The Jorgmund Pipe is the backbone of the world, and it’s on fire. Gonzo Lubitsch, professional hero and troubleshooter, is hired to put it out – but there’s more to the fire, and the Pipe itself, than meets the eye. The job will take Gonzo and his best friend, our narrator, back to their own beginnings and into the dark heart of the Jorgmund Company itself.
Equal parts raucous adventure, comic odyssey and Romantic Epic, The Gone-Away World is a story of – among other things – love and loss; of ninjas, pirates, politics; of curious heroism in strange and dangerous places; and of a friendship stretched beyond its limits. But it also the story of a world, not unlike our own, in desperate need of heroes – however unlikely they may seem.
Had all worked to plan, we’d have met up in June and discussed Nick Harkaway’s first novel – The Gone Away World. Well, it’s been MONTHS but the LBC Dystopia book club is finally back in business!
We quickly settled into our new home and began to catch up. Unfortunately, the majority of the group had read the book a few months ago and found that the details had faded slightly, particularly of the ending. A new member (who fit into the craziness very quickly!) was still reading it which lead to my doing one of my totally coherent; logical; sensible and totally factually accurate run through’s of the plot.
It was spectacular. I made my way through about 2/3’s of the book before one of the clubbers pointed out that I was called the primary female character by the wrong name(Leah for some reason became Jane). And that was probably the high point! D’oh! So this is going to be a brief, just to cover the main aspects of our chat!
The book – a giant sprawling rambily story – made sense to me as existing in four distinct sections. While not particularly coherent, parts of it were incredibly easy to read while others seemed far more dense.
– The opening deals with the current day distopic situation. The world is a very different place with all life dependent on the Jorgmund Pipe, which has been set alight. Our intrepid band of heroes are assembled to attempt to save the day. For many of us, this was the most vividly realised section of the book and the part that stayed strongest in the memory. Pencil necks, Dick Wash, Cubritannia and shiny pretty trucks being particularly well received!
– The second goes back in time – before the destruction of the world as we know it (sort of – one or two or us hypothesised that the world had already changed drastically from what we could consider the ‘norm’) elaborating on the origins of our protagonist – his life as a child, through school, Gung Fu training under the esteemed Master Wu, University and career – joining a version of special forces. Depending on how we reacted to the first few chapters this was either the most interesting, or the most unexpected part of the tale – so utterly different from what preceded it. We very much enjoyed the family dynamic and Elizabeth and Master Wu were very humourous if more described than developed as characters. The discussions at university and the quota system regarding subversives was also very well delivered. I personally was tickled that the end of the world was delivered by the the very ordinary monikered Derek.
– The third section slowly meanders back into dystopia terms – the Go Away War which led to the world changing its shape, our protagonist meeting his wife and settling down and the consequences of the war. It ended on the big twist – that the main character was an unreliable narrator of somewhat epic proportions. Now, in the main, this was well received but I have to admit, I was aching to get back to the plot by this section – tiring slightly of the constant introduction of new characters and curious about the Pipe – though granted my understanding was enhanced via its inclusion. Here, the war was incredibly chaotic – probably the most accurate thing about the book. (The retrospective meaning behind the characters mourning his lack of being shot status was one of those ‘EUREKA!’ moments for at least one of us!) The pop-culture references were utilised in an accurate and realistic way that provided genuinely useful visual references to the scene being set before us (Mount Doom for example),
– Then the big finale – the battle of good versus evil. The stage having been set, the author continued to ram as many new characters as would fit the page and the exhausted pace never lets up. Nevertheless, we were all convinced of one thing and one thing only.
Ninjas bad. Mimes good.
Actually, there was one other little interesting moment when we discussed a question raised by one of the longer term members of the group. Can a dystopia ever *NOT* be weird? Usually the world changing event has taken place in the past – before the book itself begins – and then the characters live and operate in ways that are quite foreign to us – the reader. However, there is often an internal logic that allows us to make sense to a certain extent of these behaviours and though processes. This book was – on the other hand – particularly weird and wonderful. Surreal even, if not outrightly INSANE!
I have a feeling that I’ll be mentally arguing both sides of this one for some time to come. Grr!
Our next read is UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld
28th January 2015
Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #LBCDystopia