Gnomon - Neil Harkaway

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Gnomon - Neil Harkaway

Post by Graham on Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:30 am

Honestly, you wait a lifetime for a conceptual shark and then two arrive together. There however ends the resemblance of Gnomon to Hall’s novel. Here the shark only gets a walk-on part, sorry, swim-on. Its first appearance is on the screen of banker whizz-kid Constantine Kyriakos, just the number four swimming through a share value before it moves in for the kill. Kyriakos’s is one of three stories that Diana Hunter has embedded in her consciousness to thwart an interrogation by the Witness, an all-encompassing state security system that has access to its citizens’ every thought.

You have to be told that Harkaway’s novel is not an easy read. It is completely unlike Tigerman. While that had intriguing elements of imagination this one is off the scale. Harkaway invents not just one fantastic universe but at least another three. One of them has two distinct existences, first as the dystopic setting for the whole novel and then as a game developed in one of the other worlds, itself a near-future version of our own on the brink of eroding its citizens privacy. In traversing these worlds Harkaway displays an encyclopaedic knowledge of history, philosophy, mythology, cutting-edge computer science and almost everything else. I have never read such a mind-boggling book. Think The Matrix bolted on top of Inception with a dollop of Alice Through The Looking Glass.

I was going to warn you, you will need a dictionary to hand, but that will avail you little. Harkaway, borrows words, invents them, bastardises them and occasionally prints lines of them broken up and minus letters. It is all to astounding effect.

The protagonists have a habit of lengthy metaphysical soliloquising which can dampen the pace, but it is worth sticking with because there is real meat to the story, some of it the shark’s supper. Diana Hunter dies under interrogation, a unique event that must be probed by Mielikki Neith, inspector for the Witness. As she travels through the byzantine worlds of Hunter’s neural recordings, each life is fully rendered and in the end I’m not sure even Harkaway knows what is real.

Though I don’t feel short-changed I would have preferred a more down-to-earth narrative. The surreal effect however I am sure is Harkaway’s intention.

Read it, but book a session with your psychotherapist just in case.

Graham
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