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.
is a 2008 novel by Nick Harkaway (the son of John Le Carre
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
Tropes featured include:
- The Ace: Gonzo, the protagonist's best friend.
- The All Concealing I: The first-person narration is used to conceal the fact that the narrator spends half the book as a figment of Gonzo's imagination and has no name.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Professor Derek claims to use this to behave as a normal human being.
- Baa Bomb: Sheep and minefields interact in interesting ways.
- Circus of Fear: Subverted. They're among the good guys.
- 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.
- Eccentric Mentor: Master Wu.
- Enemy Without: A rare case in which the main character is the Enemy Without.
- First Girl Wins
- Heroic Mime: Literally. An entire troupe of them.
- Ice Cream Koan: Referred to In-Universe as bullshido.
- In Medias Res: Most of the story takes place before the first chapter, explaining how the world got to be so screwed up.
- Magic Realism: It looks like science fiction for the first few chapters. Then the Ass Pulls start.
- 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".
- Mega Corp: The Jorgmund Corporation.
- Ninja: The bad guys.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: More precisely, kung fu mimes fighting corporate ninjas, After the End.
- No Name Given: And how. The protagonist only realizes he doesn't have a name when he's attempting to give a rousing speech to the Haulage Co. so they'll come and rescue Gonzo and he tries to introduce himself. Cue uncomfortable Beat as he realizes he's lacking something essential.
- Planet of Steves:
"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 Stuff as dust and only dust, and they're necessary to make FOX. Unfortunately, they die a few months after receiving the brain damage, and must be replaced.
- 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).
- 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.
- Transformation Trauma: Coating yourself in Stuff can induce Involuntary Transformation, and most people don't know enough about anatomy to visualize a survivable form.
- Tomato in the Mirror
- World of Chaos: Everything outside the areas maintained by the Mega Corp.
- World Gone Mad: Albeit slowly recovering.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The oath taken at Jarndice University.