Literature: The Gone-Away World aka: The Gone-Away World
The last-ditch plan is to pretend that we're escorting a prisoner, then cause mayhem. Elisabeth Soames pointed out that this didn't work well in Star Wars and can reasonably be expected to fail in the real world, which is somewhat more demanding in the field of cunning plans, and Samuel P. tried very hard to pretend he hadn't been thinking of Star Wars when he proposed it. The trouble is that although it's a lousy last-ditch plan, it is also our only last-ditch plan.
The rest of the plan is quite good, and if it works the way it is supposed to, we will do very well, and we won't need the lousy part. On the other hand, it almost certainly won't work like that, because plans don't. It will twist, creep, change, swivel, and mutate, until finally we're flying on sheer bravado and chutzpah, and hoping the other guy thinks it's all accounted for. You don't make strategy so that there's one path to victory; you make it so that as many paths as possible lead to something which isn't loss.
The Gone-Away World is a 2008 novel by Nick Harkaway (the son of John le Carré).World War III has come and gone, with a bomb that "makes the enemy go away." As it turns out, however, it leaves behind something in its place, a mysterious substance known as Stuff that becomes whatever you're thinking of—which most of the time is whatever you're most afraid it's going to become. Only the Jormungand Corporation knows how to make FOX, the substance that can convert it into mere dust, and as the story begins the protagonist is putting out a fire on the pipeline that channels FOX into the atmosphere. Things get weird.
Baa Bomb: Sheep and minefields interact in interesting ways.
Badass Crew: The Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company is made up of highly trained commandos
Being Evil Sucks: The narrator asserts that the worst kind of "pencilneck" has completely sacrificed his humanity to become a part of his organization. In the end, he discovers that, indeed, Pestle spends his free time staring into space, having no other purpose than to serve the Clockwork Hand.
Body Horror: The Stuff warps often people's bodies in unnatural ways.
Chekhov's Gunman: Elisabeth doesn't contribute much to the plot and is conspicuously absent for most of the middle section, until she pops back up as the real identity of Dr. Andromas.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Sort of. If you're thinking of something, that's what the Stuff is. If you're thinking of two things, the Stuff's a hybrid of them. If you're frantically hoping the Stuff doesn't become something, well . . .
Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: The United Island Kingdoms of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and Cuba Libre.
Disguised in Drag: Dr. Andromas is actually Elisabeth. The fact that he's a her is foreshadowed a few times. Andromas is frequently said to have his face obscured by something, including a mustache, hat, and his collar. The narrator is surprised by the thickness of his hair beneath his hat. When pressed against him, the narrator says he has a lumpy body, with slender arms and narrow shoulders. While at a mall, he also pauses to inspect some feminine jewelry in a window.
After the narrator breaks his hand, he mentions that it hurts for a few pages, then never brings it back up again over the course of the following days.
The narrator makes a surprisingly easy and speedy recovery from being shot at point-blank range six times and shoved out of a moving car. It's justified by the fact that he still wasn't completely real yet.
In Medias Res: The first chapter takes place at about the midway point. The next half of the book leads up to that critical moment.
Instant Awesome Just Add Ninjas: The story is set in the present day, but the primary physical conflict is between the heroes and ninjas. However, the narrator explains early on that they're not actual ninjas, but the word fits best.
Lightning Bruiser: Various masters of "hard style" martial arts, including Gonzo, Ronnie and Pestle.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: It's established for more or less all of the important male characters that they're not virgins. Except possibly the protagonist, for a while. Depending on your definition of "virgin".
No Name Given: One of the early hints to the narrator's identity is that his name is never mentioned. In fact, he doesn't have one. He first acknowledges it about three-quarters of the way into the novel in a completely off-handed manner, mentioning that a certain dish, like him, had no name.
"I'm K. She's also K. We both—many of us here, actually—have the same name. Not that we're all the same person, you understand. We just use one signifier to encourage random reassessment of the nature of our relationships. We don't like to make assumptions, yeah?"
Powered by a Forsaken Child: People with a rare form of brain damage see everything around them as neutral, and thus whenever Stuff comes into contact with them it itself becomes neutral - and acquires the ability to neutralize more Stuff. Thus FOX is made. However, this form of brain damage kills fairly quickly, and it's much too rare for replacements to simply be found around - so normal people are abducted and intentionally brain-damaged.
Rule of Cool: All of the martial arts and ninja subplots run on this.
Shown Their Work: The author has a philosophy degree and some expertise in martial arts. It shows.
Silent Bob: Most of the mime troupe (with the exception of Ike Thermite, who speaks for all of them).
Thanatos Gambit: The narrator speculates that Master Wu deliberately allowed himself to be killed so that the ninjas would not discover his pupils' identities. The narrator also believes that his death was part of his plan to defeat the Clockwork Hand via his pupils.
There Are No Good Executives: A recurring theme, explained by Darwinian means: to properly do the job of a corporate executive means giving up some degree of humanity.