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"The Gone World" Review: A Cinematic Novel That Will Have People Talking

The Gone World

Author: Tom Sweterlitsch

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Publisher: Putnam

Pre-orders available now


Tom Sweterlitsch, author of 2014’s “Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” brings us his sophomore effort with “The Gone World,” a story that takes the reader on a journey through the past, present, and future. “The Gone World” is full of tales within tales, multiple timelines where the characters live entirely different lives, realities that exist, never existed, and never will be—stories of love, memories, mistakes, choices, and chance. If you are thinking that sounds a bit complicated, that’s fair, because it really is. A story as bold and intricate as “The Gone World” could easily become a jumbled mess in lesser hands, but that is definitely not the case here. Sweterlitsch constructs a narrative that flows like quicksilver as he carefully guides us through a web of different realities that are all connected in various ways. When I turned the final page, I set the book down and sat in silence, digesting what I had just experienced. “The Gone World” is a story composed of sci-fi, horror, adventure, and mystery. All of the genres, questions, answers, and stories are expertly pulled together for a beautifully melancholic crescendo that left me unexpectedly moved.


The tough part about “The Gone World” is trying to explain what it’s about without spoiling anything for the potential reader. Say too much and they are missing out on part of the experience; say too little and they may think it sounds crazy. It will be interesting to see how this is handled when the book rolls out on February 6, 2018. This is the type of book that, if given a chance by readers, is primed to become a bestseller. It has all the makings. So, I’ll take a crack at telling you what it’s about while trying to stay in the middle of too little and too much.


In 1997, Special Agent of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Shannon Moss is called in to investigate the brutal murder of a family in a small town. The family belongs to a Navy SEAL who was an astronaut aboard a ship that went missing in the early days of testing time travel. The only survivor of the murders appears to be the SEAL’s teenage daughter, who is also missing. Highly trained in time travel herself and driven by a connection to her own past, Moss travels to multiple futures in hopes that she will find answers that may help save the missing girl in the present. As she travels, Moss begins to unravel clues that connect the past, the present, and the future. During her travels, she quickly discovers that there is much more than the fate of a missing girl at stake. A horrific, life ending force known as The Terminus discovered human existence and is quickly coming to end it in the present day. Growing increasingly alone in her investigation over time, Shannon Moss must try to figure out how it is all connected before The Terminus arrives.


The heart and soul of the story is Shannon Moss. I loved Shannon Moss. It was nice to experience a strong female character that felt completely genuine. She has a touch of Dana Scully and Clarice Starling, but she isn’t a hodgepodge of cool female characters that came before her, she is unique. Taking place in the 90s, it felt more like Scully (who Moss specifically states she is a fan of in the book) and Starling were heroes she admired who served as inspiration for Moss to become something more in her life. Shannon Moss is smart, empathetic, cool under pressure, and a downright bad ass when needed, and I couldn’t get enough of her throughout.


“The Gone World” is one of the most cinematic books I’ve read in a long time. It felt as if it was a movie that was playing behind my eyes, and Sweterlitsch’s prose was comforting in an often chaotic and tense story. I’d say I’m not alone in that feeling because both this and his previous novel are optioned to become movies. “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” is set to be Matt Ross’s follow up to “Captain Fantastic” and “The Gone World” is currently being adapted by Neill Blomkamp (District 9). I can’t wait to see what Blomkamp does with this story because there are so many fun elements that will transfer well to the screen. Someone is going to be very happy to earn the role of Shannon Moss. Speaking of which, many actors are going to get some amazing roles because of Sweterlitsch’s characters. Many characters get to simultaneously be heroes, villains, and red herrings because of the different time lines that are visited.


“The Gone World” does provide some theory and explanation of some of the sci-fi elements, but often demands its readers to soak it in right away because it does not reexplain much. This also includes a lot acronyms. Between those and some of the theory involved, it may intimidate or turn away some readers. I, however, appreciated the trust Sweterlitsch has in the audience. Reading an explanation of the inner workings of a time traveling engine is effective in short bursts. I thought Sweterlitsch avoided bogging down the book with pages of technical explanation by providing just enough detail to make it interesting and keep it fun. He offers enough of a seed to make it plausible while letting your imagination do the rest.


Sweterlitsch’s story has been compared to Phillip K. Dick, described as “Inception” meets “True Detective” and a touch of “12 Monkeys”—among many others. While those comparisons are fair, I also think that when something new and original comes along, the quick reaction is to try to categorize it with those that came before it. Yes, it has elements of all of those wonderful stories, but really when it comes down to it, Sweterlitsch’s tale is simply its own, unique thing: It is “The Gone World.” In the not so distant future, in our current timeline, “The Gone World” could very easily become a standard other stories strive to be compared to.




Chris is a Masters student studying Communication and Media. He has a strange obsession with the movie "Tombstone." He and his wife Natasha drink the movie Kool-aid all day, every day. Oh, and he loves dogs. Like really loves dogs. Maybe more than humans.
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    I can't wait to read Gone World after reading Chris review!

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    Very good review. I’m getting the book

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    This man just sold me! I'm so excited to read this book. Come on Feb 6th!!!

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    I have been looking for a new exciting book to pick up. And I am a huge fan of the X Files. This review has caught my eye and I'm looking forward to giving the book a read in February.

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    Excellent write-up. This book sounds super interesting. Thanks, Chris!

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