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Christopher Priest

(1943- )

Christopher Priest also writes in other genres. He lives in Hastings with his wife and twin children. The Prestige own the World Fantasy Award in 1996. Learn more about his novels at Christopher Priest’s website.

A Dream of Wessex: Explores the meaning and perception of reality

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A Dream of Wessex by Christopher Priest

Written in 1977, Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex stands at the midpoint of media questioning reality. Falling on the tail end of Philip Dick and his oeuvre’s continual exploration of metaphysical meaning, A Dream of Wessex is also an (unheralded) fore-runner to science fiction featuring uncertain realities that followed in the 1990’s. Many ideas that are exploited in films such as The Matrix or Inception can find their conception in Priest’s tale of a scientific experiment into alternate realities. In particular, the dream-within-a-dream and mind disconnected from body plot devices can be seen as strong precursors to these modern examples.

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The Affirmation: Literary science fiction does not get much better

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The Affirmation by Christopher Priest

I’ve heard Christopher Priest’s 1981 novel The Affirmation described as regressive, an ouroboros eating its own tail, a Moeibus strip. While there is undoubtedly an M.C. Escher quality to the book — a blurring of reality — the beginning and end are simply too different to form a contiguous whole reverting back on itself. They’re opposite ends of a spectrum in fact, and the appeal of the novel is immersing one’s self in the subjective reality Priest slowly unwraps and getting lost in the world of memories as a result.

The true nature of The Affirmation requires thought; the easy part is relaxing throughout the journey. Priest patiently and precisely lays down the text — words like railroad ties on a Sunday train ride to the country — the story moving effortlessly along. The sublime pr... Read More

The Prestige: Haunting and thought-provoking

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The Prestige by Christopher Priest

I was drawn to Christopher Priest's novel after having watched and enjoyed the Nolan brothers' film adaptation of The Prestige. Going into the reading, I knew that several plot twists would be spotted a mile away, but the film is sufficiently different from its source material that Priest's work contains several surprises.

Journalist Andrew Westley is brought under false pretences to a Derbyshire estate to meet with a young woman who is quite desperate to get in contact with him. Andrew is an entirely ordinary man, except for one quirk: having been adopted at a young age, he is convinced that he has a twin brother somewhere in the world, despite all evidence to the contrary. However, his informant Kate Angier thinks that she can shed some light on his situation, believing that a traumatic experience she had as ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Interzone, Issue 248

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The September/October 2013 issue of Interzone opens with "Ad Astra" by Carole Johnstone. A married couple has been sent together to the explore the solar system, all the way out to Pluto and back. After years of travel together with only each other for company, they barely speak to each other, though they still have sex very frequently — sex that seems more like battle than love. They’ve been steadily absorbing radiation, and the narrator, Lena, carries out monthly medical checks on them, growing increasingly concerned at the exposure levels. What Lena fears most, though, is that they never turned back after they reached Pluto, and are now in the Cuiper Belt; they will keep moving out forever, she thinks, unsatisfactory astronauts who were intentionally sacrificed by the government as an experiment in long-term space flight. But Rick will not confirm Lena’s suspicions, no matter how mu... Read More

More speculative fiction by Christopher Priest

Indoctrinaire — (1970) Publisher: In the very depths of the densest jungle in Brasil, there exists a circular plain of stubble. A perfect circle. This is the Panalto District, and no man has ever come out of it alive. Elias Wentik might, perhaps, be the exception. He finds himself imprisoned in the very centre of the plain, subject to humiliating and bizarre sessions of interrogation. And this visit, so completely contemporary in its paranoid vision of strangeness, has revealed to him the incredible secret of the Panalto. It exists two hundred years in the future.


The Invented World — (1974) Publisher: When Helward Mann leaves the city of Earth, he has no reason to believe that the world that lies beyond the walls could be anywhere but his home planet. Indeed, despite similarities, there is evidence which he cannot ignore — that slowly betrays all his preconceptions.


The Space Machine: A Scientific RomanceThe Space Machine: A Scientific Romance — (1976) Publisher: The year is 1893, and the workaday life of a young commercial traveller is enlivened by his lady friend when she takes him to the laboratory of Sir William Reynolds, who is building a Time Machine. It is but a small step into futurity, the beginning of a series of adventures that culminate in a violent confrontation with the most ruthless intellect in the Universe.


The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance, The Perfect LoverThe Perfect Lover — (1977) Publisher: The year is 1985. The Wessex Project, a privately funded project, discovers a method to transport the collective unconscious of some of England’s most brilliant minds into an illusory and ideal society. The object: to gather information vital to our survival on earth. But in the process, power, deception and love join to jeopardize the philanthropic program…


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Glamour  — (1984) Publisher: Cameraman Richard Grey’s memory has blanked out the few weeks before he was injured in a car bomb explosion. When he is visited by a girl who seems to have been his lover, his attempts to recall the forgotten period produce an odyssey through France and conflicting accounts of what happened. When Susan Kewley speaks to him of that time, he finds himself glimpsing a terrible twilight world – the world of “the glamour”.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Quiet Woman — (1990) Publisher: After a Chernobyl-like accident at a fast breeder reactor on the north coast of France, Britain is shrouded in radioactive fall-out. When her best friend is murdered, a young writer is forced to make sense of the deadly world she now occupies.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Extremes — (1998) Publisher: FBI Agent Teresa Simons specializes in investigating mass murder and serial killings. Part of her training requires her to participate in extremely lifelike virtual reality scenarios that are almost indistinguishable from real life. When her husband, also an agent, is apparently killed in Texas on the same day as a similar mass murder in a small English town, she realizes that the eerie coincidence may mean that virtual reality is impinging on her own. Now she must find a way to distinguish what is really happening from what is not — before it’s too late.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Separation — (1998) Publisher: THE SEPARATION is the story of twin brothers, rowers in the 1936 Olympics (where they met Hess, Hitler’s deputy); one joins the RAF, and captains a Wellington; he is shot down after a bombing raid on Hamburg and becomes Churchill’s aide-de-camp; his twin brother, a pacifist, works with the Red Cross, rescuing bombing victims in London. But this is not a straightforward story of the Second World War: this is an alternate history: the two brothers — both called J.L. Sawyer — live their lives in alternate versions of reality. In one, the Second World War ends as we imagine it did; in the other, thanks to efforts of an eminent team of negotiators headed by Hess, the war ends in 1941. THE SEPARATION is an emotionally riveting story of how the small man can make a difference; it’s a savage critique of Winston Churchill, the man credited as the saviour of Britain and the Western World, and it’s a story of how one perceives and shapes the past.


The Islanders — (2011) Publisher: A tale of murder, artistic rivalry and literary trickery; a chinese puzzle of a novel where nothing is quite what it seems; a narrator whose agenda is artful and subtle; a narrative that pulls you in and plays an elegant game with you. The Dream Archipelago is a vast network of islands. The names of the islands are different depending on who you talk to, their very locations seem to twist and shift. Some islands have been sculpted into vast musical instruments, others are home to lethal creatures, others the playground for high society. Hot winds blow across the archipelago and a war fought between two distant continents is played out across its waters. The Islanders serves both as an untrustworthy but enticing guide to the islands, an intriguing, multi-layered tale of a murder and the suspect legacy of its appealing but definitely untrustworthy narrator. It shows Christopher Priest at the height of his powers and illustrates why he has remained one of the country’s most prized novelists.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Adjacent — (2013) Publisher: A photographer returns to a near-future Britain after the death of his wife in a terrorist incident in Afghanistan. And finds that the IRGB has, itself, been suffering terrorist attacks. But no-one knows quite what is happening or how. Just that there are similarities between what killed the photographer’s wife and what happened in West London. Soon he is drawn into a hall of mirrors at the heart of government. In the First World War a magician is asked to travel to the frontline to help a naval aerial reconnaissance unit hide its planes from the German guns. On the way to France he meets a certain H.G. Wells. In the Second World War on the airfields of Bomber Commands there is also an obsession with camouflage, with misdirection. With deceit. And in a garden, an old man raises a conch shell to his ear and initiates the first Adjacency.


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