The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Posted On 15 February 2018

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the gone worldHailed as Inception meets True Detective Tom Sweterlitsch’s Gone World is a dark and fairly brutal thriller with a modern day setting where sci fi has made the impossible possible.

This is a clever read indeed and one that definitely needs clear focus and attention in order to stay on top of the many plot twists.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that I understood all of the elements at play here and yet in spite of that I found this a completely compelling read.  For me, I’d say this has a feel of Interstellar in terms of the mind bending elements, Twelve Monkeys in terms of the bleak kind of atmosphere and even a bit of Event Horizon although I only use those comparisons very loosely and to try to give you an idea of the feel of the book. I feel like this is a book that I could read at least a couple more times and still continue to find new elements.

Imagine a future where time travel is possible and is used sometimes to help solve the unsolvable.  Using space travel and navigating deep time this is a world where such a thing has become possible.  Of course this ability is kept top secret and falls within the powers of a covert division known as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Using the current year as a base operatives can move forward into time.  Of course, this is only one possible future, as soon as the operative returns the information they return with could change the direction of that ‘possible future’ and it would simply blink out of existence.  At the same time the NCIS have become aware of a cataclysmic event that could end the world.  Known as the Terminus the only thing the NCIS are absolutely clear on is that the date at which this event takes place seems to be jumping ever closer and they’re desperate to uncover the nature of the threat in order to try and prevent it.

In terms of the plot.  As the story begins a family has been brutally murdered.  The father, believed to be a Navy SEAL, and his daughter are missing.  The NCIS are called in to assist and the detective, Shannon Moss, soon uncovers that the missing SEAL was in fact an astronaut on board a spaceship believed to be lost in deep time.  Of course she isn’t at liberty to share this information with law enforcement officers, but, desperate to try and locate the missing daughter before it’s too late Shannon takes the decision to travel into the future to see if any clues can help with the search.

Shannon is the main character and she’s a wonderfully strong lead.  She cares about people, she’s tough and persistent.  Basically the life she’s chosen here isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t for everyone.  Her forays into the future means she has no real possibility of putting down roots or having a family in her current existence.  It all sounds a bit complex but it isn’t really.  Basically, Shannon’s current time line is 1997 (I think), if she travels forward to 2040, for example, the travel alone will take months, she then may spend months in that possible future trying to uncover evidence and develop possible leads.  When she returns to her current lifeline of 1997 although everyone back in that time will be exactly as she left them she will have aged.  It’s a fascinating idea and one that means in her current timeline Shannon is actually nearly the same age as her own mother.  Of course, as soon as she travels forward there’s always the possibility that something could happen to her and she might never return.  To everyone in her current timeline she would simply have disappeared.  Anyway, I digress.  Put bluntly, Shannon is an excellent protagonist to follow.  She is of course surrounded by many interesting characters but it’s difficult to talk about them too much as they may behave differently depending on the possible future that we see them in. Layers, twists, world within worlds and conundrums.  On top of this there are echoes – which, frankly, I’m not even going in to because there are far better minds than mine out there that can probably explain them better and this review feels like it’s becoming far too convoluted as it is.

Basically, to cut to the chase.  I found this intriguing and compelling.  It’s a really clever read and even though I might not have completely grasped everything I’m still thinking about it even now and having little light bulb moments (which make me want to pick up the book again).  This to me is a winning element to any book – the ability to make you keep returning to think about things and mull them over.  I might come up with something that I think is a glitch but when I reason it out I realise that it isn’t – although it usually then sets me off thinking about something else, and so on, etc, etc. 

In terms of criticisms.  The ending felt a little rushed.  That could just be me rushing to conclude things though and it’s difficult to put my finger on but there was just something about it that felt too abrupt.  I can’t say it changed the way I felt about the book though.

Of course the paradox of time travel isn’t for everyone and I can understand why but for me this book really won me over.  It’s raw and edgy, the murder investigation is deftly combined with the futuristic elements of the story and the main protagonist brings a certain something to the read that makes it more palatable.  She’s just so very human, she gets into hideous situations and by the end of the book I felt exhausted on her behalf.  A round of applause for the author for managing to keep all these threads from becoming a tangled mess.

I received a copy, through Edleweiss, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


16 Responses to “The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch”

  1. Tammy

    I have a copy to read, although it might get pushed to next month. I’m so overwhelmed with February at this point! But wow, you’ve definitely convinced me to read this!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Cool – yeah, I don’t know why but February has definitely been a bit overwhelming in terms of books. It’s like they all had the same release date!
      Lynn 😀

  2. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    Time-travel stories alone can be hard to follow some times – let along mixed with an complexed plot. But I’ve read those stories (and watched those movies) where it got a little to much for me and flew over my head and I know for a fact I missed something. Still enjoyed it completely. But whatever tha cool thing was – like I said, over head and long gone Lol

    Actually a movie is saw last summer, Atomic Blonde, is a perfect example of that.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’ve not seen Atomic Blonde – I should give it a go.
      And, yeah, Interstellar, I love that film but the first time I watched it I really didn’t understand a ot of what was taking place.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    I’ve read Tomorrow and Tomorrow by this author, which was beautifully written, but also hauntingly sad. Though the fact that this is a time travel thriller sounds really good… I may well track it down, anyway despite the fact that it will be a rather bleak read:). Thank you for a superb review, Lynn.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, sort of bleak in terms of the style really, it’s a murder mystery and so it’s dark – but very good. Really impressive actually.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        I had originally decided not to read this one – but your review has me reconsidering…

      • @lynnsbooks

        I hope you find the time to give it a go.
        Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    When a book compels you to think about the story it tells even after you have finished reading, it means it’s a good, thought-provoking one. For me, the best kind.
    And even though time paradoxes give me splitting headaches like it happened to Capt. Janeway 😀 I might give this one a chance – provided I stock up on aspirin first, of course!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think this is such a thought provoking book – but then I kind of like the conundrum of time travel and going backwards and forward between the ‘what ifs’. Stock up on your aspirin because this one is definitely tricky and I’m not going to pretend I understood everything – maybe I need to reread at some point.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    To be honest, I don’t think I grasped everything either. The ending became a tangle of timelines and echoes and I’m pretty sure a lot of its meaning went over my head 😛 I felt like the last section really got away from the author’s control, and I think that was my only criticism of the book. Otherwise, compelling indeed!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I completely agree – the ending was too quick, too much going on and it became a bit jumbled. I wonder whether the author intended that to crank up the tension but for me it felt a little like it was so busy and hectic that it felt almost like obfuscation.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Jennifer | Book Den

    I love smart reads. I imagine time travel is so hard to write!

    • @lynnsbooks

      This book must have been so hard to write – all the twists and turns would be enough to make your mind spin.
      Lynn 😀

  7. February : My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch […]

  8. Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch – a time travelling murder mystery, cutting edge, bleak, twisty turny mind bender that was very clever.  The surprise here is that I don’t always enjoy time travelling books but this one worked.  Even if I confess to not always understanding everything that took place. […]

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