Gnomon by Nick Harkaway


Nick Harkaway

A dazzling, panoramic achievement, Gnomon is peerless and profound, captivating and irreverent, as it pierces through strata of reality and consciousness, and illuminates how to set a mind free. 

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A Best Science Fiction Book of 2017 -- The Guardian

From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World and Tigerman, comes a virtuosic new novel set in a near-future, high-tech surveillance state, that is equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle.

In the world of Gnomon, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of 'transparency.' Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens' thoughts and memories--all in the name of providing the safest society in history.

When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn't make mistakes, but something isn't right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter's death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn't Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter's psyche: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game, and a sociopathic disembodied intelligence from the distant future.

Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. In the static between these stories, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter--and, alarmingly, of herself. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.

A dazzling, panoramic achievement, and Nick Harkaway's most brilliant work to date, Gnomon is peerless and profound, captivating and irreverent, as it pierces through strata of reality and consciousness, and illuminates how to set a mind free. It is a truly accomplished novel from a mind possessing a matchless wit infused with a deep humanity.

Advance Galley Reviews

I don't know what to say about this book, but a few words come to mind; confusing, intriguing, innovative , artistic. The author also used words, people and places I have never heard of. I spent a great deal of time looking things up in the dictionary and on the internet. Mind you I have learned a lot, but it also interrupted the flow of the story. At about 200 pages I started to realize what was actually happening in the book. It is a great story line! I was not able to finish reading the book since we have a newborn in the house. I will however be checking it out from the library. I definitely want to know where Nick Harkaway is going with this one. If you are a fan of science fiction and alternate story lines I highly recommend it.

A dystopian world. A mystery. An investigation. References to mythology and mathematics. I am intrigued by the premise of #Gnomon by Nick Harkaway. However, the writing seems to be at the forefront of this book. I find myself more focused on how something is said rather than on what is being said. In other words, the writing takes over the reading experience rather than the story. The story is lost in the words. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

By far one of the best books I have ever read. Harkaway's 'Gnomon' is creative and sophisticated like no other. In a near future England, where society is so documented and recorded in the name of safety and transparency that one's own thoughts are neither private nor one's own, a routine interrogation of a suspected non conformist ends in death. Now Inspector Neith must investigate whether the woman's death was accident or murder. Told from many perspectives throughout, Neith's probe reveals more than she ever imagined from what is privacy, what rights does a society have to a person's life in the name of safety, to what, if anything, is the self. I will not disagree, this book is long and may be too confusing for some people. It is in no way a light read. But if you want to read something different, something you won't see coming, something stimulating and involved 'Gnomon' may be for you.

Full of recurring themes, puzzles, Easter eggs, and tons of observations about the surveillance state and other potential dystopia looming around the bend, Gnomon truly is perpendicular to anything else. Whether it needed to be almost 700 pages is another question, but at least it was only 5 stories instead of 1001 deployed by Diana Hunter's brilliant interrogation defense! The stories folding back on themselves and the magic realism of going between worlds and in and out of someone's head along with the mysterious forces behind the scenes and just how much they influence the system was very thought provoking in the lens it holds up to our world. Very rewarding to those who can make it through, though certainly at times a bit pretentious in its extremes. But the idea of something starting out as a game/simulation and turning into the de facto government spins the techno-utopian idealism on its head as much as how easy Facebook and Twitter have become instruments of propaganda and misinformation campaigns. The need for adulting in these systems to limit what bad actors can do is extremely important, as connecting everyone has as many vulnerabilities that lone or organized forces can exploit as there are positives.

This monster of a book was just too much for me to bear. I wanted so badly to love it and to get into the interesting premise but after reading 50-75 pages I still found myself confused by how dense it was. It’s a book that needs its reader undevidided attention and I just was not able to give it that at the time I chose to read it. I’m sure it’s a fantastic book but I just couldn’t bring myself to buckle down and get through it. I apologize to the author and publisher. I just wasn’t ready for such a challenging book but I hope to give it another shot in the future.

A bit of a difficulty to read. This book is lengthy and comes off as being rather strange in parts. It also feels like it drags on. It at least manages to be an intriguing book to read.

Still not exactly sure how I feel about this one. It took so long to get started and almost lost me at the beginning. Eventually I got caught up in the story, but never really felt like I got any answers. I kept forgetting who was real and who was not. Obviously total surveillance is wrong, but it didn't feel as sinister as I thought it should. I am always more afraid of people than of machines, but the amount of people that it would take to effectively monitor that much information has always seemed to be the breaking point. This book didn't change my opinion. Funny in spots. This is a challenge to read.

This is going to be a polarizing book. Coming in at over 700 pages of dense--and I do mean DENSE--prose, it's not going to be for everyone. Gnomon is told from multiple perspectives in a sort of Inception-esque frame narrative way, and you have to concentrate to really hold the thread. Not that that's a bad thing; I think challenging books are important, and they stretch readers in important ways. And Gnomon certainly does that--it's a sci-fi trip through layer upon layer of mystery. I'm not sure I completely understood the novel by the end, but I think that's the point...and Harkaway's writing is gorgeous enough to make the journey worth it. This is definitely a book I need to sit on for a while, but I'll definitely be recommending it to hard sci-fi lovers.

Gnomon is Nick Harkaway's latest masterpiece, a monstrosity of science fiction and history and humanity and the near future and the distant past. It is layers of stories, of questions, of faith and fiction, and of mysteries, starting in the UK in a utopian-like future that could happen sooner than we think.  Inspector Mielikki Neith is called in to investigate the death of Diana Hunter. Hunter was resistant to the state, hiding from all the technology that is being used to monitor every individual, to prevent crime, and to unite the citizenry in a fairly happy and democratic system. But Hunter, a 60-year-old divorced woman, living on her own in near-Luddite fashion, a writer and dissident, believes that any such system is bad for humanity and refused to comply. So she was called in for an investigation (basically, a mechanical mind-reading to scan for physical abnormalities or uncivil ideas), and the worst happens. She dies in the middle of the procedure. Normally the procedure is benevolent, leaving the witness feeling happier and more focused. But this time, it all went wrong. And now Inspector Neith has been called in to investigate what happened.  Neith's investigation starts with a download of Hunter's scan into her own brain. It's a thing that happens in this future. You can download another person's consciousness into your own. It's not the first time Neith has done this. She likes to explore the new consciousness slowly, unraveling it thread by thread over time.  And this is where the story takes a sharp sideways turn.  Hunter's story is not just her own. It takes Neith (and us) through time, through layers of stories and mystery upon mystery. But you can only find the true answer when you get to the very end. It's the strangest, most fascinating, mind-bending trip, and it's not for the feint of heart, or the feint of book. Gnomon is just under 700 pages, so it's not a journey to take lightly. You have to be hard-core to go on this ride. It's kind of like riding a roller coaster, but one where you aren't strapped in. You just have to hang on for dear life and hope you can hold on until the end.  I had not read any Nick Haraway before this, but I'd heard people I respect rave about his books, so he was on my radar. And I see why. The language of his story is beautiful, and I'm still trying to wrap my head about his plotting. I look forward to reading more of his books. Eventually. It will take awhile to recover from this one.  Galleys for Gnomon were provided by Random House through, with many thanks.

This novel is truly an intriguing read, although not an easy one. The narrative is deep, and I often found myself a bit lost and having to backtrack, but the effort is completely worth it. I enjoyed the switching of perspectives and how the author slowly pieced the individual-although not truly individual-stories together to create an interesting commentary on surveillance and the effect of ingrained technology on our lives. Be prepared to have a dictionary handy, and make sure you are focused on the story, because it is easy to lose a story strand somewhere along the way if you get distracted.

This is not a fast read, and not just because of the page count. It’s mentally taxing at times with stories within stories, where are they headed, what do you need to know. Be prepared to think, expand your vocabulary. I’m not sure that it’s sat with me long enough and it’s certainly a book I went back and forth on whether I liked it. Some of the point of views I didn’t care for. I kept thinking ok, now can this be done so I can get back to the story? I suspect I’m not the only one and I encourage people to stick it out because it’s worth it. The central story of surveillance and democracy is what caught my attention and it’s compelling, particularly with our current fascination with sharing our lives with everyone through social media.

I've been trying to break out of my usual reading genres and Gnomon sounded interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try. The story spends a lot of time in the characters' streams of consciousness and it took a while for me to really connect, but I did end up getting into the story. Unfortunately, I only made it partway through the second chapter before my advanced copy expired. I might end up buying a copy of the book so I can finish. I'm interested in seeing how the different stories end up relating to each other.

This is hands down the best Harkaway I've read. A sprawling novel that gets inside your head so much that you'd want to build your own Faraday cage to hide away from the Witness. This book shows you that willingly giving yourself to the "thought-police" is still just as scary as being forced to. For fans of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson.

Gnomon was a fascinating read. It took me a long time to get into it and then finally I read the last 500 pages in 3 days up against the deadline on my advance copy from First to Read. There are multiple story lines to follow and it definitely works well as an immersive read. It was not until I started spending hours at a time with the book that I really go into it. It has a lot to say about the power of the state and surveillance, and democracy and its ability to be manipulated. Some of the sections are amazing and so well written. I struggled at times with putting the pieces together and connecting the different stories, especially as they all came together at the conclusion, but they did come together and often in amazing and unexpected ways. Wow, what an amazing novel/work of art. So much to say. I would recommend this to all serious reader, but with the warning not to expect to get it all right away, let it come together as you read, pieces will fall in place. I recommend reading when you have a large chunk of time to devote to it, do not try to read it in small sessions but dive in and attack it.

I have a feeling this is going to be a love it or hate it kind of book. I feel mostly positive about it, but I can't really give it a higher rating than three because I feel like it's the kind of book that demands re-reading to fully comprehend everything that's going on. On it's surface, Gnomon is the story of a surveillance state and what happens when someone slips through the cracks. However it also weaves in other stories that twist and fold in on themselves. Structurally, I really liked what the author was doing. But a long, twisty and turny book like this is hard to fully grasp on just one reading. I don't know if I'll have time to read a 700-page book like this again to get everything I can from it, or if I even want to. But it's definitely something that will reward careful and attentive readers. I received this book free from Penguin's First to Read program.

Well, I really wanted to read this book but my FirstToRead digital copy expired before I could get to it.

In a future London, everyone has agreed to constance surveillance for the safety of all the citizens. If some have a tendency toward criminality, they are brought in and if needed, reconditioned. An elderly woman had died during such an interrogation and an Inspector was assigned to find out why. As the Inspector linked up with the Witness system, she was able to think what the victim thought, see what she saw. And what the Inspector saw was a world building mind so complex, with different time lines and characters, each hinting and at some level interconnecting, that each time she interfaced she also became these people. This delving into the woman's mind also took a toil on the Inspector and she begins to have doubts as to the rightness of the system she upholds. Was the victim part of a conspiracy, or merely fighting the system with her own brand of resistance? Will the Inspector find out who was responsible and when she does will it be her undoing as well? A police procedural unlike any other, a moral story not easily nor quickly read. Not for everyone but I found it extremely fascinating. Thank you First-to-Read for this free e-copy of "Gnomon".

This was my first introduction to this author. Sadly I did not enjoy the book. It dragged and I kept getting lost in all the different stories.

My first response to Gnomon is “Wow!” My second is to forewarn any potential readers what I wish I would have known going in: this is a very long (700+ pages), complex, and sophisticated tale. You are taken on not just one, but several journeys, and it’s not always clear up front which journey you’re on. However, once you become acclimated, it's a very engrossing and satisfying story about the future of surveillance-state and, in my opinion, well worth the time and effort to read. I look forward to future books by Mr. Harkaway.

Holy crap, that was a mindf*ck. But an incredible one. Gnomon has so many layers to it and so many intricately woven pieces that it can be difficult to follow at times (and Harkaway's clear love of huge words doesn't help), but the reward is worth the difficulty. A fascinating story about technology and freedom and what we are willing to give up for security, and how maybe that doesn't really make us all that secure in the end. There were a few places where the story lagged a little bit (it's a beast), but somewhere around the halfway mark, I found I just couldn't put it down any more -- an impressive feat given that there were still around 300 pages to go to keep the suspense up and the story riveting. It's a book, it's a puzzle, it's an onion whose layers get tougher as you peel them away; but it's worth every minute of the ride.

"Gnomon" was... um... interesting, to say the very least. There was an outer onionskin that I saw pretty easily, and I was hoping that it would become far better developed by the end. It's kind-of-but-not-really a puzzle in that all the clues are in the narrative, unlike Dan Brown-style "puzzle narratives." It's much more of a meta-mystery, embedded in the main narrative of a Big Brother dystopia, with an interesting counter-narrative, but possibly all in the guise of an immersive multi-player online game. Is it really all just the game narrative? I don't really think so. Did the game leak out to affect the real world at some point? Possibly. Which characters are in the real world, and which are game characters? Some are clearly in the game, and some seem to bridge the gap. Figuring out who originates where, but might be acting elsewhere, and what that means to the narrative, is all challenging even in retrospect (e.g. over the two weeks I've been thinking about it since I finished the novel). If that onionskin outer narrative was what the author was going for, it's a good and thought-provoking concept that I really like. If I got it all wrong, though, then... well... the story is an incoherent mess. I prefer the former explanation.

I had trouble getting into this book. The premise and ideas seemed intriguing to me, but the writing style was very dry and I trouble getting into the story. If some of the prose was more whittled down, I may have a better chance of getting into it.

I loved most of this expansive novel by Harkaway. The storytelling was gripping, the characters intriguing, the settings rich. I'm not a fan of dystopian novels, and I wouldn't put this one in that category. It's more of a psychological thriller than anything else. There's also a lot of very good commentary on privacy vs surveillance and what technology can vs should do. There are passages in this book that remind me of the feeling of loss I have when I stand in front of a classroom of 20-year-olds and try to bring up some of these topics, and most of them just can't imagine why anyone would have anything against 24-hour surveillance unless they were a criminal. I'm still not entirely sure what to say -- a novel like this can't help with that. But to see the topics layered so effectively was soothing, as I would be with a dramatic work of art. The message itself, of course, is anything but soothing. Also the impression that it is set in a not-very-distant future is unsettling. It is simply fiction, but the science and technology is not too far beyond what we already have, with the exception of the neurosurgery. I liked the first 2/3 much better the final third. There was a moment in the last 100 pages when I was sure he didn't have enough length to pull it together by the end, and I was afraid he was seriously reaching for the whole "and then she woke up and it was all a dream" solution. The actual ending wasn't as bad as that, but I did find it disappointing in the end, which drew me back from a 5-star rating. There was a great leap to a place that was, in the end, a bridge too far for me, and I know this sounds crazy to say about a 700-page book, but the end felt rushed. It felt as though the author had said what he had to say, and the rest of the plot was minor details. I won't write any more for fear of spoilers. But I did end with a sense of dissatisfaction. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who's in the mood for a patient, hmmmm-inducing read. The vocabulary is a bit overwrought, and the references to greek/roman mythology (which, by the way, I found delightful) might be a little out of reach for some. But I found it to be a very rewarding read. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

As others have noted, this is an unusual book. I didn't like it, then I did, then I didn't again, then I just found it wearying to keep flip-flopping back and forth... It felt rather uneven in engagement-level and pacing, and even the writing style felt a bit slap-dash and unusually variable. I was intrigued by the idea when I first read the description but was also worried, based on other reviews and comparisons, that it would be too conceptual to hold me... At times it was a marvelous piece of storytelling - unusual and intriguing and compelling. Then it would switch, on a dime, and feel unnecessarily convoluted and dense, like the author was trying to impress readers with his art rather than tell a story. I like my stories to be at least a little linear. I enjoy working out a story/puzzle, but only if there's a sense that you are getting somewhere - this felt like a mobius strip, all twists and curves without a top or bottom or end in sight... I couldn't engage with the main character and couldn't get into the flow of the text. I have a pretty good vocabulary, but there were a number of words I had to look up early on. Normally I enjoy this, I love learning new words. But these felt gratuitous, again like the author was trying to impress rather than trying to pick the word that suited the story the best. I've seen people compare it to Philip K Dick; it made me think vaguely of Vonnegut and House of Leaves - which are also written in a style that many love and rave about but that I have just never been able to appreciate... It is also entirely possible that I'm not in the right head-space for this one - it may need a more active reader than I could be during the holidays, or may have required a longer reading period each time I picked it up in order to stay engaged (I was lucky to read it in 15 minute spurts, given everything going on lately). Regardless, this one wasn't a hit with me...

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.

I feel terrible but I could not get into this... I tried a couple times but it didn't work for me. The writing was dry and the novel had an intense feeling to it. It reminded me of an Philip K Dick novel.

I'm sorry to say that I couldn't get past 50 pages of this book. The topic seemed quite interesting at first but later I found out it was not the right book for me.

From the very opening we've got good surveillance technology: “She is looking straight into the camera and her sincerity is palpable. A dozen different mood assessment softwares examine the muscles around her mouth and eyes. Her microexpressions verify her words.“ Combine that with the supreme narcissist's ongoing fight against the shark and a prodigious page count and you could categorize this as Moby Dick's 1984 update. Enjoying the seemingly endless reservoir of imaginative lines like “perhaps the Order of St. Augustine and St. Spyridon has a secret fight club, the way banks do these days,” I occasionally struggled with my personal envy of wanting to be Nick Harkaway.

I chose this book, Gnomon, as part of the Penguin, First to Read program. I really do appreciate the opportunity to try new-to-me authors. Unfortunately, this was not a book for me. I did not get through even half of the book. So take my review as from someone who chose the wrong author not that this is a bad book. To start with, I needed a dictionary to understand a lot more words than I would like to admit! However, I was really getting into the sci-fi story and was even starting to get along with the Greek guy and the shark when bam! I had no clue what I was reading. When one reviewer wrote 'mind bending philosophical puzzle' I should have paid more attention. That is too deep for me and way out there. I was thinking of just reading the chapters with the characters that I liked, because I really did like that part. If I do try that, I will update my review.

A fascinating, multi-layered tale that will leave readers pondering its pieces long after finishing. For those that live in heightened states of paranoia, this book will not ease your mind. It will act like a shot of adrenaline to the biosystem.

Gnomon has an interesting premise, which I was excited to know more about. I tried. I really did, but ultimately I couldn’t get into Gnomon despite restarting it several times. Typically, I don’t do that because of the time it takes to start a book from the beginning again. But, each time I set Gnomon aside, I forgot everything I read. The beginning was slow, and by page 30 I just wasn’t interested in the story. In the end, I DNFed this one.

I made the mistake of requesting this book along with 3 others during the same entry period. I got through the first 3, but I know I won't have enough time to read this long book in the short period of time I have left. Especially with Christmas around the corner! Maybe another time!

This is a strange multi-layered beast of a book set in a future Britain under total surveillance, governed by the System, where the majority of people remarkably believe this is a good thing. It is a dense and demanding sci-fi and fantasy read requiring attention and patience from the reader. It would be remiss of me not to mention that at 700+ pages, you need to prepared for the long haul. The premise seemed really interesting - I love dystopian fiction, but I found the story overly long and convoluted. It was very slow paced, with large sections devoted to descriptions, and unloading a lot of information in one go, making it difficult to hold my attention. I also struggled to get emotionally invested in anything that happened.

Gnomon is Harkaway's most ambitious book by a mile (and I say that with a lot of respect for his earlier work. A nested series of stories akin to Cloud Atlas, but with a different type of connection, Gnomon is not a light read. It is incredibly worthwhile and fascinating, and I'm sure I missed pieces of it, but holy cow it was engrossing.

With news about NSA surveillance of electronic communications and an increase in the already huge number of cameras keeping an eye on public places and private property, there's justifiable concern for individual privacy. This concern is a core of Nick Harkaway's latest novel, Gnomon. Harkaway envisions a near-future Great Britain in which an AI, the Witness, has access to total surveillance of the population and all information. It is a key to the System, a permanent direct democracy with ongoing polling and which allows citizens to vote directly on the country's issues. To ensure the System provides the best and happiest society and as a "precautionary principle," it is occasionally necessary to investigate certain individuals via neurological access to their thoughts and memories. The subjects tend to emerge "happier, more organised and more productive" because the aftercare works like a "tune-up." Unfortunately, for the first time ever, someone died during an examination -- Diane Hunter, a nonconformist writer. Mielikki Neith, a die-hard inspector for the Witness, is called on to investigate what happened by accessing the recording of Hunter’s memories. But she discovers four additional personas in Hunter’s mind. They are Constantine, a Greek investment wizard; Athenais, an alchemist and the mother of St. Augustine’s son; Berihun Bekele, an Ethiopian artist who ends up doing the graphic design for the massively multiplayer online game (Witnessed)being created by his granddaughter's company; and the title character, a future collective consciousness akin to the hive mind of Star Trek’s Borg. Neith provides a framework police procedural story. Her investigation leads her to wonder the System in she so fervently believes in has an inherent defect or is perhaps even being manipulated. While intertwined with that framework, the other four characters create an esoteric labyrinth slightly of mysticism and arcana somewhat reminiscent of Umberto Eco. Their stories unfold through a multitude of individual discourses as Neith reviews the recordings of Hunter’s interrogation. They are the novel’s ultimate failing. Many of these chapters are confounding, almost impenetrable, even occasionally taking us into Hell and outside time. Several, especially the thoughts of Athenais, make so many references to mythological figures and ideas, with some early Christian history and symbolism thrown in, that a reader is well-advised to have some sort of reference work handy. Likewise, Harkaway’s use of language calls for reference material, as he seems to prefer the obscure (“novacula,”saccades,””pursuivants,” “apocatastasis”) over the straightforward. And many of these discourses are too lengthy and digressive. Gnomon clocks it at 700 pages. Granted, the story it attempts to tell is complex, but it would have benefited greatly had Harkaway or an editor eliminated several hundred pages. As a result, I’m guessing a significant number of readers who start the book will not see it through to completion.

I couldn't get into this book at all. The premise is fascinating, and I really wanted to like it, and I think it was the feel of the language that bothered me -- too technical and alienating.

The writing itself was a bit dense for me. I wanted to put it down but kept thinking it could only get better and it did. The concept was a bit much to think about but overall quite enjoyable.

In a reality where information about every citizen is publicly available and searchable, the thought was to allow for transparency and reduce the existence of violence. Nick Harkaway's Gnomon explores this world as an investigation brings some disturbing things to light. The case of Diana Hunter's death during an interrogation has been assigned to Inspector Mielikki Neith, a respected investigator, who immerses herself in the neural recordings from Hunter's mind. In doing so, Neith is exposed not just to Hunter's mind and life, but to three other people's minds and stories, which drains her both physically and mentally. As Neith attempts to make sense of what she's learning from the recordings, she's finding repeated information that she believes will be the key in solving the case, but is disheartened when the paranoia of Hunter starts to invade her thinking and highlight that everything in the System is not as it seems. Far too dense with overly detailed prose that is utterly unnecessary and bogs the reader down with so much information, often in the form of infodumps, that it becomes difficult to parse out what's actually relevant - perhaps this is a ploy to make the reader experience the situation as Neith does, but it's incredibly off-putting. Very rarely do I consider DNFing a book as I feel I ought to give it a fair chance (and I know that there are those of the opinion that I ought to give up on more books), but as I slogged my way through this narrative, I considered on multiple occasions whether to just stop reading it. The concept that was introduced in the synopsis for this novel was incredibly intriguing; however, this text doesn't deliver well upon that synopsis, nor does it really develop any momentum, until well after half-way through the text, which is the only reason I'm mildly happy to have not given up on this book throughout this reading process because those intriguing concepts began to be explored at greater length. Overall, I'd give it a 2 out of 5 stars.

This book fits into the category of "what in the heck am I reading". It has a slow start but don't give up on it. This book is also like a Russian nesting doll. It keeps opening up to new things. If you love stories by Phillip K. Dick, you are in for a real treat.

I am a big Nick Harkaway fan so it pains me not to give Gnomon the glowing review I would for Angelmaker, or The Gone-Away World or Tigerman. I love Harkaway’s use of language but in this new tome, his extensive vocabulary renders many of his paragraphs obtuse (see what I did there?). This novel has a great story but is too dense, you lose the threads of the story too often. Still, a less-than-great Harkaway novel is still worth reading. I just do not recommend this book to anyone who has not read one of his other works.

This was a very slow read, I found it boring and far too dense for me.


More to Explore

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  • Angelmaker
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