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Inverted World (New York Review Books…

Inverted World (New York Review Books Classics) (original 1974; edition 2008)

by Christopher Priest, John Clute (Afterword)

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1,062437,895 (3.85)1 / 44
Title:Inverted World (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:Christopher Priest
Other authors:John Clute (Afterword)
Info:NYRB Classics (2008), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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Inverted World by Christopher Priest (Author) (1974)



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English (41)  French (4)  Italian (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
This book has the feel more of an extended thought-experiment than a novel at times, but the mystery of why the world through which Helward Mann's city-on-rails travels kept me turning pages, wanting to find out why the hell time moves differently north and south of the city, why the ground is pulling the city towards its destruction, why the sun appears as a hyperbolic solid rather than a sphere...

Other reviewers have complained that there is not a conventional story here, that the protagonist does not develop. There is some validity to this, but I think it misses the point to demand a personal touch in a book that poses such big an interesting conundrums. Helward Mann is merely the lens through which we view these, and the tool by which we come eventually to the truth.

I, for one, was never bored or impatient, except to find out what was really going on. I devoured this book in a day and a half and was sad, yet satisfied, when it was over. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
My book club selection for February.
I was a little psyched to read this, because it's written by the same
author that the movie The Prestige was written by - but I didn't
perceive any similarities.
This is definitely an "idea" book (as opposed to a plot- or
character-driven book). The author saw some diagrams based on
hyperbolic math equations, and basically said, "hmm... what if a
planet existed that was based on the physics of a hyberboloid?"
Such a place is experienced by the denizens of The City (which, to us,
might resemble a giant, ramshackle wooden building than an actual
city). The City is in constant motion, laying down tracks in front of
it, and tearing them up behind, traveling through what seems to be a
poverty-stricken, third-world landscape, always in a desperate attempt
to keep up with "the optimum" - a point which is always moving
Most of the City's inhabitants know nothing of the optimum, and never
even go outside. However, when Helward Mann is recruited to an elite
group, he becomes part of the plan to always keep the city moving...
and the secret is bequeathed to him that they are not even on earth,
and if they fall behind the optimum, bizarre distortions of time and
space occur....
It's an interesting book, but I felt that the author started it
without deciding how he was going to finish it, and I thought that the
way it was finished left gaping holes (and contradictions) in the
logic of what was previously laid out in the plot. (To go into details
would be a total spoiler, however, so I won't!) ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Whoa, this was a mind-trip! Not at all the kind of book I usually read, but I feel smarter having read it, if that makes any sense. I had no idea it was "older" when I started - it was first published in 1974 - and I'm glad I didn't, because I tend to look slightly down my nose at older SF (just because the theorized technology of the future is usually so far off and amusing!).

Anyway, this is an unraveling mystery of a book where you are literally just trying to wrap your mind around the physical dimensions of the setting - the normal laws of physics do not apply.

If you need a book to make you shake off the dust in your brain, this one would do it. Wow is about all I can say! ( )
  chessakat | Feb 5, 2016 |
Some science fiction books are written just to entertain, some are depiction of the author’s vision of the future, and some are for conveying the author’s philosophical or political ideas. Occasionally I come a across sci-fi books that are pure thought experiments, where the authors sets out to explore some outlandish idea to its logical conclusion. For all I know Christopher Priest had some other intent for the book but clearly thought experimentation appears to be the primary purpose.

Inverted World (“The” is added to the title in some editions) is often found in “best science fiction books” lists, it is a Hugo nominee and the winner of the British Science Fiction Association award for best novel in 1975. All well deserved accolades and perhaps the book is even a little underrated. Certainly it is one of the oddest sci-fi conceits I have ever come across.

Basically Inverted World is about a city on wheels called Earth that is being moved in the northerly direction on a railway track that has to be laid ahead of the city’s route and removed after the city has passed to be laid down again ahead. An idea reused in China Miéville's 2004 novel [b:Iron Council|68495|Iron Council (Bas-Lag, #3)|China Miéville|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320419476s/68495.jpg|66379], but Inverted World is much more bizarre though as it is an entire city being moved, for unknown destination and even purpose. The “Earth” city’s citizens only know that if their city stops moving they will all die. The weirdness does not stop there, the law of physics appears to work differently away from the city. People and objects become wider and flatter to the south of the city and thinner and taller to the north.

In spite of the bizarre premise Inverted World is really quite readable and accessible. Priest writes in clear, uncluttered prose with a linear timeline and a single plot strand. Characters are not developed in much depth but their behavior and motivation is always understandable. I can not help but sympathize with their strange plight.

The world building of Inverted World is exemplary, once you accept the weirdness of the book’s universe it becomes a fascinating place to spend some time in. The author often throws me for a loop with the strange developments in his storyline. Once I settled into the groove of the book reading it becomes quite an exhilarating and jaw dropping experience. In some ways this book reminds me of Hal Clements’s classic hard sci-fi [b:Mission of Gravity|525285|Mission of Gravity (Mesklin, #1)|Hal Clement|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328628795s/525285.jpg|894625] as it is also set in a world where the law of physics appears to change from location to location. However, Inverted World is not hard sci-fi as such, there are just too many bizarre concepts for that particular subgenre label. In fact the reality warping aspect of the book where the relationship between time and space become unreliable puts me in mind of the legendary [a:Philip K. Dick|4764|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1264613853p2/4764.jpg]. So if you imagine a collaboration between [a:Arthur C. Clarke|7779|Arthur C. Clarke|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357191481p2/7779.jpg] and PKD you may have a fair idea of what to expect.

Most of the mysteries are explained by the end of the book and almost everything make sense. If I have one complaint it is the rather abrupt ending which makes me feel as if a few pages have gone missing. In any case Inverted World is like a gymnasium for the imagination and I can not imagine a dedicated sci-fi fans not liking it. It is already on my Favorites shelf here on Goodreads. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
"... it is certainly one of the strangest SF novels of all time. Unfortunately the ending lets you down almost as badly as the traditional dream in Nineteenth Century stories."
added by RBeffa | editAnalog Science Fiction/Sciencd Fact, P. Shuyler Miller (Nov 7, 1975)

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Priest, ChristopherAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lye, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nenonen, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stephenson,Andrew M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Whereso'er I turn my view,
All is strange, yet nothing new;
Endless labour all along,
Endless labour to be wrong
— Samuel Johnson
To my mother and father
First words
Elizabeth Khan closed the door of the surgery, and locked it. (From Prologue)
I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles. (From Chapter 1 of Part 1)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060134216, Hardcover)

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:59 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The city is winched along tracks through a devastated land full of hostile tribes. Rails must be freshly laid ahead of the city and carefully removed in its wake. Rivers and mountains present nearly insurmountable challenges to the ingenuity of the city's engineers. But if the city does not move, it will fall farther and farther behind the "optimum" into the crushing gravitational field that has transformed life on Earth. The only alternative to progress is death. The secret directorate that governs the city makes sure that its inhabitants know nothing of this. Raised in common in creches, nurtured on synthetic food, prevented above all from venturing outside the closed circuit of the city, they are carefully sheltered from the dire necessities that have come to define human existence. And yet the city is in crisis. The people are growing restive, the population is dwindling, and the rulers know that, for all their efforts, slowly but surely the city is slipping ever farther behind the optimum. Helward Mann is a member of the city's elite. Better than anyone, he knows how tenuous is the city's continued existence. But the world--he is about to discover--is infinitely stranger than the strange world he believes he knows so well.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Average: (3.85)
0.5 1
1.5 2
2 13
2.5 6
3 43
3.5 29
4 106
4.5 18
5 51


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