilling, silly, gripping, crazy, daring and outrageous. I loved every minute...The Gone-Away World is brakes-off fiction. Scotland on Sunday
  • Hits exactly the note of dazed and comic awesomeness…There is a very funny extended conversation of super-dry wit between two civil servants…a disquisition on the use of sheep on the battlefield; a wonderfully sarcastic anatomy of political belligerence…and the exhilarating unveiling of unexpected allies…There are delightful moments aplenty…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. Guardian
  • With his debut The Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway has created a fictional universe that is out of this world. Tatler
  • The Gone-Away World is a genuine panoramic, 3D, surround-sound, total-immersion, thrill-factor ten miracle – it is the kind of book that you just don't want to end! …Harkaway relates the story of our intrepid heroes – and their tale is engrossing, action-packed and moves with fanatical momentum, never dawdling to admire the view. The reader is propelled through this novel with abandon and the experience is entirely an undeniably joyful one, even in the sadder and nastier bits….What really stands out here is Harkaway’s narrative style – his voice is suffused with whip-crack humour, pointed philosophy and deeply felt emotion and the consistently perfect balance he strikes throughout is a truly beautiful thing to behold. There is both great heart and great intellect in The Gone-Away World, as well as pathos aplenty and Harkaway offers a narrative that is forever fractal, curling and spiralling off into tangential observations and ruminations, side-stories, myths, anecdotes, fables and legends – all of which are related with pithy wit and are never showy but instead integral to the development of the story…Very highly recommended. SFRevu

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Caryn Rose | 2/2/2014

    " I hated every second. i loved every second. This is not usually my particular cup of tea but I read an excerpt and then needed to know what happened. This is a case where the eBook worked in the author's favor because I did not know how long this story was going to be, because I would have probably backed away, SLOWLY, when I saw the size of the actual book. There were times I wanted to give up, where I rued my own lack of imagination in that moment, but Harkaway gets you back in, he pulls you back, inch by inch, slowly. I thought I would hate the ending; I ended up loving the ending. And now, I cannot wait for Angelmaker. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephen | 1/24/2014

    " Once in a while a book comes along that stops me in my tracks. This is one of them. Filled with invention and beautiful writing, it's one that you must read! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brett James | 1/21/2014

    " Like a big bowl of sugar. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rebecca Lowe | 1/21/2014

    " ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I'VE READ IN A LONG TIME!!! Not just another future/sci-fi/post apocalyptic venture at all. It's funny and smart and unravels the Corporate Mystery better than any business or philosophy book I've read. Read this book and remember to stay human. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leah Fitzgerald | 12/18/2013

    " Excellent read. Ninjas, the apocalypse, politics and thrills while being funny and clever, plus a brilliant plot twist I did not see coming, despite the well laid groundwork. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 scarlettraces | 12/14/2013

    " john crowley goes pop culture and mixes it up with stross and mary gentle. totally fun. (plot holes to be unpicked at one's leisure). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 H.N. | 11/30/2013

    " I totally loved this. Bogged down a bit in the middle, but was glad to get resolution to nagging questions from the beginning. Excellent writing and voice. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Trey | 11/23/2013

    " Ridiculous waste of paper! A modern day attempt at Catch-22 that is practically unreadable. Save your time and money. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stephen Roxburgh | 6/16/2013

    " Brilliant and irritating! Hopelessly self-indulgent. We can only hope he learns some discipline and control. If so, he'll be a great writer. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John Guild | 4/19/2013

    " Harkaway's debut impressed me enormously. It's a exuberant, hysterical, genre-hopping potential classic. Yes, it's digressive, and there are a few false notes, but that's part of the book's charm. Highly recommended to anyone who thinks there should be more ninjas in contemporary fiction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 4/7/2013

    " The best quantum-disaster novel I've ever read. Very much in the British-humor Adams/Pratchett vein. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ryan | 3/31/2013

    " I love this book! It's clever and funny. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Claeys | 2/21/2013

    " Hands down, the best science fiction book I have ever read or probably ever will read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rob | 7/19/2012

    " Nothing like I was expecting from the first chapter but still an enjoyable read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nick Dempsey | 5/9/2012

    " Wow--Brilliant post-apocalypse sci fi. Gives a rendering of an apocalypse engendered by the logic of capitalism, and really has the sociology and economics of it all down. Heck, he makes reification a central notion of the book. Somehow, though, it's all funny as hell. Just great. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bill | 2/28/2012

    " An oddball structure that only starts to make sense when you're halfway through. I liked the writing style, even as it was a bit over the too at times. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ruzena | 12/17/2011

    " I wasn't sure this would be my cup of tea (post-apocalyptic, sci-fi novel featuring pirates, mimes and ninjas??), but after 50 pages (took a while to get into) I was hooked. At times disturbing, at times chuckle-inducing, it was wonderfully written and original throughout. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jtdaulton | 10/4/2011

    " Awesome! I preferred Angelmaker, but still, both were great stories. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marcus | 5/10/2011

    " A piece a fiction that both a philosopher and action guru can love. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nick | 4/25/2011

    " Very long, a lot of tangents, some of which felt a little lengthy, but incredibly imaginative and endearing. Definitely felt like an experience. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hawk | 4/22/2011

    " Smart, fun, well-written in a Vonnegut-esque sort of way, and exceptionably quotable. What more could you want? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Scott | 4/19/2011

    " Get through the first bit, which will seem slow at first, but then as it builds you are hooked. When he hits you with the twist you will want to scream and destroy the book in anger. Embrace that and carry on. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debbie | 4/9/2011

    " Great that the narrator on my copy is English also. Very funny fantasy book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca | 3/28/2011

    " This book was really mind-bending. I only gave it 4 stars because it's too verbose for my taste - adjectives are like accessories, Mr. Harkaway; remove one before you leave the house. All the same, it was very original and otherwise well-written, once I got into it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tom | 3/25/2011

    " Terribly clever and a great deal of fun. Harkaway's first novel may prove hard for him to top. Who knew that a book involving ninjas and mimes could be so fun! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 William | 3/21/2011

    " It's British, post-apocalyptic science fiction... with ninjas. Oh yeah, it has ninjas. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stephen | 3/14/2011

    " Brilliant and irritating! Hopelessly self-indulgent. We can only hope he learns some discipline and control. If so, he'll be a great writer. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jordan | 3/13/2011

    " Am now madly in love with a book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lois | 3/7/2011

    " This was quite an interesting earth future/science fiction book. There are some great, fun characters about whom I found myself really caring. It's a bit grisly at times, but not too much. I found the writing a bit a la Tom Robbins, but updated. I'm eager to read more Nick Harkaway. "

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About the Author
Author Nick HarkawayNick Harkaway was born in Cornwall in 1972. He lives in London with his wife.
About the Narrator

Kirby Heyborne is a musician, actor, and professional narrator. Noted for his work in teen and juvenile audio, he has garnered numerous Earphones Awards. His audiobook credits include Jesse Kellerman’s The Genius, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, and George R. R. Martin’s Selections from Dreamsongs.