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Inverted World (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – July 22, 2008
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"... his well-crafted books play fun tricks on the reader. In this devilishly entertaining 1974 novel, Priest tells of a city called Earth that must perpetually move on rails to escape its hyperboloid planet's oppressive gravity." --Time Out New York
"A somber psychedelic journey through a landscape that seems a collaboration between Breugel the Elder and M.C. Escher, Priest's book is an engine of epiphany, and a formal marvel: a narrative in the exact shape of the conundrum it presents." -Jonathan Lethem
"This book shows us a community plunged into ignorance, trying to understand its place. You finish this novel appreciating our culture's efforts to protect its collective memories and also worried that everything we take for granted can easily be lost." --Los Angeles Times
"The most famous book from those days, Inverted World...upended existence, revealed a planet to be infinite, in a finite universe; between its poles, pressure warped every dimension of the body." —Guardian
"The author has created a unique and original world." -Publishers Weekly
"A marvellous thought experiment." —The Independent
"Inverted World will be remembered for many years, I would guess, as one of the few science fiction novels of the 1970s to come up with a new idea." -Foundation
"The Inverted World reads like a classic science fiction book--the physical concepts of the world in which it takes place are filled with a sense of wonder." -San Francisco Signal
"A science fiction mystery story about a world whose 'secret' is as incredible, but as acceptable, to its readers as it is to its characters --which if you think about it is one of the highest compliments a critic can pay to a novel. A well-structured, finely written, mature narrative that is very compelling and thoroughly entertaining. It is a 'must'."-Luna Monthly
"A marvelous thought experiment in which our familiar spherical world is replaced by a hyperboloid one. Rudy Rucker is equally known for his arithmetically generated science-fiction novels." -Independent on Sunday
"The story is among those seldom found, incredibly readable narratives that the reader aches to continue reading." -Jersey Journal
"One of the trickiest and most astonishing twist endings in modern SF." —Tribune (London)
About the Author
Christopher Priest was born in Cheshire, England. He has published eleven novels, three short-story collections, and a number of other books, including critical works, biographies, novelizations, and children’s nonfiction. In 1996 Priest won the World Fantasy Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel The Prestige, which was adapted into a film by Christopher Nolan in 2006. His most recent novel, The Separation, won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Science Fiction Association Award. Priest and his wife, the writer Leigh Kennedy, live in Hastings, England, with their twin children.
John Clute was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1940, but has lived most of his life in England. He has won three Hugo Awards for his nonfiction. Recent work includes Appleseed, a novel, The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror, and Canary Fever: Reviews.
Top Customer Reviews
The city of Earth's infrastructure is maintained wholly by its various secretive Guilds, such as the Bridge Guild, the Militia Guild, and other such groups dedicated to the mechanization and preservation of the city. The guildsmen, a class consisting only of adult males, are the elite of society. As Helward comes of age, he is ushered into their ilk, being tasked with escorting a group of young women back to their outlying homeland. The farther they travel away from the city, the more distorted the environment, and the women, become.
Priest fashions a bizzaro world in flux, alien and familiar by turns. Time speeds and slows, oceans become rivers, matter flattens and expands in spastic perspective. Everything escapes relativity. By the end of Priest's tale, all is explained with scientific elegance. Along the way, this book sucks you into its vortex, it has you scratching your head then grinning in awe-filled wonderment at the surprising plausibility of its climactic revelation. The Inverted World is a must read if not for its subtle social commentary, then for its grasp of natural philosophy, its revealing science of power.
~Book Jones~ 5 Stars
Literary Awards - British Science Fiction Association Award for Novel (1975)
Once upon a time there was a great City known as Earth that constantly, slowly, and persistently moved ever-forward on rails towards its grinding goal to reach, or , at least, pace "Optimum." Slowly, at a tenth of a mile a day, the City slouched northward toward the horizon. To fall behind was unthinkable and deadly or so the denizens had been taught. Behind this lumbering behemoth, the Traction Guild strained to remove the ties and rails and quickly transport them to the front of the City. The Navigator Guild would send scouts great distances to determine the best routes forward. Rivers, canyons, lakes, and other natural impediments were spanned by the Bridge Guild. Protecting them all from dissident villagers along the way was the Militia Guild. So begins the quirky story of "Inverted World" by Christopher Priest.
Normally, I would label my evaluation of "Inverted World" as a classic book review since this story was first published in 1974. However, and shame on me, I did not read this marvelous work of fiction until recently and therefore I cannot in good conscience label it a classic. However, had I read it twenty or thirty years ago I think I'd have deemed it an instant classic then. The characters are believable and well-written but trapped within the confines of their Guilds. Some search for answers while others, like the City, plod ever-onward without question or purpose. Strange "distortions" follow the City and those who travel too far behind it suffer physical and temporal changes to themselves and their surroundings.Read more ›
This book is quite readable and nicely evokes the "gosh-wow!" experience of good science fiction. Thus, we have a city - actually, a large building or office complex - being dragged on railways laboriously through a wasteland. The City of Earth moves on rails that are picked up from behind and put down in front of the city as it passes through a mostly empty landscape. The focal character is Helward Mann, to whom we are introduced in one of the great opening lines of science fiction: "I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles." With that sentence, we are disoriented by a culture that apparently thinks of time in terms of distance.
In a way this is an early kind of "Young Adult Dystopian" novel, written before there was such a sub-genre. At "650 miles," Helward is about 18 years of age and is of an age where he has to choose the guild that he will enter. The elite guilds are sworn to secrecy and exist to move the city across the landscape. Apprentices are brought into their Guilds by first working as grunt laborers in all of the elite Guilds, i.e., the city educates through "on the job training" rather than through book learning or scholarship. Thus, we have a society that is a metaphor for the universal experience by which a young person leaves childhood and enters the alien world of adulthood. In this universal moves, everyone shares the experience that there are rules that everyone follows but we don't know and don't understand until we have habituated those rules ourselves.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Go in blind. Dense, surprising, mind bending. This is the genre at its best.Published 10 days ago by Josh Bubbles
It is best that a reader know as little about Inverted World as possible before reading it. The surprises of the narrative are a joy when matched to the growing understanding of... Read morePublished 6 months ago by D.S. Cahr
This is pure fantasy - Not Sci-fi.
There is never more than a halfhearted attempt to explain the reality of the protagonist's perceived world.
Think "perspective", then read the book, then think "perspective" again. You'll be amazed at how your understanding has changed. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Ol' Salty
How did I miss this treasure? If you like sci fi books this is a must read. Buy it now and make sure you have nothing important to do for the next two days.Published 13 months ago by Madscotty
I just couldnt get into it. Others may love it so it is an individual opinionPublished 16 months ago by nonnas princess