Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Inverted World (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – July 22, 2008
|New from||Used from|
Books with Buzz
Discover the latest buzz-worthy books, from mysteries and romance to humor and nonfiction. Explore more
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"... 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.
- Item Weight : 11.8 ounces
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1590172698
- ISBN-13 : 978-1590172698
- Dimensions : 5.04 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Publisher : NYRB Classics; 1st Printing edition (July 22, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #694,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Not so in Christopher Priest’s Inverted World. Not by a country mile. This is a novel, hard on the science but soft on the soul. This is a novel already approaching the half century mark but feeling like it will be written in the 2020’s. This is a novel with an A-list idea, but not C-list tricks, no magic, no dei ex machina, no easy 21st century cop outs.
What Christopher Priest has packed in 300, other writers would need 300 thousands of pages. Where to start? From the “optimum”? From the “City” on rails? From going “South”? From the protagonist Helward Mann who, unable to grasp, comprehend and embrace change reminds us of every one of us in this pre-Singularity era?
You don’t need to be a scientist to immensely enjoy Inverted World. Human will do. Get this gem.
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. When we enter the world of adulthood, we have to honor these barely seen and confusing rules even though we have had absolutely no input into creating them. Adult life is as incomprehensible to the teenager as the life of a butterfly is to a caterpillar.
Even the choosing of the guilds resemble the choosing of a career for the non-YA Dystopian teenager, who knows that they are making a momentous, perhaps irretrievable choice, but have insufficient knowledge on which to make that choice. Choosing is the fundamental experience of youth (and a mainstay in YA Dystopian fiction, e.g., Divergence and its "factions.") In Helward's case, he chooses the "Future Surveyors" without knowing what they survey or why his father and other surveyors seem to be so much older than their fellow guildsmen.
The young guildsmen must also learn about the reason for their strange predicament by on the job training. As they learn about their world, we learn that they are fleeing a topographical and temporal menace just barely by inching their city across the landscape. There are dangling questions that present themselves to the attentive reader. For example, since the land they are traveling through is inhabited by Spanish speakers, where do these people come from and what happens to them when the topographical disaster overtakes them? Strangely, no one in the City is concerned with these questions; they view these inhabitants as fortunate sources of labor to be exploited to lay the track and provide breeding stock.
The Inverted World is also what Professor Gary K. Wolfe in his Great Courses series on Science Fiction calls a "wasteland" novel. Like Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", the inhabitants of the City of Earth are trudging hopelessly through a strange wasteland for no reason other than to avoid the death behind them and, maybe, find a safe place in front of them. There has been a disaster, but it is not explained. The survivors eventually face a threat to their community when they are attacked from outside by natives and sapped from within by faction that has decided that the time has come to end the trek.
The book is structured in chapters that tell the story from Hellward's first person perspective, from a Helward-centric third-person perspective, and from a third person perspective involving another character. There is a conclusion to the book and an explanation for the mysteries, but we are faced with an even deeper mystery of whether that explanation - which contradicts Helward's lived experience - is the truth. We have reasons to accept both Helward's belief and the belief that explains some of the mysteries of the story.
This is a good book. It is not particularly fast moving, and perhaps to much time is taken up with Helward's learning the mechanics of removing tracks from the rear of the city, but this heightens the mystery, and, eventually, we are paid off with a picture of a topographical monstrosity of a world that rivals the best of world-building imagination, for all that it is probably an impossible picture. Helward himself seems to be distant and cold, but, frankly, it is the plot and the setting that move the story. This book really is a classic and deserves to be read.
The first 3 sections of the book were almost exactly what I expected, laying out a society a couple centuries into facing a really intriguing set of circumstances. Priest tends to treat hard SF concepts with a delicate touch I appreciate, and Inverted World was no different. I loved what he did with the science up to this point.
Then came the twist, and to be honest, I felt the 5th and final section of the book was rushed and not what it could have been. Perhaps because I read this exactly 40 years on, but the unconvincing science presented to explain the last 300 pages was disappointing to me. For all the care he gave 300 pages of set up, the pay off explanation was dropped in the space of 4 pages, and could have been condensed into a paragraph or two. And then suddenly it's over.
Even so, the book is worth reading. I gave this 3 stars because I tend to love Priest's writing, and I certainly love this premise, but I only liked the book by the end. Read it, but be prepared for an abrupt final lap.
Top reviews from other countries
In other words clever ideas have to be coherant. I have given it three stars because it is well written and it held my interest to the end.
The whole premise is fascinating and gives no clues as to what is really going on until the last minutes of the book.
A brief political comment made me think of how some of Priest’s ideas have been made into the Mortal Engines story.
However, the two are very different in ideas and themes.
To be honest, I could go on and on, but suffice to say I wanted to vent somewhat. It's overly long, and the ending.. The ending is probably one of the few times I wanted to open a window and drop the book outside. So if I were you I'd avoid this, and it's a shame, it could've been a great book.
We begin with the Guilds, which control the city. Our protagonist, Helward Mann, is one of the elite, a young man with automatic status because of his birth. He chooses to enter the Guild of Future Surveyors. First he has to spend time as an apprentice with each of the other Guilds, and we come to learn exactly what is going on through Helward. In time we learn of the difficulties of survival and we are left in no doubt that there is something strange about how Helward views his world. Finally we receive another perception and the truth is revealed. This is a brilliantly original and unsettling novel. The prose is a little stiff, a little too formal, though that works well in the parameters of this story, given the shock of the plot. It made me think about how some of our own beliefs about the world are often based on heresay or unfiltered perceptive effects. What else might be the result of faulty perceptions? Thought about seriously, deeply, sure enough, the ground could disappear beneath our feet. I enjoyed this book enormously and I will be reading more of Priest's work.