I can honestly say I’ve never read a wackier book. I finished the last page and thought, “That is what it is like inside Nick Harkaway’s brain.” This is a guy whose imagination must do, like, ten thousand pushups a day. And it made me wonder why I trap myself into thinking in the same tired loops every day, worrying about how our toddler refused breakfast again or analyzing my thigh-dimples in the bathroom mirror.
How much brainpower have I wasted? How many hours—nay, days—nay, years!—have I allowed my brain to wallow in the boring, bland, blasé gutter of daily life, when I could have been dreaming up an apocalyptic vision of the future, complete with evil ninjas, machines taking over mankind, and a mime collective with a spokesman named Ike Thermite? This book made my brain’s imagination muscles seem sad, flabby, and out of shape, but once I turned it loose, it really enjoyed the exercise.
And this book was a workout. Harkaway has a vast vocabulary and flaunts it to delightful effect. He’s also totally unintimidated by long sentences. Here’s a taste, from page 425: “No one else has noticed him yet (I can tell because there’s no screaming) but the moment Sippy Roehunter decides it’s time to show the board members what she’s got, or Dan deLine gets a hankering to bare his musculature for the benefit of the Jorgmund Ladies’ Lacrosse Team, it will be hard for anyone to ignore a top-hatted H.G. Wells-looking lunatic sitting in the lotus position on the edge of Dick Washburn’s giant pink sex pool.” Out of context, you have no idea what he’s talking about, but you know you’ve got to hear more, don’t you? I mean, there’s a giant pink sex pool!
There are several pleasing surprises in the book that I won’t ruin for you here, but I will say that the initial adventure set up in the first chapter is over by around page 300, and there’s still 200 pages of book left. I wondered what else Harkaway was going to find to talk about, but then some foreshadowed-yet-still-incredible-twists happened, and I was sucked in all over again. In fact, to my taste, the book went from simply entertaining to truly compelling only after that point.
This book is so twisted, crazy, and downright weird that it is a total escape from real life. If you’ve grown tired of reading books about people like you with problems like yours, if you want a break from literature that reads like a mirror into your own soul, if you want to completely forget about your stable office job or tedious household chores, I can think of no book that will get you there faster. The dinner dishes aren’t going anywhere—they’ll be there waiting for you when you’re done.