A uniquely powerful novel of a society in decay. On a planet whose very nature is a mystery a massive decrepit city is pulled along a massive railway track, laying the line down before it as it progresses into the wilderness.
The society within toils under an oppressive regime, its structures always on the point of collapse, the lives of its individuals lived in misery. No one knows where they are going, why they are going or what they will find when they get there. The ending of the novel provides one of the most profound twists in SF.
©2012 Christopher Priest (P)2012 Audible Ltd
Inverted World is the first book by Priest I've read, and I found it to be a revelation. The main business here is the building of an outlandishly original fantasy world, artfully revealed to us in provocative flashes by a young apprentice named Helward. Without giving anything away (the revealing is so much of the fun!), I'd just say that it's one of the more unique fictional worlds I've inhabited lately, to the point where comparisons are difficult - if you mash up China Mieville, Terry Pratchett and Haruki Murakami, with a dash of George Lucas, you might be in the ball park?
The book is marked by a lot of playful, artful zig zags. Very subtly, the story shifts from a coming of age story to a bizarro, Odyssey-like journey to a chronicle of a very warped world, and back. It's heady, but unlike other brainmelting 70's sci-fi, I found it to be constantly humane - the characters maintain their charm and as a reader I felt like my amusement was the mission. In that respect, I'd say it's more along the lines of Terry Pratchett than Philip K. Dick.
Cree's narration was pitch perfect, in my estimation. He conveys the sound of an awed young apprentice wondering at a world full of new curiosities.
Note: the forward (ie chapter 1 of this audiobook) has what I'd consider to be minor spoilers. A lot of the joy of this book is following his crazy-worldbuilding, and the forward makes a lot of the connections for you. It didn't ruin the book by any means, but I'd recommend skipping it and listening to it after you finish.
this is a very interesting "high concept" type of scifi that is at first mysterious in a post apocalyptic way, then very puzzling as you begin to understand the dynamics governing the world. very thought provoking and different and even if the solution isn't to your liking at the end, it remains a fascinating concept. & the narrators voice/accent is worth sampling at least, different to have such a pronounced accented narrator but I liked that he was new and unique.
Christopher Priest books are a mixed bag - The Prestige was excellent, but the 2 others I've read are mediocre.
The premise is intriguing but the story is boring and the ending is really soft and lame.
The thick Scottish accent is really off-putting. I kept expecting him to start singing a Proclaimers song.....
I think the author wrote this book for the right reasons - for art's sake - but its just a boring and unsatisfying tale.
Great story - very creative and unique. Nitpick: I thought that the author could have done a better job of explaining the nature of the forces which led to the problem, rather than make up a word to characterize it.
Have to say that narrator's fairly heavy Scottish (?) accent detracted from the smooth reading flow - I ended up buying the Kindle book to finish off the story. But I enjoyed the tremendous work involved in creating a different world, subject to different physical laws, in an entertaining story.
Its been a long time since a book has kept as interested as this one has. The only match to the story is the performance of the narrator.
The Inverted World is an ambitious attempt to craft a world inhabited by humans in a region of space with altered properties of basic physics. The origin for this unusual state is reserved for the final denouement. Basically, a population of humans exist in a "city" referred to as earth, but essentially a large office buildig type complex that moves along tracks, disassembled behind and reconstructed in front to keep the city moving, always toward "optimum". The whole operation is maintained by Guildsmen, a rather secretive bunch, while the internal functioning of the society is handled by administrators. We follow the coming of age of a young guildsman inductee as he learns the ropes and experiences first hand the strange behavior of time and space relative to optimum that forms the basis for the need for the city to continually move.
Given the original publication date (1970's) it's easy to appreciate the sci-fi competition of that era provided the impetus for crafting a topsy-turvy universe of perturbed physics. The story itself is enjoyable with good pacing and a constant introduction of novel nuances and evolving interpersonal interactions. There are however a number of contradictions, that while understandable by the end, nevertheless create the nagging question that something is very much amiss. Most notably is the presence of non-city dwellers that appear blissfully unaware of their unique situation as well as the physical effects are more prominent the further away from the city. While the ending does provide closure, the results are less than satisfying.
The narration is quite good even with the heavily accented rendition.
Don't start with a proclamation of how this is the greatest book ever, and then serve up a pile of grey porridge.
Made it somewhat interesting.
Narrator was fine. I actually loved hearing him say buggy. Made it sound much more important.
I get there are other levels to what the author was trying to get across, but this story could have been told in 20 pages. He spent way too much time trying to be way too prescient. At the end I was honestly pissed that wasted any portion of my life listening to someone who declares himself brilliant dribble on about something really not that imaginative. I feel like a sucker for buying it.
"Love this book - always have"
I read this book when I was a child and it has always stayed one of my favourite science fiction stories. OK, so the physics, engineering and biology are complete bobbins and thoroughly inconsistent - BUT- it takes a bit of thought to come to that conclusion (personally I think the author painted himself into a corner with an idea and couldn't work out how to fix it - hence the twist(s) - I would so love to fix it :) . However, the main drive of the book is the sociology and the 'closed society' / secrecy / coming of age / revelation by discovery and conflict theme - and this is just excellent. The reading voice is superb too, I wasn't quite sure that his accent would work, but it does and I'm very pleased with this rendition of a personal favourite. One really really irritating issue: Audible, PLEASE don't put introductions to books that give away major plot points. In this case you are told things in the intro that you REALLY shouldn't know - they don't destroy the plot, but they do take away some of the pleasure of discovering things WITH the main character(s). SKIP THE INTRO and come back to it - Adam Roberts (intro writer) - you should know better, would you like it if the twists in your books were given away?
The overall story wasn't my usual SF feast but with time it's heat came to simmer and the twist at the end definitely sizzled.
"Fantastic story, skip the ending"
It's a cracking story that rattles along at an engaging pace. The problem lies with the ending which, given the build up to that point, is not only disappointing but gives no explanation of some of the mysterious phenomena experienced along the way. Deeply unsatisfying ending, as though the author had no clue how to wrap things up.
The rest of the book is worth the let down, but you'd be better off skipping the last 30-45 minutes.
"Excellent Audio Book"
I read this book many years ago - probably just after it came out. I really liked it then, but decided to download it as an audio book as I only had a very sketchy memory of what happened in it. I loved the audio book - Steven Cree is an extremely good narrator, bringing the story to life. Highly recommended.
I loved The Prestige by CP and have waited for this one to come on Audible. It is a peculiar and very original story that has been praised for capturing the essence of what Science Fiction should be about. I found the slow progress of the city on wheels interesting and really wanted to know why the world within the book was as it was, forcing me to listen with rapt curiosity and when the denouement came, I was satisfied.
The opening phrase "I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles" has been described as "one of the most famous in science fiction" (Critic Paul Kincaid, Wiki) and to me it beautifully and succinctly captures the terrible situation of the ensuing story in just a few words.
Very interesting and enjoyable SF listen. Well read.
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