Gnomon

Gnomon

A Novel

Book - 2018 | First American edition.
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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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.
Edition: First American edition.
ISBN: 9781524732080
Branch Call Number: FIC Harka
Characteristics: 661 pages ; 25 cm

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augsburgerin
Oct 29, 2018

I have to admit that the book - an almost 700-page tome - was a bit of a slog and I was on the verge of giving up on it. Then about half-way through, it clicked for me and I needed to find out what was going on. Definitely worth it!

SCL_Justin Jul 06, 2018

Gnomon is a word meaning a fixed reference point, but in Nick Harkaway's new near-future mystery it's the randomly generated codename for an investigation. This story has so many layers to it but it's all about surveillance and identity and how we trust what we see in the world around us. It's great and includes Ethiopian artists, Greek high finance traders, an ancient alchemist and even some excursions into the cosmos. I loved it.

Video review here: https://youtu.be/VLfdhE9_zgk

CMLReads_Chrissie Mar 15, 2018

Ambitious and dense.

SPL_Shauna Mar 08, 2018

Guys, I'm a mess. This book has wrecked me. It was so good.

If you loved *Cloud Atlas*, you'll likely be enthralled by *Gnomon* for many of the same reasons. Like Mitchell, Harkaway revels in weaving multiple nested narratives spanning eras into epic speculative fiction. Harkaway takes it one step further in that the whole book turns into a mind-blowing puzzle you're compelled to solve, if you're a cat of the curious persuasion. *Gnomon* is also highly recommended to anyone interested in online security, the erosion of privacy, or anyone concerned by the rise of the extreme right in global politics.

This book is not an easy read (all the puzzles require a lot of thinking, so you can't gap out and miss a paragraph thinking about the laundry), but it is an unmitigated masterpiece of speculative fiction. At several points during this book I wanted to stand up and clap. Please also read this book so I have someone with whom to yell about it.

Update: An hour after finishing this book, I cannot make myself start anything else in my TBR pile because none of those books could possibly be as good. So, basically, my reading relationship status update is that I am in a monographically monogamous relationship with this book. RIP my reading productivity ever again.

m
mogollon
Mar 03, 2018

I’ve never read another book like this one. It infects the brain and unfolds in the mind uniquely.

The easy way to describe it is a science fiction thriller. But like the plot and theme of the book illustrate, peel off that top onion skin of labels, and you find so many more layers beneath.

The science fiction side was fully realized. Lots of tech and math, but nothing too overwhelming. At times I only caught the spirit, not the letter of the math, but it was enough. Yes, it’s dystopian, but it rises far above most dystopian worlds.

I figured out the “twist” pretty early on — I’m not a reader of thrillers, but all the big ones now have twists, so I assume that’s what it is — and the foreknowledge didn’t mitigate the horror and complexity once it was finally revealed.

I’m now listening to JS Bach, which is something I never do. I’m trying to get my untrained ears to examine the counterpoint, which I’d never thought I’d ever do. This book won’t just stick with me, it has changed me. As the author intended.

s
SPPL_Katy
Feb 07, 2018

Oh, my. I wanted to love this book, but it was a bit of a slog--almost 700 pages, multiple narrators, and some dense philosophical musing obscure an actual plot. This book is assuredly smarter than I am.

t
thepanekroom
Jan 09, 2018

Once upon a time a children's bookseller told me that the mark of a really good book is that the moment you finish it, you want to read it again. This book is 700 pages, and there's a lot packed into that length -- it took me a couple weeks of BART commutes and late nights to get through it. But when I did, I flipped back to the first page and started up again. My partner got a week off between Christmas and New Year's Day, and I prodded and poked and eventually succeeded in getting someone else to read it so that I could talk about all of the amazing stuff Nick Harkaway packed into this tome. When my partner finished it last night I was already asleep, but we were both late out the door this morning because we had so much ground to cover. A book like Stoner, by John Williams, covers in great detail the life of an individual; when you read Gnomon, you'll meet several people and learn about their lives, what makes them tick, what could change their minds about a variety of topics, and what they fear most. By the end, you'll know them all pretty well. And you'll wonder, as I and my partner both did, how it is possible that Mr. Harkaway could hold all of this life, all of these perspectives, in his grasp. I reread the ending just before I left for work this morning and it is just as stunning and profound as on the first reading.

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