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Dream of Wessex Hardcover – October 17, 1977

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October 17, 1977
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Christopher Priest is the author of ten novels and two collections of short stories, including the prize-winning THE GLAMOUR and THE PRESTIGE which won the James Tait Black award in 1995. He lives in Hastings with his wife and twin children. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (October 17, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571111181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571111183
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,751,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
...reality or perception? What do we really know? This book spins these concepts and leaves you unsettled. A dream within the real world, or the world within a dream? Perhaps a dream within a dream? If you dream far enough can you come full circle?
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Julia Stretton is a researcher for the Ridpath projection, a machine that has generated a completely convincing simulation of what the world may look like in the early 22nd Century. In the projection, the south-west of England has broken away from the rest of the island of Britain due to an earthquake and has become something of a holiday resort, tolerated by a communist government in London for the sake of international relations. In this vision of the future Julia finds herself drawn to a man named David for reasons she doesn't quite understand, but in the real world the arrival of her ex-lover on the project's staff causes chaos for Julia and the project...

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.
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Format: Hardcover
In the early 22nd century, the world is divided into two main power-blocs, one Communist, the other Islamic. England is part of the Communist bloc, whereas the USA has become an Islamic state known as the Western Emirate States. The south-west peninsula has become separated from the English mainland following a series of catastrophic earthquakes, and is now an island known as the Isle of Wessex. Wessex is now England's prime holiday destination, known for its casinos and mosques, built to cater for visitors from the Western Emirate States.

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).
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Format: Paperback
When I saw the film 'Inception' I was startled by an image that came straight out of a dream I had had years previously. I liked the movie but wished it didn't have all the 'cops and robbers' stuff in it. Thought I would like to do it more thoughtfully. Christopher Priest's novel 'A Dream of Wessex' didn't come to mind but it should have because I had read the novel years earlier - perhaps too many years earlier (it was published in 1987).

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.

Other recommendations:
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
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