Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Review published on January 20, 2018.

This book apparently took three years to write and it is something of a mind bending experience. Set decades in the future in Britain, amidst ubiquitous surveillance, the justice system now incorporates an interrogation of memories/thoughts direct from the brain using the tiniest metal tendrils.

Neith, a professional interrogator, is required to investigate the death of Hunter, a cult writer who has cut herself off from all surveillance. When she enters the mind of the very articulate Hunter it is clear this is considered by her a violation and she wants to fight it. As she fights the invasion, Neith experiences weird memories and pseudo experiences of four others and Gnomon, who is a sociopathic human intelligence from a distant future, falling backwards in time to conduct four assassinations. Neith has to try and determine what is happening and more importantly who lives or dies.

The writing is demanding and ambitious. It is sprawling and at times bewildering, with a lot of otiose paragraphs with little clear insight into their purpose. But the writing is designed to produce layer upon layer of reality, so that it is difficult to determine what is authentic and what is not. There is a lot of rich prose, a lot of words that I had never come across and so I referred to the dictionary rather a lot, which I don’t mind, but the amount of nonsensical wording may prove too irritating for some.

Despite rambling, the pace is very speedy as you feel like thoughts and situations, whether real or not, are flashing with a sense of rapidness. There is a will to keep up to discover some sense within the Borgesian puzzle box that Harkaway creates. Not for everyone but a psychedelic experience if you’re up for it!

Sara Garland 4/1

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
William Heinemann 9781785151279 hbk Nov 2017

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