Book Review: Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

I struggled with this one a bit (to put it mildly.) It was like reading Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco in my teens and not being able to follow it at all, but I’m an adult now and have read my fair share of books. So this should be a cakewalk. Nope, despite having finally understood Foucault’s Pendulum a few years ago after a reread (still didn’t care for it much, and not that difficult only tedious,) but Gnomon was… I’m at a loss with words. It is tedious too, yes; the plot is twisted, and you have to work hard to follow what is going on, yet, there is something strangely alluring about it. The utopian world, the encounter with the shark opening a new perspective, the death, the surveillance, immigration, and the list is endless, makes this book appealing. The characters are compelling. We get to spent time with them and their thoughts. Still, I would like to say, it tries too much; it is too pretentious; it is too full as there is beauty in the simple which can portray the complex idea in a few sentences.

But am I being too harsh? Does it lose the meaning when everything is crammed into a small pace? 700 pages are comparatively short for all the subjects handled in this book. As it is a detective story, it is a dystopian utopia of surveillance and governmental control; it is about transcending consciousness; it asks a question your memories or mine; questions the use of AIs; it gives us an opportunity to glance back into history, to Rome; it plays with the concept of fear and fame mixed with self-realization. That is a lot for a book. And there were times I was wondering is this a deliberate misdirection or mess left there for the readers to piece together what on earth is going on. But mysteries are fun, books that make you work hard are fun? Sometimes I think, oh yes. Other times, I appreciate the simplicity portraying the complexity still not missing anything.

If the previous sounds swell, then you might have a good time with Gnomon. I have this weird notion that I will return to this book when the time is right and see if my first thoughts were correct, or did I miss the point entirely. And definitely choose text version (physical over digital) as with listening to an audiobook, there is no keeping up.

Thank you for reading, have a utopian day!

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