Written by: Tom Sweterlitsch
Published by: Putnam
Reviewed by: Doug Murray
I’ve had a bit of a hard time figuring out how to review this particular book. It’s an odd admixture of really, really good writing and really, really bad concepts. For example:
The title: what does ‘THE GONE WORLD’ mean? There are several possible meanings in the book—it could refer to the end of the world, it could refer to the little facets of future time that, once abandoned, are gone forever, or it could mean something entirely different. In any event, it tells us nothing at all about the book—which would be nice to have a title accomplish.
The story is very well written, very convoluted, and a real page turner. The USAF has, secretly, found ways to travel to deep space and into the future using a new type of drive. The problem is, that they discover a point where the world ends—and that point gets closer with every exploration of the future.
As that is being explored and dealt with by higher-ups, our main character, Shannon Moss is a special agent of the NCIS—not the NCIS that we see on TV these days, an entirely different NCIS that deals with deaths and crimes attached to the top-secret deep-space program.
Shannon is a woman who has had her life changed forever—her best friend was killed in a Pizza Hut parking lot and, rather than become like her mother—trailer-trash working as a waitress and drinking and smoking herself to death, Shannon is so angry and hurt that she begins to apply herself, learning about criminology in an attempt to find her friends killer. She becomes a good student and is found and recruited into the NCIS, giving her a framework for her life.
Now working a really brutal axe murder of the wife and children of a Navy Seal assigned to the program, Shannon’s skills and intelligence lead her into a morass of supposedly dead men, missing ships, and the increasing nearness of the end of the world.
She works hard, finds clues, is beaten by a brutal man, and finally discovers the answer.
But is it good or bad?
I liked Shannon. She seemed like a real person—a compliment to the writer. However, she does some really stupid things—especially for one who is supposed to be a seasoned investigator—I’ll give you an example: at one point, she walks into a room that contains two men armed with M-16’s. She knows that they’re the opposition and immediately empties her own handgun into the man closest to her—then is surprised to be shot by the other man.
It’s a naked plot device—and should have been rethought.
In any case, many of the plot twists are generated in the same way—by pretending that Shannon would do something foolish and thus fall into a trap or a bad situation of one kind or another. It cheapens the book and makes the read less than it should be.
The end, while well written, is, for me, extremely dissatisfying. I don’t want to put a spoiler here but let’s just say that if the writer thought it was a happy ending, I will make it a point not to read anything from him again.
Despite its flaws, however, THE GONE WORLD is a pretty good read and I would recommend it—with some trepidation—to anyone who likes Science fiction.