Read Inverted World by Christopher Priest Online


On a planet whose very nature is a mystery, a massive decrepit city is pulled along a massive railway track, laying the line down before it as it progresses into the wilderness. The society within toils under an oppressive regime, its structures always on the point of collapse, the lives of its individuals lived in misery....

Title : Inverted World
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780575082106
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 303 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Inverted World Reviews

  • Glenn Russell
    2019-05-14 05:02

    Christopher Priest, Born 1943, British Novelist and Science Fiction WriterWith Inverted World Christopher Priest has written a work that is beautiful, powerful and profound. These are the words of critic, scholar and science fiction writer Adam Roberts. Equally important, at least for me as someone unacquainted with science fiction, is that Mr. Priest has written an accessible and enjoyable novel. And part of the enjoyment was having my imagination challenged and expanded - I felt like I do after finishing a rigorous workout, only, in this case, my mind had the workout. Honestly, what a book, one I recommend especially for readers who do not usually read science fiction. More specifically, here are several call-outs:NARRATIVE VARIATIONThe novel is divided into five parts, alternating back and forth between first-person and third-person – our first-person narrator is main character Helward Mann, a newly initiated apprentice guildsman of the city. Helward is pitch perfect as narrator since, in a very real sense, his story is the city’s story. Third-person part two and four underscore and clarify the challenges facing Helward and his city. A most effective narrative devise to drive the story and draw us into its unfolding drama.PACE OF A MEDIEVAL-LIKE CITYAlthough science fiction in that the city is of a future time and must continually move by way of a system of tracks, cables and wenches toward an ideal point termed ‘optimum’, pacing of the day-to-day activities of the city are much akin to a city in twelfth century Europe. Matter of fact, compared to the high octane writing of Philip K. Dick, Inverted World reads like science fiction in slow motion, which is exactly the appropriate speed to make this story accessible, especially for those of us who ordinarily do not read science fiction.MEDIEVAL-LIKE GUILDSThe workings of the guild system was founded by the city’s founder, one Destaine. The guilds involve the specifics of surveying, laying of tracks, bridge building, securing cables and winching – all of the nitty-gritty of enabling the city to continue moving north. The guilds are exclusive and regimented and central to the overall government of the city. And the guildsmen take their guilds seriously, very seriously. All members have the mindset and work ethic comparable to members of those esteemed medieval guilds.CONFLICT OF SOCIETIESBut, alas, the inhabitants of the moving city are not alone. There are hostile, half-starving tribes in the lands outside the city. And to add further complication, the city engineers need men from these various tribes to contribute to the heavy, backbreaking work involved in clearing land and laying track. And even more complication: the city must barter for the services of the tribeswomen. A nasty business to be sure.JOLT OF THE WEIRDSo, we as readers join Helward moving along at the slow, methodical speed of medieval-like time for the entire first half of the novel. Then it happens: the jolt of the weird. I wouldn’t want to say anything more specific here but let me assure you, as a reader you will be every bit as shocked and jolted as Helward. Such is the high quality of Christopher Priest’s writing. At this point and beyond, the plot thickens, warps and bends.PHILOSOPHY OF PERCEPTIONWe are familiar with George Barkley’s “To be is to be perceived.” Well, on one level Inverse World is a meditation on perception within the science of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Would we be upset and disoriented if we realized the way we have been perceiving the world and the physical objects contained within – the sun, the directions of north, south, east, west, the size and shape of those around us -- is completely false? You bet we would. Welcome to the bending space of an inverse world that plays with our mind.MATHEMATICS AND MODERN SCIENCEEven a non-scientist like myself can see the author includes enough math and science to keep nearly everyone with a background in science both challenged and engaged. As a for instance, here’s a reflection from an outsider to the city: “In time a kind of logical pattern appeared . . . but there was one ineradicable flaw in everything. The hypothesis by which the city and its people existed was that the world on which they lived was somehow inverted. Not only the world, but all the physical objects in the universe in which that world was supposed to exist. The shape that Destaine drew – a solid world, curved north and south in the shape of hyperbolas – was the approximation they used, and it correlated indeed with the strange shape that Helward had drawn to depict the sun.”BREAKTHROUGH OF THE ETERNALAt one point well into the tale, Helward reflects, “I did my guild work as quickly as possible, then rode off alone through the future countryside, sketching what I saw, trying to find in line drawing some expression of a terrain where time could almost stand still.” In a way, this is remarkable since the mindset of the inhabitants of the city, including the guildsmen, is totally practical – every drop of ingenuity and effort is geared to sheer, brute material survival. Within the city walls there is no reference to religion, philosophy, literature or the arts – to put it bluntly, these people lack a spiritual and aesthetic dimension. Yet, remarkably, through a stroke of artistic creativity, Helward touches the realm of the eternal, which is perhaps a consequence of being set free from the pull of the city. One theme worth keeping in mind.SOBER CITYThe people of the city deal with life without powerful drugs, hallucinogenic or otherwise. They are a sober lot, not even beer or wine. No Dionysian frenzy; no dancing; not even the singing of songs within the city walls. In this sense, very different from our own world. However there are a number of challenges and problems the people and the city face that will have a most familiar ring. But this book is much, much more than simply social and cultural commentary. Christopher Priest has written a work of extraordinary vision, one to expand your mind and hone your imagination, and even if you become slightly warped in the process, exercising your grey matter will be well worth the effort.This New York Review Book (NYRB) Classic contains an informative Afterward written by John Clute, providing historical and social context for Priest’s writing. This edition also has a nifty, eye-catching cover sculpture by artist/futuristic designer, Lebbeus Woods.(Special thanks to Goodreads friend Manny Rayner for clarifying for me the scientific ideas contained within this novel before I wrote my review).

  • Bradley
    2019-05-10 11:15

    This novel is actually all kinds of amazing when it comes to the exploration of a few core ideas and more than very decent when it comes to exploring humanity, perception, and irreconcilable differences.The story is ostensibly a coming of age story, an acceptance of one's world, and then, eventually a deep dissent without a true solution, but it comes across so easily, so effortlessly, that I'm truly unsurprised that this was nominated for the Hugo in '75 and won the British SF award in the same. So the characters are good, the story is very solid... then what, exactly, makes this novel stand out?The concept. An intersection of our Earth with these people's Earth. Not original enough? No problem. How about an infinite space of earth along a fluid time? The city is on rails, a direct concept that is carried over to Railsea, travelling slowly into the future and away from the past, which doesn't sound so surprising except when you realize that if the inhabitants actually walk in one direction or another, they actually explore the real past or the future. Infinite space along a traversable time, the inverse of the Earth we actually live in.But this is where the story gets interesting. There's guilds and explorers and the crossing over along very predefined instants where the two Earths meet, and then we start asking questions about perception.It's truly much more than this, but it gives you a nice taste and it's truly a grand exploration of ideas across many points. :)Truly a great recommendation for any SF lover. :)

  • Apatt
    2019-04-21 06:11

    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 Iron Council, 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 Mission of Gravity 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 Philip K. Dick. So if you imagine a collaboration between Arthur C. Clarke 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.

  • Manny
    2019-05-01 04:07

    So, we know from Einstein that space and time are both part of a larger concept that unifies them, and moreover that spacetime is curved. Much to his credit, Christopher Priest manages to turn this observation into a metaphor which forms the basis of an imaginative, well-written science-fiction novel. There are some startling images, and he gets you curious right from the start. Why is the city on rails? Why does it have to keep moving? Why do they refer to the direction it's come from as "the past"? It occurs to me suddenly to wonder if there's a link to a passage in Simone de Beauvoir's Les Mandarins. One of the characters has done something truly despicable, and finally confesses it to a friend. He expects the friend to be appalled, but he just looks thoughtful. After a while, he says,- In a curved moral space, there are no straight lines.I have always liked this gnomic sentence. It's not out of the question that it inspired Priest's book.

  • Szplug
    2019-05-03 04:54

    Feeling really burned after Nixonland, I meandered about my home horde, reading some Gass and Kronenberger essays, some of Prestowitz's Three Billion New Capitalists, dipping here and there into Borges, Scruton, and Posner, but nothing was really sticking other than my skin to the back of my chair. Then I espied my good ol' shelf of NYRB Classics, so beautifully formal, so stiffly aesthetic, redolent of that pulpy pureness that engenders almost a postcoital bliss—so why in the hell not? Summer and ciencia ficción go together like weed and inhalation psychosis, so it's Inverted World for the win.Which proved not to be much of a victory. This is one of those Eh books, so common, in my experience, to the milieu of science fiction—entertaining, certainly intriguing at the outset, but marred by paper-thin characters, clustered action, expository text that dissipates the sense of otherness so necessary to such fantastic fiction, and an ending that proved tricky but, ultimately, unsatisfying. What's more, I've got a few questions about the point-of-view of the City dwellers that haven't been answered in the course of the story's completion, and I believe that these questions undermine an integral aspect of the resolution provided: to wit, the aging effect, which I shan't get into further for fear of spoiling the plot for those yet to partake of Priest's imaginative offering, but it seems a gaping flaw that the developments at the end fail to deal with.I still mostly enjoyed this—stories that feature dystopian futures set amidst apocalyptic wastelands inhabited by the crude and regressive remnants of a once highly civilized humanity and centered upon an isolated collective vessel of said vanished civilization's descendants—struggling to preserve the faith, mores, and technologies of the old ways in the face of the mutations and temptations for a newer set to override and/or supersede them—always rock my boat: in this particular case, the conceit consists of a block-sized, multi-tiered City winching itself northwards along a tetrad of railway tracks that are immediately disassembled in the rear and positioned anew in the front as the city structure edges along, forever chasing the elusive optimum whose invisible geometric parameters are of a vital necessity to keep within a few miles of the city's physical structure. There's cool physics, archaic and hierarchical governing guilds, apprenticeship rituals, female population imbalance, and nifty perception perturbations that drive the story onwards, with a few narrative shifts that cast a new light upon what is taking place. Furthermore, Priest has crafted some sly allusions to our own hypertrophied hydrocarbonic era overlaid with a spicy sprinkling of Cold War bifurcations. So, there you have it—a book to which I bestow a somewhat tepid three-star rating. I'm sure that I've inflated its flaws in my mind, and downplayed its cleverness, but the bottom line is that my initial enthusiasm, which was appreciable, began to deflate roughly around the third part of the story, never to regain its momentum. I cannot shake the sense that I should be partaking of more serious fare, that such frivolous and flimsy material, whilst fine for a dude in his twenties, has been outgrown and should be consigned to my days of bong hits, beers, and Bits-n-Bites™. How in the hell can I possibly continue to leave Proust and Powell and Kundera and Serge and Marías idling upon the shelf to follow a track-bound city turtling across the open plains? Perhaps this explains why my Culture collection—Phlebas, Games, Weapons, Excession—gather dust in a corner. If I actually got into them, that recently promoted literary section of my reading consciousness would berate my escapist self to no end—and if Banks' fare proved no better than Inverted World, it just might have a point.

  • Krok Zero
    2019-04-29 05:07

    You know how dumb-asses will describe something as being "like ___ on acid." This book is like if Philip K. Dick wasn't on acid. Like, if Dick had been a studious young man into engineering and physics instead of a drugged-out freakazoid. The content of Priest's novel is wacked-out and mind-bending in a sort of Dickian way, but the tone is dry and the prose is stilted (well, in that one respect it's not so far from Dick) and the details are scientific. Somehow it manages to be highly engaging and basically boring at the same time. Frankly I have no idea why NYRB reissued it, as it's really more of a curio than anything else and probably could have stayed out of print without the general reading public suffering too much. But kinda cool that it's out there, and if the description or Lethem's blurb intrigues you, you could do worse and you'll finish it within a couple days probably.

  • Terran
    2019-05-15 06:15

    I found this book both fascinating and frustrating. Overall, I would highly recommend it, but with caveats.I had never read Priest before, but I picked this up randomly when I was on travel and running out of reading material. It was shelved next toThe Prestige, his 1996 (IIRC?) novel that was recently filmed. Susan and I really enjoyed the movie, so I thought that this Priest guy might be worth a gamble. I avoided The Prestige as a first cut because I wanted something new. (And I knew how that ended. At least, I knew how the movie version ended. Someday I'll check its verisimilitude.)The Inverted World is reminiscent ofIain M. Banks, the more recent British SF/horror phenomenon, and ofRobert Charles Wilson'sSpin. Like Spin and many of Banks's works, The Inverted World presents the reader with an enigmatic world seen through questionably reliable eyes. It is told with a prose also reminiscent of Banks's: generally spare, but lucid and carefully drawn. Like a Sumi-e painting, Priest evokes a vivid mood and location with a chosen paucity of pen strokes.I found the central mystery compelling -- so much so that I read most of this (relatively short) novel on a plane flight. (Granted, a transatlantic flight.) Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about it without spoilers, so you'll just have to trust that I found it compelling. ;-) He succeeded in misdirecting me a couple of times, and it wasn't until very late in the story that I made a close guess as to what was going on.Yet I found the ending ultimately dissatisfying. The revelation, when it comes, is incomplete (at least, to my reading). There were certain elements that I felt were unexplained and that left highly nagging holes in the narrative. Some of this seems deliberate: likeJohn Fowles'sThe Magus, we readers are left a bit adrift at the end, on our own hooks to make what we can of the conundrums of the text. I guess the satisfaction of such a resolution is individual-specific, but I found both of them a bit lacking. This dissatisfaction is primarily what inclines me to give this book 4 stars rather than 5.Secondarily, I wonder a bit about the characterization. My initial impression was that the protagonist is underdeveloped, serving primarily as a foil for the mystery of the story. But on readingJohn Clute's effusive afterward, and reflecting on the story a bit, I have to admit that the protagonist's flattened affect may be deliberate, rather than clumsy -- a symbol of the mystery and a reflection of the environment in which he finds himself. But that still doesn't make him sympatheticOverall, a very engaging read. I will definitely look for more of Priest's books.If you've read this as well, and would be interested in discussing it in +spoiler mode, please drop me a line.

  • AC
    2019-05-18 10:05

    Though my knowledge of SF is obviously nearly less than zero – surpassed only on the downside by my understanding of science in general, I’m going to hazard a few thoughts about what seems (from my point of view, at least) to be wrong with this genre.Browsing today through the Sci-fi lists of some of the GR people I follow, I’m stunned to see that even those who are big, BIG readers of this genre think most of the books that they’ve read are, basically..., crap (or mediocre, anyway – two and three stars abound). That’s DEFINITELY not a good sign….I think the problem is two-fold. First of all, SF – *good* SF – must be incredibly hard to write. It requires that one be a good writer, obviously – no, an excellent writer – and be able, of course, to develop wonderful plots and characters…, and ALSO have the imaginative genius of a Nabokov… (otherwise, all the fantastical material comes off, as it often does, as merely contrived)…; well, ALMOST Nabokovian, since a REAL Nabokov would be producing literature, and not genre.On the other hand, there’s a huge appetite for SF; …hence, a supply-demand imbalance…. In other words, a lot more SF, than there are brilliant writers around… Moreover – this appetite comes heavily from that part of the brain that’s (still) a 12-year old boy (when a lot of these GR reviewers admit they read this-or-that book which they say they loved so much….). This creates a problem for someone approaching this genre in maturity and without any baggage.Also – a lot of this stuff is simply written too quickly – people writing 20, 30 books in a career shows a certainly carelessness… That sloppy use of phony-sounding names that I keep harping (let’s take anything that pops into our head approach) is a sign of this…My guess is that a lot of the best SF probably comes in the form of short stories, rather than novels, where the shorter format is probably better able to sustain the reach that’s necessary… So maybe I should try to focus more on those.Anyway – this may all be completely wrong.... So I reserve the right to look unashamedly stupid here six months from now…And that said – this PARTICULAR book just knocked me out – flat-out loved it.

  • Nate D
    2019-05-04 08:22

    Reads like a simple adventure story, but with an unexpected level of cleverness and complexity, both of underlying concept and usefulness as cautionary fable. I can't entirely speak for some of the underlying physics (some "hard" sci-fi what-ifs mix well with social concerns here), but its terribly interesting and seems well-thought-through enough that I have no complaints.Starting simply but intriguingly with a city that must constantly move through an uncertain and perhaps threatening world on tracks, subsequent iterations move us into an elegant mathematical delerium, sociopolitical questions, problems of perception and reality, then still further inversions. Checking my recent reading again, I'm gonna hypothesize that there's a pretty specific window, maybe 67 through 74, Ice to Dhalgren, that encapsulates all my favorite sci-fi impulses, and which this falls into.

  • Stephen
    2019-05-10 11:10

    4.0 stars. Outstanding science fiction novel. This is the first novel by Christopher Priest that I have read and I plan to read the rest of his wroks based on the strength of this novel. Great premise, good characters and and tightly woven plot that is never boring. Unlike some other reviewers, I thought the ending was great. Highly recommended!!Winner: British Science Fiction Award for Best NovelNominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

  • Andy Wixon
    2019-04-27 04:15

    This is a warning as much as a review - I'm sorry to say that I haven't looked at this properly in about a decade - but basically I just want to say: this book will mess with your head.Really. The first time I heard of it, it was preceded with the words 'hyperbolically strange' and that's a better capsule description than any I can give. Basically, it's the story of a young fellow named Helward Mann (possibly a crashingly unsubtle piece of metaphor, possibly not) who's just coming of age as a citizen of his city - the opening sentence 'I had reached the age of one hundred thousand miles' may tip you off as to the weirdness of what's to follow'. And as part of learning what makes things tick around the place, Helward is sent off to supervise the ripping-up of some railway lines south of the city, and then see them shipped up north of it......and at this point your head sort of turns inside out, as you realise all of your assumptions about what's been happening are wrong - the technical term is, I suppose, 'conceptual breakthrough', but I just think of it as Chris Priest messing with my head. To do this so effectively once would be enough to make this a notable book, but the fact is that it happens again... and again... and again... with each subsequent expansion of your perception of the situation as startling as the previous one.I know, I know I'm being vague. I could have put *spoiler warning* on this and gone into detail, but why bother? Suffice to say that the book incorporates some of the most astonishing imagery in SF, and - it ultimately turns out - has a point beyond the display of pyrotechnic conceptual legerdemain that Priest manages to sustain for most of the distance. It is possibly a little bit dry, solemn, and highbrow, like all of Christopher Priest's work, and someone has pointed out to me an allegedly serious goof, in that it shouldn't be possible for the sun to rise and set on an inverted planet. I'm prepared to give Priest the benefit of the doubt on that. I would recommend you do too. Maybe you won't like it, but you certainly won't forget it.

  • Joseph Delaney
    2019-04-23 10:19

    This book is set on a world with different physical laws than we experience on earth. The explanation for why things are so is only revealed close to the end of the novel and is a real surprise!

  • Bart Everson
    2019-04-29 08:11

    I've enjoyed an ongoing debate for a few years with a friend about the role of characters in literature. My friend argues that great characterization is more than just a hallmark of great writing. According to him, it's kind of the whole point. I disagree. In the main he's right, but there are exceptions. Borges comes to mind immediately. And also this novel by Christopher PriestWhen I first read Inverted World some thirty years ago, it made a huge impression on me. It might make an impression on you, too, if you approach it as I did, which is to say: I was young and, well, impressionable. Also, I had no idea what the book was about. There were no back-cover blurbs to spoil the discoveries within. That's key, because the sense of mystery is one of the things I found most appealing.(Needless to say I won't reveal any such details here. Just go and read the book if you're curious. And I hope you are.)For thirty years I've recounted the basic premise of the book to people I knew were unlikely to ever read it. The fact that I could recall so many details for so long, while other books fade away, surely says something. Perhaps my friends were just humoring me, but nearly everyone to whom I've described the book has been intrigued if not astonished.Therefore it was with great relish that I returned to this book when it was selected by another member of my reading club. I also felt a little trepidation. What if it did not live up to my memories?To my delight, the book was just as I remembered it. It's a fascinatingly bizarre story. While there are people in it, I don't think anyone would call them "great characters." The building of another world is the main thing.It was just as I remembered it — up to a point. About three-quarters of the way through, I encountered developments which I had entirely forgotten. Significant events from the latter part of the story had simply evaporated from my recollection. I was also surprised to see how the mysteries of the book were resolved in a rather satisfying fashion. I'd forgotten that they were resolved at all. The story in my mind was one of insoluble weirdness. I remembered the final image more or less correctly, but the details of the last quarter were mostly forgotten.This edition includes a splendid afterword by John Clute. (How fortunate the editors had the wisdom to put this essay at the end rather than the beginning.) As Clute points out, the structure of the novel adheres closely to certain genre conventions — up to a point. It's precisely at that point at which the narrative begins to subvert (and invert) conventional expectations that my teenage memory failed. In other words, I read and understood the book on a very basic level when I was younger. The wonder and the strangeness of the basic premise are what stuck with my youthful imagination. The subtleties of how Priest turns the heroic structure in on itself were lost on me then, simply discarded, but it gave me something to appreciate as an adult.Now that I've gotten the whole of Inverted World inside my head, I can spin it on its axis, regard it from different angles, and aver that it is indeed a thing of weirdly elegant beauty.

  • F.R.
    2019-04-24 11:01

    The middle section of ‘The Inverted World’ is extraordinary. It’s going to be difficult to write about it without giving too much away, but if you want me to reach for easy and cliched shorthand to describe it then, well, it’s like an acid trip. I’ve always liked the big desert landscapes in Sergio Leone movies and I’ve also always liked the way that his best films have a certain dream-like quality to them; well, the huge and daunting vistas are present, but there’s also a trip of the imagination which feels like a fever dream. What makes it more astounding is that before then I thought I was reading a very ‘blocky’ novel. Obviously ‘blocky’ is a highly cerebral term used by the finest scholars to have ever studied English literature, so I’ll try to make myself a bit clearer to any laymen out there. The first section reads like a story which is moving in precise, straight lines; it read like it was going to move from one block of events to another and that the whole would be those blocks piled up on top of each other. The fact that the setting is a large and domineering block-like city undoubtedly tipped me further into that kind of thinking. But what’s really clever here is that while the opening section largely in and around the block-like city does feel as if it’s following harsh and straight lines, it’s when it leaves the block-like city that it swerves sharply from those straight lines and those blocks are smashed apart to create something other.We are in a city called ‘Earth’, which – and this is by anyone’s standards a tremendously striking image – is pulled on rails around the circumference of the globe. Our protagonist is Hellward Mann who was born and raised within the city and at the start of the novel joins The Guilds, the organisation that keeps the city moving through hard work, bartering and the constant laying of tracks. Most of the populous doesn’t really understand why the city has to move, but as a guildsman Mann is let into the terrifying secret of what they are leaving behind on this terrible planet.Of course there’s no way back to blockiness after the middle section, so the final third of the book ups the game even more by challenging all assumptions of the book so far. ‘The Inverted World’ is a work of astounding confidence; a fantastically ambitious piece of sometimes surreal science fiction which truly rewards patience.

  • Ivan Lutz
    2019-05-10 11:04

    Genijalno!!!Mislim da nikada nisam pročitao roman koji me je tako matematički razvalio da me je naprosto bolio mozak od silnog poimanja svega što je autor naveo i opisao. Nisam ranije čitao Priestov roman - iako sam čuo da je odličan - pa samim time i kasnim za reakcijom dobrih 40 godina jer je napisan davne 75. godine.Što reći o svijetu koji je opisan rotacijom funkcije y=1/x ? Nešto nevjerojatno. Neki dan sam barem dva sata crtao hiperboloid i ucrtavao mjesta na kojima bi trebao biti optimum, a na kojima bi trebala biti distorzične pojave poludjele gravitacije i divlja centrifugalna sila. Po mom skromnom mišljenju, ovo je jedan od najluđih opisa nekog svijeta unutar SF literature i nevjerojatno je koliko je izučavanja dovelo do same postavke ovoga svijeta.Priča prati Grad u svom vječnom lovu na nedostižni optimum gdje je polje gravitacije relativno normalno pa svi žitelji Grada mogu normalno funkcionirati. Grad je zatvorena tvrđava koja nema doticaja s vanjskim svijetom gdje samo pripadnici tajnih službi koje veže zakletva u vlastiti život mogu ići van grada. Zbog nedostatka vlastitih sredstava ljudi iz Grada moraju tražiti radnu snagu u kolnim selima, boriti se s pokretom otpora i podivljalim domicilnim stanovništvom koje želi uništiti grad.Neću više govoriti o radnji. Iako je Priest zadnju trećinu knjige napisao kako bi sve razjasnio, ali težište romana bacio na ljudsku psihu i percepciju, ovo je uvrnuto remek djelo ma što bilo tko mislio o tome. Čak i sam završetak knjige je upravo filozofičan i pun sjete, te lijepo govori o tome kako trebamo braniti i boriti se za ono u što vjerujemo. Preporuka svima koji vole matematiku i fiziku.

  • Jacob
    2019-05-12 12:18

    March 2009I'll just say what everyone else is saying: this is not an easy one to review. On one hand, Inverted World appears pretty straightforward: Helward Mann comes of age in the city of Earth and ventures outside for the first time, where he learns that the city rests on wheels, forever rolling north along tracks. But as we learn what the city is moving towards--and what it is moving away from--the central mystery of the story becomes weird, strange, eerily convoluted, and--for me, at least--a bit difficult to grasp. There really isn't much more I can say without revealing anything important, but i'll admit this one definitely calls for a re-read or two.Christopher Priest created a fascinating novel here, with an amazing premise. Character development feels a bit shoddy in places, and occasionally the idea of the story threatens to overwhelm the story itself, but Priest strikes a nice balance. Overall, I'm glad I found this (understatement of the year; this was on my wish list for a long time--along with most of everything else in the NYRB library--and I think I may have let out a small squeal of delight when I found this at the bookstore), and I definitely need to read more of Priest's books.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-05-18 04:12

    This is some kind of weird-ass mentalised science fiction stylee, let me tell you. People go through changes in this book, but not in a good way.

  • William1
    2019-05-04 09:20

    I'm no great fan of Science Fiction, but this novel transcends the genre. It has a corker of a plot, which I won't spoil here. The only thing I was not crazy about was the way Priest uses dialog throughout to relay a lot of exposition. That's okay early in the novel because the narrator is a young apprentice of a guild; it's natural for him to ask questions about his new duties and surroundings. Toward the end of the book, however, the device shows its creakiness. But don't let me put you off the scent. The suspense is beautifully handled. You never quite know where the narrative will end up. I think the book's real strength is its masterful use of omission. It withholds beautifully the information the reader needs to solve everything. But at the same time one is not frustrated by that because one is borne along so expertly. Priest subtly hints at resolutions which never occur. Just when you think you know where he's going, he doesn't. Read it.

  • Kathrina
    2019-05-10 12:14

    NYRB, you have never failed me. This was a book group pick, and, though it was an NYRB, I didn't think I was in the mood for this. Turns out, this was exactly the book I needed. Hard sci-fi, yet surprisingly accessible, with a blow-you-away premise. There are a couple of issues I'm still troubling over, but I think that's a sign of a good read -- I want to figure it out, I'm engaged enough to keep puzzling with it, long after the last page. Priest's writing reminds me a lot of George R. Stewart, both in tone and how they use their main character as the tool for which the reader learns the rules of the world. And both authors keep you thinking. Love that. I'll be adding a few more Priest titles to my tbr list.

  • ashley c
    2019-05-01 04:12

    Unassuming, coming-of-age, you will say, "wait, what?" a couple of times.I really shouldn't be surprised by Priest by now. Having already read The Prestige (biggest mindblower of all) and The Adjacent, I can safely say Priest doesn't disappoint. Every book starts off with a quiet, unassuming story rooted in a reasonable, relatable reality. What throws you off is the discrepancy seeping into the plot, the little distortions in real life. Priest loves to play with perceptions, either that of the characters' or the readers'. Sometimes authors just straight up tell readers what is going on, even if the character isn't in on the know; I love books where you journey alongside the character, and feel their surprises, their revelations."I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles."A effective opening to introduce a world different from ours - a city constantly on the move, moving along tracks like a train. I don't want to go into detail because I feel like the best thing about this book is to read it blind, let yourself be sucked in by the revelations one by one. In fact, if you're reading this review I urge you to read no more reviews and go straight into the book. "In a devastatingly effective coup de théâtre, Priest produces a final revelation that twists everything that has gone before." - Kincaid Readers seem to be hinting that all of Priest's novels tie in to a similar world, or at least they link to each other in some way. I'll be reading The Dream Archipelago, I heard it ties a number of novels together. Excited!

  • Richard
    2019-05-14 08:00

    Wow - I enjoyed this. As literature, it's not that special - the characters don't really stand out and the writing wasn't particularly evocative. But the story makes for an excellent puzzle. Translated into stars, it's maybe a 3 1/2. I came across the author from his introduction of another book - The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. Inverted World is a bit of a sci-fi mystery with a premise that's incredibly odd but also fascinating. In a run down landscape, where society seems to have fallen apart, there's a moving city whose inhabitants fanatically try to maintain their civilization. They move their city on rails that are laid, picked up, and then relaid, as the city moves northward towards a constantly moving point, called, "the optimum." Men are hired from the less civilized areas that the city moves through to help lay the tracks and dig them up again as the city continues on its course. The protagonist is a sort of scout who has to travel north of the city to survey possible routes. I'm hesitant to give away anything more, because part of the fun is trying to figure out why the city has to move, what the optimum is, and the strangeness of what is behind and ahead of them.

  • Alfred Haplo
    2019-05-10 07:19

    Does perception change reality, or reality changes perception? Helward Mann, the protagonist, had only known one reality. Born and raised in an efficient organization of utilitarian functionality within the enclosure of earth’s only surviving city, Mann’s system of beliefs centered around Destaine’s Directives, the dictum of the city’s founder. As with many men before him, Mann was a guildsman in servitude to the perpetual mobility of the city. For the city is not static, and must never be in order to survive. Through an environs of hostility and scarcity, the city is moved northbound on tracks laboriously laid ahead by guildsmen in pursuit of the Optimum, a gravitational equilibrium. However, the further Mann traveled from optimal terra firma, the shakier the grounds upon which his foundational beliefs of reality was perceived. The Inverted World is hallmark storytelling from Christopher Priest. Published in 1974, this award-winning and multiple-nominated novel is the precursor to Priest’s ensuing SF oeuvre, of which I have only (so far) read The Prestige, a more enthralling book, unequivocally, but one that mimics Priest’s pioneer novel in stylistic concept and clarity. The story is told is five parts, with first and third person narrations to provide multiple viewpoints that complement and contrast. Priest’s now familiar unornamented but impactful prose also prevails in these pages, where the simplicity in writing perfectly juxtaposes an imperfect and complex world. Also central to the story is technology, the keystone upon which survival depends on but is also enslaved to. The mind, that of the protagonist and the reader, is teasingly messed with, and we are left to ponder. The ending, without spoiling, is true to form trademark Priest.Where The Inverted World fell short is subjective. The newer SF reader may find this story a little aged. (view spoiler)[Gravitational-warp-mathematically-driven-isolated-society-in-dystopia-but-not-really (hide spoiler)] is a “been there, done that” concept today, but over forty years+ ago, The Inverted World is a game-setter of its genre, the groundbreaking granddaddy of this concept that spawned all future copycats. The railway engineering and physics lingo sound credible, but it is perhaps over-long in description to the point of weighing down the first half of the story though, granted, it also serves to set up world-building credence. Character development is linear, in that Mann is all cerebral and physical, but emotional maturity is near stagnant. The female supporting characters add roundness to his edges, but they lack screen-time to balance out the emotional proportions. Mann goes through the motions of growing up, tackle adult issues, unravels his mind around his experiences but absent plasticity in his rigid thinking, can not wrap his head around reality.The Inverted World reads like a cognitive exercise. In my mind, the reader participates in the narrative for our reality is the basis upon which we try to understand Mann’s. We observe and we retell the story from our point of view, to figure out if we can perceive a world like this. As the story progresses, our point of view is merged into the groundswell of the populace of Mann's world. The collective WE question the socio-economics and the technological sustainability of Mann's world. WE ask, how can this be? What is the reality of many to one man’s perception? Is he to rearrange his perception around a new reality, or to rearrange his reality around new perceptions? Mann’s first line promised an unusual protagonist living in a strange world, “I have reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles”. The idea is bold, and for that alone, the book is worth reading. As for meeting expectations, I am left stranded with one.5 miles short of destination. For that, the rating, three.5 stars rounded up.

  • Veeral
    2019-05-03 08:17

    The Inverted World is choke-full of big ideas for a relatively short book. But the real problem with this book is, towards the end, Priest turns unconvincingly realistic with his approach and hence it seems a bit rushed and a lot of things are left unexplained.I think Priest wrote himself into a corner and then seeing no way out, rushed towards a more realistic and thus an anti-climatic end. But in retrospect, I think that might have been the only way as he himself was not sure how to end the book convincingly enough the message he wanted to convey was drastically different than I had expected while reading the book.My suggestion to anyone who is interested in reading this book would be to start it without reading any reviews anywhere, and that’s the reason I am not even going to summarize the plot here.The book will hold your attention right till the end as something weird and/ or amazing is always happening, but don’t expect to get all your questions answered as the ambiguity about certain scientific phenomena is never going to be elucidated in the context of the plot.But even with its rather dull ending, this book is not likely to disappoint as the rest is pretty good. 3.5 stars.

  • Andrea
    2019-04-28 07:06

    I read this in 1981 - and thinking back so many years, I realise that it was the book that kindled my love for physics based science-fiction, and how we might have to adapt if we lived under different laws of physics. It is a gem, and has hardly aged after so many years. The protagonists are well rounded, their society well portrayed, and the extrapolation of the implications of a different physics have been carefully thought through. It is obvious that this is a work that was several years in gestation and not hurridly dashed down on paper - Priest says in the afterword that he wrestled with teh concepts for eight years, and discussed them with mnay of his friends.It is a classic, a must for any serious science fiction connoisseur.

  • Jurica Ranj
    2019-05-15 04:01

    Knjiga koju sam pročitao u 2 dana. Genijalna ideja, sažeta naracija i postepeno upoznavanje sa svim detaljima funkcioniranja grada i njegovog društva su jednostavno gušt za čitati. Svijet u kojem se odvija radnja je fascinantan, ali nažalost rasplet i njegovo objašnjenje je ispalo ubrzano, "očekivano" i time razočaravajuće, jer sam se ipak nadao odmaku od poznatih nam stvari, a također i zato jer postoje stvari u priči koje se ne uklapaju u to objašnjenje. Unatoč toj boljci, knjiga je odlično štivo i prekrasno putovanje u jedan fascinantan svijet.

  • Hadrian
    2019-05-13 05:16

    A rather ordinary scifi adventure story elevated to something more with a great plot twist. I obviously won't go into it for the sake of spoilers, but I can say that this asks a few stark questions about isolation and belief as well as bringing up neat scientific concepts.

  • Valentin Gheonea
    2019-04-30 09:12

    Pe alocuri invechita, dar se poate inca citi cu placere.

  • Krbo
    2019-05-01 10:15

    Nevjerojatno dobar SF, super ideja i odlično napisano.Jedno 4-5 puta pročitano.(od 1988.)

  • Angus
    2019-05-01 07:10

  • Magdelanye
    2019-05-07 12:08

    Published first in May of '74. this amazing book certainly slipped under my radar.Prescient of the new wave of dystopian fiction, it is a parable that reads as fresh and startling as when it first rolled in. Helward Mann is a decent sort, baffled by the world yet fully committed to its progress and his inherited duties. Groomed for governance, he accepts the premises that govern and relies on the evidence of his senses corroborated by exact measurements. Time and space vary in this world, depending on point of view.All seems to be going well for Helward. His arranged marriage produces a son. But things begin to go very wrong when Helward has to leave the city and is not able to be present for the birth. By the time he returns, his delightful wife Victoria....but I am getting into spoiler territory here. Suffice to say, it\s not what you think.