Author: Nick Harkaway
Released: October 19th 2017
Received: Penguin First to Read
I received a copy of Gnomon from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Gnomon is many things; a fun word to say, a piece of a sundial, part of a parallelogram, the latest book by Nick Harkaway. Obviously in this instance I’m referring to the last option listed, but I still find it intriguing that the author chose a word that has so many different meanings. This is a beast of a book, weighing in at seven hundred and four pages, so it’s no surprise that Harkaway took his time with building up the story.
Reading the description of Gnomon, I got the impression I was in for a fast paced mystery filled with ethical and philosophical debates. Admittedly I still got plenty of the latter (quite a bit of that, actually), but I still found this novel to be rather slow and laborious to read. While I’m not intimidated by the size of this novel, I do wish it had been slimmed down a bit.
I do absolutely love all the debates this novel brings up. For example, the ethicality of the society that Mielikki Neith lives in; one where everybody is monitored (possibly all of the time) and occasionally forced to undergo a mental screening (where their thoughts and memories are literally analyzed and recorded by a machine). That sounds incredibly intrusive, yes? Well let’s not forget the fact that while they’re getting screened the powers that be (still a bit unclear on how government works in this novel) tweak your brain, check for physical anomalies and fix any problems. This sounds nice, in theory, but then again I’m sure the plan for Miranda sounded nice too (Hint: Serenity reference there). This raises the point: just because we can doesn’t mean we should. I believe this is a point Harkaway was trying to make, and I respect that.
While I enjoyed the mental puzzle this novel presented, I did find myself losing focus fairly frequently. I’d go a chapter or two, and then realize I had to reread the last couple of paragraphs, because my mind had slipped away. I’m not normally one that does that, so I found it upsetting that it kept happening again and again. Perhaps it was the mood I was in at the time, or something else, I can’t say for certain. I do feel that had Gnomon been slightly more concise this might not have happened.
It’s probably worth noting that I haven’t read any of Nick Harkaway’s other novels, though I’ve heard that The Gone-Away World is fantastic. Perhaps this isn’t the best introductory novel for him? I do know that with some authors the first novel you read can make a difference in whether or not you enjoy their work.