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A Dream of Wessex Paperback – 13 Nov 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (13 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057512153X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575121539
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 598,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

The classic novel of virtual realities by a multi-award-winning literary SF writer.

About the Author

Christopher Priest is the only person ever to have both the WORLD FANTASY AWARD and the JAMES TAIT MEMORIAL PRIZE. Author of numerous novels and winner of many awards he has established a reputation as one of literary SF's very finest writers. He lives in Lewes.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peter Davidson on 19 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
...... or dreaming WITHIN Wessex??? What constitutes true existence as we know it? This book, another masterpiece by Christopher Priest, leaves no easy answers and is a seminal forerunner of the cyberpunk genre.
A Dream Of Wessex follows the path of one Julia Stretton as she participates in the Wessex Project, a network of people wired up to a form of virtual reality called the Ridpath Projector, set in 22nd-century Wessex, England, and set up with the aim of solving the problems of the real-world England. The real-world England is set in 1983 (the book was written in 1977) and 1983-England is a bleak dystopia with law and order breaking down throughout England, daily terrorist bombings and chronic housing shortages to name a few. The 22nd-century Wessex of the Wessex Project is one where Wessex has been separated from mainland England by catastrophic earthquakes, caused by mining, and the Wessex capital, Dorchester, has become a large tourist spot complete with beaches for surfing along with numerous casinos and mosques, side by side. In addition, the USA is an Islamic state known as the Western Emirate States and the bulk of Dorchester's tourists originate from there.
When Julia's abusive ex-boyfriend Paul Mason is introduced into the Wessex Project via the Ridpath Projector, the frail 'reality' of the project is seriously disturbed with interesting consequences for all those involved.
The book is not so much a study of virtual reality than mapping out the often intricate twists of the human mind. Christopher Priest has excelled at exploring the multiple-layered nature of reality, of what constitutes reality and true consciousness. Numerous dark possibilities and questions of existence abound in this book and make the reader question the reality of his/her own surroundings.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitehead TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
Julia Stretton is a researcher for the Ridpath projection, a machine that has generated a completely convincing simulation of what the world may look like in the early 22nd Century. In the projection, the south-west of England has broken away from the rest of the island of Britain due to an earthquake and has become something of a holiday resort, tolerated by a communist government in London for the sake of international relations. In this vision of the future Julia finds herself drawn to a man named David for reasons she doesn't quite understand, but in the real world the arrival of her ex-lover on the project's staff causes chaos for Julia and the project...

A Dream of Wessex was originally published in 1977 and was Christopher Priest's fifth novel, following up on the extremely well-received An Inverted World and The Space Machine. Like many of Priest's books, it contains musings on memory, identity, consciousness and reality. The book also describes what looks suspiciously like a prophetic virtual reality cyberspace simulation some years ahead of such things becoming fashionable thanks to cyberpunk.

The novel features Priest's traditional narrative hallmark, namely being written in clear and readable prose through which the author laces several narrative and thematic time bombs that explode in the reader's face at key points (dubbed 'The Priest Effect' by David Langford), including several hours after you finish the book when you suddenly go, "Hang on, does that mean..." and you have to go scurrying back to re-read half the book to confirm your suspicions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By emmcol on 17 May 2008
Format: Paperback
How do we know a dream was a dream? One criterion, certainly, is that it was not shared with anyone. No one else had it. But this book raises the possibility of a collective (artificially induced) dream. And that in turn raises the possibility of re-visiting the question posed above. And it also raises the possibility of infinite regress: a dream of a dream (of a dream etc.) In what sense are these dreams not reality? So much for the sci-fi framework, which is original and interesting. Christopher Priest is also a more than competent writer; the book keeps moving, the world of the "dream" is fun, and the characters are well sketched in what is a fairly short book. It was written (and set) in 1970s Britain, a pretty grisly period, which comes across well, so it's also a nice period-piece.
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Format: Paperback
In the early 22nd century, the world is divided into two main power-blocs, one Communist, the other Islamic. England is part of the Communist bloc, whereas the USA has become an Islamic state known as the Western Emirate States. The south-west peninsula has become separated from the English mainland following a series of catastrophic earthquakes, and is now an island known as the Isle of Wessex. Wessex is now England's prime holiday destination, known for its casinos and mosques, built to cater for visitors from the Western Emirate States.

Or is it? This 22nd-century Wessex does not, in fact, exist, except in virtual reality. (Christopher Priest does not actually use that expression, which was not in use in the 1970s, but he clearly anticipated the concept). The "real" part of his novel, which was written in 1977, is set in the year 1985. A mysterious group known as the Wessex Foundation has set up what is known as the Wessex Project. A device known as the Ridpath Projector has created an imaginary future into which the participants can be projected. Once inside the Projector they believe themselves to be living their lives in the Wessex of the 22nd century and are unable to remember their lives in 1985. Upon their return to reality, however, they can remember the lives they have been living in Wessex. The main character, Julia Stretton, is one of the participants in the scheme, and much of the plot derives from the conflicts which arise when Julia's abusive ex-boyfriend Paul also enters the projection.

Priest's vision of 1985 is one of a world confronted by many social problems; the cities are plagued by terrorism, crime and lawlessness, and there is a severe housing shortage. (In some ways his prediction did come true, although not quite to the degree that he imagined).
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