I’ve just finished reading The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch, and I’m still confused by many aspects of it. The book is a mix of thriller and sci-fi time-travel story. If focuses on Shannon Moss, an FBI agent working for a secret brand of the NCIS which is dealing with time and space travel.
She is sent to the future to investigate a possible ending of the world through something called the Terminus.
For Shannon, it all starts in 1977 when she is investigating the gruesome murder of a family which incidentally lived in the same house her best friend also lived many years ago before she was murdered.
So this case is very close to Shannon’s heart. But she also has a deep secret that she can’t share with any of the people on that case. Shannon actually went to the future in one of her secret missions for the NCIS, and this is when she lost a leg.
Soon she starts realizing that the murders are somehow related to the secret project she is involved in. But how, in what way?
The book is one of those types we usually call mind-fuck, and with good reason. Before long, I understood that I had to pay attention to what was going on, else I would lose the thread with ease.
I found it fascinating that in this book time travel is possible, but unlike in other books with this theme, it is only possible into the future, and never into the past (well, not further back then the time the person went into the future).
It was a refreshing thought. Of course, this forward time travel brought with it a few set of issues as well. It seems that through something that one ship caused during one of its trips to other places, it caused a time loop, which means that now there are several different possible future timelines available to travel.
And every time Shannon went to the future to learn something about a crime to be able to prevent it in her own time, she would go to any of the possible timelines, never quite knowing where she will end up, which version of the people she knew she would encounter.
Also, every time she would jump into the future and would live there for a while, when she came back to the Terra Firma, as they call it, the actual present, she would have aged quite a lot.
All this is compounded by the fact that every time she or other colleagues would go to the future, they would see that the Terminus, the so-called end of human life as we know it, would be close and closer. So now, Shannon is on the path to try to prevent the extinction of the human race.
While I gave a few tiny spoilers here, this is just the framework of what is to come. The book is so much more complex than that! Every chapter something new is introduced that made me stop and try to align it with everything I knew so far.
Everything became interconnected, with all the mysteries unfolding becoming part of a larger whole.
I’m still not sure I understood 100% of the book. I might pick it up at some point once again, and hopefully, the missing pieces will click in place this time.
Mind-fuck, or mind-bending, is just right for this book. I remember reading Dark Matter a while back, and I thought that was weird (and yes, I love weird in books). The Gone World definitely takes the cake in “weird.”
Some people had issues with the epilogue. Personally, based on what I’ve read in the book, it actually made a – sort of anticlimactic – sense. Sure, it’s not explosive ending, but once the ending is done with, in my mind, this is the only possibility remaining.
I won’t say that the book is my top read of this year, but it has come darn close!