Real-Time World Paperback – 5 Feb 1976
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Essef - A collection of ten stories.
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Top Customer Reviews
These are the early Priest SF stories that made print in various magazines (the companion volume, 'Ersatz Wines', also from Grim Grin Studios, features mostly previously unpublished stories). Some are admittedly the work of a writer finding his voice and place in the world of late sixties-early seventies British New Wave SF, but most are important in allowing devotees an insight into the emergent career of one of Britain's most gifted and original writers. The eponymous story is an important one in the Priest canon, nodding a head as it does to future projects (inlcuding the novel "Inverted World"), but for me, the absolute stone cold New Wave classic in the book is CP's first published story, 'The Run', a gripping, blunt tale of a future Prime Minister's response to goading from unemployed, unemployable masses as a massive crisis looms on the horizon. Terse, ambiguous, with a character simultaneously unsympathetic and recognisably human, shot through with the ominous presence of impending nuclear doom, this is stunning stuff. There are, of course, other good stories in this book, but for my money, 'The Run' (which CP describes as 'pristine meldorama') is worth the price of admission alone, despite its 10-12 page length.Read more ›
On the other hand, the writer's voice is beginning to poke through the snow here and there. "The Head and the Hand" tells of a man who has made a stage career of self-mutilation, and is memorably repellent, placing the reader in the voyeur's seat. "A Woman Naked" presents a chillingly plausible form of 'justice' which hideously entrenches men's power over women, and which is nonetheless only a millimetre beyond how some Islamic societies treat them today.
But with the title story, which ends the collection, Priest's voice becomes not only interesting and compelling, but unique and instantly distinctive. The narrator (the first of this author's many untrustworthy narrators) lives on a mobile laboratory sent to an alien world, and acts as liaison between its staff and the mission controllers on Earth; except that, as it transpires, nothing in that summation can be depended upon. Verging on the metaphysical, it's a story about perception, solipsism and disconnection, and as such it prefigures Priest's novels, such as "Inverted World", "The Affirmation" and "The Separation".
There's enough good stuff here to make this required reading for a Priest fan.