Inverted World

Inverted World

by Christopher Priest, John Clute

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Overview

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 crèches, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590177051
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 12/12/2012
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 455,130
File size: 698 KB

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.

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The Inverted World 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
The_Alternative More than 1 year ago
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. The mystery of how this "world" came to be unravels slowly but expertly in Priest's hands. The main premise of the book consists of pure hard science and while the laws of physics appear to be strained at first, all is explained in the end. And, in my opinion, the wait is definitely worth it. The mysteries of the planet and the city are skillfully, although slowly, unraveled throughout the narrative and kept me interested until the very last page. If there is a flaw with this story it is that it is much too short and the open ending might have been expanded to full closure (which I won't spoil here with explanation.) Written with compact and concise detail this too short novel drew me in from the very first paragraph and the themes of respect, responsibility, parity, warped realism, and discovery were woven together in such a way that kept me totally engrossed and my imagination working in hyper-drive. Overall I became lost in the story and its enormous sense of wonder, buildup of mystery, and ever-present suspense as Priest's portrayal of this interesting society grew. Ah, to become lost in wonder while reading. isn't that all we ever ask from any intelligent book? 4 out of 5 stars The Alternative Southeast Wisconsin
amandrake on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To my mind this book is far superior to *The Prestige*. It is simpler and tidier, more conceptual but less metaphysical. I suppose it might be seen as less "literary", but in *The Prestige* I felt that the author, stylistically speaking, had bitten off more than he could chew.*Inverted World* is satisfying in and of itself, but the short afterword does draw attention to the resonance that the book would have have for readers at the time it was published. However, it speaks eloquently of any society which has outlasted the forms and strictures that it has put in place for its own protection, and reflects the fact that the same thing can happen in one's own psyche.
TheAlternativeOne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inverted WorldChristopher PriestNYRB Classics2008Trade Paperback336 pagesISBN: 1590172698Literary 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. The mystery of how this ¿world¿ came to be unravels slowly but expertly in Priest¿s hands. The main premise of the book consists of pure hard science and while the laws of physics appear to be strained at first, all is explained in the end. And, in my opinion, the wait is definitely worth it. The mysteries of the planet and the city are skillfully, although slowly, unraveled throughout the narrative and kept me interested until the very last page. If there is a flaw with this story it is that it is much too short and the open ending might have been expanded to full closure (which I won¿t spoil here with explanation.)Written with compact and concise detail this too short novel drew me in from the very first paragraph and the themes of respect, responsibility, parity, warped realism, and discovery were woven together in such a way that kept me totally engrossed and my imagination working in hyper-drive. Overall I became lost in the story and its enormous sense of wonder, buildup of mystery, and ever-present suspense as Priest¿s portrayal of this interesting society grew. Ah, to become lost in wonder while reading¿ isn¿t that all we ever ask from any intelligent book?4 out of 5 starsThe AlternativeSoutheast Wisconsin
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This 1974 novel combines speculative geometry with ironic, almost bitter social analysis. The author plays fair; all the threads do ultimately come together consistently. In my edition (2008), an afterword by John Clute convincingly argues that the title 'Inverted World' refers not just to the setting of the novel, but also to its stylistic inversion of the tropes of hard science fiction. While I was reading, I was more reminded of 'Explorers of the New Century' and 'Flatland', from very different eras, but Clute is right. This is a thoughtful, challenging book, with an ending that manages to be both redemptive and grim.
lib666 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A terrific read, the best of smart sci fi
GwenH on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I recently read The Inverted World and the first thing I have to say is that the writing style glowed. It was as if there was always just the right word and never one too many or too few. It flowed with the same elegant precision of the novel's city itself. Told through the observant personna of Helward Mann, an elite of the city, the real star is the city. The workings of the city, down to the tiniest details, were well thought and explained. If the book had a flaw, it was that the ending felt a bit glossed over. After the level of detail in the description of the city throughout the novel, I'd been expecting a convincingly detailed explanation of the mystery of the city at the end. Instead, it felt a little rushed.I still give the book very high marks as it was such a pleasure to read for it's elegant prose and the details of the fascinating city. It was a clear example of the journey being more significant than the destination. I came away wanting to read more by Priest.
lmichet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is utterly and deliciously surreal. Priest's world is so intricate and so inscrutable that the thing grips from beginning to end, despite the slow, detailed, scientific prose. I found myself contemplating cutting class to finish it-- I just wanted to know what the heck was going ON.The ending is particularly haunting, despite the obtusely science-fictiony aspects of it. I found this rather frustrating. Yes, I knew it was a 'hard sci-fi' novel when I picked it up, but that doesn't mean that I suspended my personal opinions about what's most important in fictional writing when I decided to tackle it. The final scene, though, makes up for any disappointment. It's brilliant. The afterword was also instructive-- in a way, this NYRB Classics edition presents the work less as a novel and more as a study in science-fiction style. Which is, of course, all right.Like science fiction at all? Read it. Like surreality and have a rather large suspension-of-disbelief muscle? Willing to throw yourself into something? Go for it. Read it now. But anyone unwilling to go the distance is going to find themselves bitterly disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the greatest SF books of all time.
nadrad More than 1 year ago
Excellent story! Hated algebra? You'll love this world!! Loved algebra? You're really going to love this world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read Priest's novel in the mid-70's, and have returned to it several times since. It is one of a handful of sf novels that I have found haunting my thoughts over the years, because it presents something genuinely new and challenging, demanding that you enter into a very different world-view.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was surprisingly good. it was a little slow going at first but it soon picks up and keeps you wanting to know what is going to happen. not at all what i was expecting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Priest crafts a finely-tuned universe built around a civilization that must, at all costs, keep moving along railroad tracks. Each chapter imparts new rules, new revelations regarding the operation of Earth City and its inhabitants, and how the physical world relentlessly attempts to devour them. All compelling stuff until its last few chapters, where the story self-destructs and drops with a giant explody THUD. Or there's a train wreck metaphor in there somewhere. It's a tragedy is what I'm saying. Just write an ending whydontcha, sheesh.