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Dream of Wessex Hardcover – October 17, 1977
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|Hardcover, October 17, 1977||
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Top Customer Reviews
A charmingly dated book, gritty and unstylised. Set, in common with those other of Chris Priest's works which I've read, within pastoral Dorset, but invested with dread inside the alter-Dorset occasionally inhabited by the characters. Do they visit this alternate reality or do they create it? Does it exist apart from them? Shades of virtual-reality concepts, which followed this work much later, but suggesting dark possibilities and existential issues unvisited in contemporary virtual-reality works. The introduction of an individual into the melee who disturbs the delicate balance destabilises the experiment, with interesting consequences.
The book takes images which would normally be reassuring and familiar in their peaceful permanence and imbues them with what felt to me like a brooding disquiet. The whole timbre is one of threatened violence, although there is very little, and no gratuitous violence in the work.
It has Priest's gentle touch in the writing and was thoroughly enjoyable. Good to read before progressing to Fugue for a Darkening Island and The Glamour.
A Dream of Wessex was originally published in 1977 and was Christopher Priest's fifth novel, following up on the extremely well-received An Inverted World and The Space Machine. Like many of Priest's books, it contains musings on memory, identity, consciousness and reality. The book also describes what looks suspiciously like a prophetic virtual reality cyberspace simulation some years ahead of such things becoming fashionable thanks to cyberpunk.
The novel features Priest's traditional narrative hallmark, namely being written in clear and readable prose through which the author laces several narrative and thematic time bombs that explode in the reader's face at key points (dubbed 'The Priest Effect' by David Langford), including several hours after you finish the book when you suddenly go, "Hang on, does that mean..." and you have to go scurrying back to re-read half the book to confirm your suspicions.Read more ›
Or is it? This 22nd-century Wessex does not, in fact, exist, except in virtual reality. (Christopher Priest does not actually use that expression, which was not in use in the 1970s, but he clearly anticipated the concept). The "real" part of his novel, which was written in 1977, is set in the year 1985. A mysterious group known as the Wessex Foundation has set up what is known as the Wessex Project. A device known as the Ridpath Projector has created an imaginary future into which the participants can be projected. Once inside the Projector they believe themselves to be living their lives in the Wessex of the 22nd century and are unable to remember their lives in 1985. Upon their return to reality, however, they can remember the lives they have been living in Wessex. The main character, Julia Stretton, is one of the participants in the scheme, and much of the plot derives from the conflicts which arise when Julia's abusive ex-boyfriend Paul also enters the projection.
Priest's vision of 1985 is one of a world confronted by many social problems; the cities are plagued by terrorism, crime and lawlessness, and there is a severe housing shortage. (In some ways his prediction did come true, although not quite to the degree that he imagined).Read more ›
I have enjoyed Christopher Priest's novels over many years - he's probably the one surviving SF writer who has sustained my interest in the genre. Sometimes he does get into the gory side of terrorism and war a bit too graphically for me. I picked up 'A Dream of Wessex' to reread it and was immediately enchanted. Here is 'Incpetion' and its dream worlds without the 'cops and robbers'.
A great read.
Christopher Priest - The Affirmation (the novel that introduced me to Christopher Priest), The Glamour, The Separation, The Prestige (which made a fine movie).
WH Hudson - A Crystal World
Anna Kavan - Ice Age