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.
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.
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