Publication Date: 2nd November from William Heinemann
Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.
Gnomon is actually a novel that defies description for all the right reasons, it is an epic, an ultimately rewarding read with so many layers inside the layers under the levels that hide the realities that your head will spin and you’ll come out of it feeling dazed and probably weirdly wired. Or maybe that is just me. We’ll see I guess…
The use of language is purely beautiful, a smorgasbord of differing voices all linked to the main bulk of the narrative through the eyes of the Inspector. Probably. But anyway – the point is, this is literary if you take it in the popularly defined way, as such it might not be for everybody and indeed may challenge you in ways I also can’t describe – but in the end you know not one word was wasted.
I feel I should try and explain a little about the plot but the blurb does that in some ways (but not at all in others) and I’m not sure that if I focus on any one element that I wouldn’t pick the wrong one to focus on. Peripherally it is about the investigation of an interrogation that has gone awry, in a UK run by “the System” that sees all and therefore by the people rather than a government, this is seen by most within that system as a genuine Utopia. I guess the main theme explored is whether such a thing is even possible, human nature being what it is. That is the simplest way of saying what I saw there but the next reader may well turn around and say “what the heck are you on, its not about that at all”
Now I’ve read back the above it probably isn’t about that….
ANYWAY there you go. Nick Harkaway has created a story that can be wildly interpretive or I suppose if you must, dissected bit by bit until you come to some thoughts about what the author intended – but I don’t think it matters what the author intended (sorry Mr Harkaway) but more matters whether or not you love it and get something from it under the guise of your own personality. I loved it but you can’t ask me why because I don’t really know and probably never will know. I do know that I will read it again in the future, first page to last, with the knowledge of the ending and it will be a completely different novel to the one that I have just read.
Basically I feel like I have just been swallowed by a shark.
Gnomon spoke to me in it’s final denouement but what it said I will never tell -because it’s going to tell you something different and I wouldn’t want to be called a liar – also because that is its reward for sticking with it, through the craziness and the sense of it as you absorb all those beautiful words and turn them into a whole.
Intelligent, driven, for me summed up in that blurb sentence that reads “a solution that steps sideways as you approach it” Gnomon is challenging, wonderful, descriptively fascinating, unrelentingly clever and in the end worth every moment of your time. A grand sprawling epic of indescribable proportions.
What can I say? Highly Recommended.