A joy from start to finish

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway. Dh125. (SUPPLIED)

After the apocalyptic Gone-Away War leaves four billion people dead, Earth's survivors must begin anew.

Nick Harkaway's picaresque band of heroes battle through the kaleidoscope of an alternative future in this darkly comic debut, where the writer paints the hallucinatory world in vivid, vital strokes.

The breathless storyline carries along at an ever-quickening pace, from the unnamed narrator's rural childhood in Cricklewood Cove to military service in a nightmarish war.

It's rare to find yourself cackling in pleasure at a novel but Harkaway's descriptions and fantastic characters make you do just that.

The best way to enjoy this rollicking adventure is to abandon yourself to the author's uniquely verbose writing style – filled with geeky factoids and asides – on one lazy Friday afternoon, and be overwhelmed by the avalanche of Harkaway's narrative.

It builds to a perfect crescendo, complete with a mind-bending plot twist that begs the book to be read again.