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In a world at war, the Dream Archipelago is a neutral zone, and therefore an alluring prospect to the young men on both sides of the conflict. In this interlinked collection of short stories and novellas, Christopher Priest explores war, relationships and forms of reality. Each tale is a truimph of quiet, steady craftsmanship, a model of ingenious design and subtle implication, and as a group they further enrich each other by interlocking cleverly, symmetrically and sometimes sinisterly.
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I'd started with 'The Affirmation' and hoped this collection of short stories set in the Dream Archipelago would be just as good, and in many ways, this is even better, nothing short of a masterpiece.
I say that advisedly because many would disagree. The stories are united by a thematic interest in voyeurism which plays out in various ways, some obvious, others not. Many of these stories were written in the 1970s when Priest was the enfant terrible of British SF, so much of the sex in the book, and descriptions of women's bodies, are very much of the period and have a frankness and directness that many would call unfashionable if not outright sexist when read in the 21st century.
That aside, the collection of stories are some of the oddest and strangest tales of the Archipelago, starting with a story about the time warp anomaly that makes air travel in this alternate world extremely tricky, another about an island where a native population are observed, another about a solider meeting a prominent writer [who also appears in other Priest DA stories], and yet another about a solider suffering from the after effects of being gassed in war by a chemical that produces uncontrollable synesthesia. Perversely some of the stablished facts about the alternate world contradict each other in this collection, but not to worry, the strange effect of these stories is what it's all about.
Again, Michael Maloney's narration is superb, but be advised that there are very quick jumps between stories and if you're not paying attention for a second you might find yourself struggling with a change in setting, character or perspective!
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