Spoiler: Nick Harkaway’s second novel Angelmaker also has bees.
I started The Gone-Away World a few paragraphs at a time. Every Saturday morning I woke up, ate some dark chocolate, and sat in the morning sun to read the same sentences and maybe a few more. After a few months, I had the first chapter, after a few more months, the first few pages of the second chapter.
And the next moment, I had made it to the middle of the book without realizing that I had been displaced into Harkaway’s world. The opening sentences about a difficult, unknown bar populated by edgy strangers had seemed redoubtable at first, but later became addictive. The further I went along, the more I re-read. And when I finished, I wanted to re-read the whole book, in randomly sequenced pieces or straight through.
The characters, predicaments, and locales are recognizable and minutely specific, yet retain a certain vagueness to time and place so that when something in the real-world is pinpointed, it’s jarring. The world floats on Harkaway’s words, in the moment, in his wit and perspective, and in the thickness of convoluted, sensical ideas.
I didn’t like everything about the book; there were sections that dragged or were awkward. On first reading, the introduction of mimes seemed gratuitously clever and unnecessary, just as you would expect mimes to be. Towards the end, there was a moment of betrayal and I almost set down the book forever- how could an author as brilliant as Harkaway commit a literary crime so… so… so… you know… But I slogged through the main character’s sloggishness and then re-read the beginning and the ending.
Even the roughness and imperfections I came to admire, because the stories and prose were wonderfully crafted and the sense of adventure for the characters and the language were so thrilling, that the avidness of the avid reader was visceral.
I highly recommend this book, knowing full well that my humble endorsement will raise your expectations impossibly high. And knowing that The Gone-Away World will still exceed those expectations.