William Heinemann has acquired Gnomon by Nick Harkaway, a "hugely ambitious" novel set in a utopian society, described as "a magical incantation, a warning and a verdict upon the first century of the millennium".
Publisher Jason Arthur bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Patrick Walsh at PEW Literary. US and Canadian rights have been acquired by Knopf.
Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as "a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it", it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.
Harkaway said: "I don’t remember when it began, but I do remember how. Inspiration, for me, arrives as a collision of objects in my head, and the impact this time was hard enough to freeze me in place – a focus so intense it was like paralysis. The gravity of this idea was inexorable. I didn’t intend to write this book. I had something much easier and lighter in mind. Gnomon, though, absolutely intended to be written."
Arthur said: "I never thought Nick Harkaway would write something more richly imaginative than The Gone-Away World, and then he delivered Angelmaker. I doubted he could conjure something more surprising than Angelmaker, and low and behold, Tigerman was born. But with Gnomon, Nick is truly bursting out of the gate...chased by furies. A wondrous blend of cryptography, paranoia and politics; of alchemy and ontology; or semiotics and detection. This is an incredible book – angrier and deeper than anything Nick has written before. Hugely ambitious, endlessly imaginative, and gloriously epic. It’s his Infinite Jest."
Gnomon will be published by William Heinemann on 19th October 2017 and by Windmill Books in 2018.