By Jennie Lumsden (@DistractoGal)
If you’re a fan of literary endeavor, you’ll know what I mean when I say ‘I couldn’t put this book down’. In this case, it was a dangerous endeavor involving as it did taking my kindle into the bath with me. There, now that image is firmly inside your head, The Gone-Away Word by Nick Harkaway is a coming of age story that educates you in a way that you don’t even know that it’s happening.
The coming of age story is a staple of the narrative these days, given that everyone who watches or reads anything has had to do some growing up in their life. The Gone-Away World touches on all aspects of a man growing up, starting in the middle & then taking you back through history to enjoy a young boy’s initiation in to life, love, and war.
Any book that compares ninjas to flower fairies has my attention, but the subtlety with which Nick Harkaway introduces information into the body of the story – teaching you things you never knew you wanted to know, like how to blow up a lake covered in ice, or how to create an exothermic reaction to heat a beehive in the depths of winter. There is a large amount of manly (and womanly) fighting in the book, exploring the difference between the soft and hard forms of hitting people hard enough to make them not want to do ‘that’ again. Regardless of the main character’s situation, ninjas, Mr Wu’s Voiceless Dragon style of martial arts, and all the alternative hard forms that come up against it are the driving force behind the story.
Of course it is all far more complicated than that, because the book explores the human reactions to tragedy, disaster, love, loss and every other emotion in the whole of one human’s life. The narrator switches between 3rd person & 1stperson and flits backwards and forwards in time with little care for how the reader can keep up, but there is more foreshadowing in that narrative than you would believe and the descriptions the narrator of the story includes are beautifully detailed without distracting from the compelling story.
Plot twists are the bread and butter of a fantasy story, and occasionally the twists in this book throw you so far that you can barely keep up, but given the readers vested interest in how the narrator manages to survive, should he survive, despite not managing to get shot during a war which clearly states that fate has something more important in for him.