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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 30 May 2001
"The Dream Archipelago" consists of six inter-linked stories set in a war-torn alternative world, (vaguely reminiscent of our Mediterranean Europe), and features many of the great Christopher Priest themes of art, time, growing up, the reliability of memory and the uneasy sense of not quite being able to place who you are. (In many ways, "The Dream Archipelago" could be read as a companion-volume to Priest's wonderful novel "The Affirmation", since it shares a lot of concerns and background details with that book.) Not content with the usual S.F. trappings, Priest imagines the aftermath of battles fought with synaesthetic weapons, places where insects and fruits have a strange predatory, symbiotic relationship and countries where microscopic surveillance has seeped into every facet of life. Genuinely strange and haunting stuff - structured not unlike Keith Roberts' "Pavane", in that it gradually builds up a mosaic-picture of an entire other world and its customs, letting the reader make all the connections and inferences without a lot of intrusive authorial prodding. Highly enjoyable, frequently eerie and superbly written stories throughout.
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on 8 April 2008
A great collection of inter-linked stories. There are enough wonderful ideas here to supply a lesser writer with material for several novels. In Priest's hands we get an ultra concentrated and potent distillation of prose with some of the most disturbing and memorable images I can ever recall. The spider-like insect/fruit symbiosis story is harrowing, and the the all-seeing scintillas in the final story are a fabulous voyeuristic concept. I see a new version of the book is due for publication (early 2009) with an extra 70 or so pages - presumably an extra story or two - I will have to buy it and so should you.
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Christopher Priest further develops his dream-like world in this book, a continuation of his book The Affirmation. I found myself wondering where the book was going quite often, as the prose deviated from the warfare going on in the northern reaches of this created world - the strong suspicion is that the war is not a real one. Men are making money with munitions, and the repetitive activities of the soldiers involved suggest that the warfare has been invented so that the lucrative gains can continue. A man is seduced into eating a deadly fruit containing insects that will kill him. A female creative writer comes to a barracks and is visited by a young soldier, leading to the arrest of the woman. Told like this, the stories sound bald, unsatisfying, but that conclusion would be wrong. The prose is silkily seductive and fraught with ambiguity throughout.

Mr Priest is not into disambiguation and often seems to delight in obfuscation - I was going to say "for its own sake", but that's not quite true. There are rarely any clear-cut scenarios. The final story in the book is about a people called the Quaatari, a race who resist all efforts to be studied by anthropologists. A rich man living near the border finds a way to spy on events, but it begins to look as if the Quaatari are setting up a strange scenario to draw him into a trap. This story is a haunting and sensual one, and bears looking into. I could not come to any conclusion about the merits of this book. It is not a casually opaque scenario and it may well turn off those looking for easy answers. I will keep this book because I most definitely want to read it again. I find myself thinking that I must have missed some of the clues along the way. Either that, or the prose itself is a kind of trap. It's a metaphysical puzzle. One day, maybe, I'll solve it. I liked it, I think.
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on 1 April 2016
I am giving this three stars because, while I admire the quality of the writing, the creativity and novelty of the writer's vision, I really hated this book. I wanted to hurl it away from me, but I could not because good writing is hard to put down.

I chose this book because I love science fiction and am always on the hunt for stories set in islands, in archipelagoes of dreams on this or other worlds. The quality of the stories in this book is profoundly dreamlike, and the world to which the archipelago belongs is certainly 'other'.

But the sinister, remorseless and terrifyingly inconclusive nature of these stories is the stuff of nightmare. The kind of nightmare that begins as a nice dream and leads one into horror. Apart from 'The Negation' in which the not-conclusion was pleasantly (to my mind) mystified by ideas of poetry, courage and other such transcendent stuff. As for the subsequent stories, they really, really disturbed me and I wish I had not read them.

If you are into horror, of the subtle and hopeless kind, I guess you might enjoy this book. As for me I will avoid Mr Priest from now on and look for some mindless and happy stories to speed my recovery from the experience of the Dream Archipelago.
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on 29 January 2011
Dark and brooding, some of the best writing you will see. It mixes a sens of M.R. James with Philip K Dick. Much of Priests work is not really SF or fantasy but a kind of philosophy. I want to say he is like Philip K Dick, but his work is not derivative and brings its own unique style. If anything his work is disturbing and I wonder more of the younger Vampire emo readers do not get into him. The Glamour was my first introduction to him and it beats all the outsider vampire books hands down. And he is from Sussex.
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on 6 March 2014
The Dream Archipelago is a science fiction collection with unashamedly literary aspirations. A re-release of short stories largely penned in the 70's, Christopher Priest dispenses with SF's preoccupation with techno-wonders and imagined worlds. He focuses instead on his characters' inner lives, and the strange-yet-familiar textures of their altered mental states. Occupying the same world - one perpetually at war, with the equatorial midway sea and its archipelago the only neutral ground - the novellas which make up the book are otherwise distinct, but thematically linked. The nurturing power of art and the dehumanising brutality of war both play a prominent role in several of the collection's tales, whilst in others the reliability of perception, memory and identity is called into question.

Every tale is a beautifully-crafted puzzle. Rich with symbolism and layered tension, each yields its meaning only upon reflection. Whilst many of Priest's themes are overt, their connectedness obvious, he hints at much more. Such obfuscation is at once challenging and intriguing. 'The Equatorial Moment,' for instance, sees planes navigating over the archipelago in a 'temporal vortex,' stacked atop one another in a single moment of time with the aircrews watching nervously. One reading could see this suggesting not only the interlinked but timeless relationship between the stories in the collection; occupying the same psychological space but distinct, and with disparate destinations. The aircrews, whose powerless observation of the spectacle is highlighted, stand in for the reader. 'The Miraculous Cairn,' a favourite of mine, is a tale of sexual dysfunction traced back to a trauma in early adolescence. Upon revisiting the site of the incident, however, not only are the reader's expectations abruptly upended, but the protagonist's too. The place is not as she remembered; indeed, the incident as she relates it could not have happened. What starts as a meditation on the strange unhappiness of revisiting, in adulthood, the defining places of one's youth, ends with a powerful lesson on the fragility of identity.

It is a shame, then, than not all of the stories' emotional depth can match their intellectual fireworks. The largely male, single protagonists are a glum, introspective bunch; outwardly brittle, inwardly quivering bundles of anxiety and anger; they rarely end their stories happier or wiser than they began. Priest's writing, too, does not quite do justice to his literary ambitions. His prose is pedestrian, even dull in places, and he has a unsettling tendency to linger on the detail's of his female characters' naked bodies.

But this detracts only a little from the haunting beauty of this collection. Dreamlike, unsettling and melancholy, its true meaning always seeming to hide just around the next corner; The Dream Archipelago rewards reflection and re-reading. It is an intellectual treasure-chest which gives up its pleasures only gradually. Whilst those seeking SF thrills should look elsewhere, readers with the inclination and the patience to unpick Priest's symbolism will find this is a work which lingers in the memory.
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on 25 February 2014
This is an expanded version of The Dream Archipelago with two additional stories compared to the earlier version.
Several of Christopher Priest's books contain elements of this world straggling island chain. all are very good, and these stories are as good as any.
the author does not believe in explaining everything so if you don't like some unresolved mystery and uncertainty after you have finished a story or book then this may not be for you. It is possible of course that all the facts are there and I am not clever enough to spot them, but I hope that isn't the case.
I would recommend any book by Christopher Priest, especially from the Affirmation onwards when he really got into his stride.
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on 14 July 2015
Terrific collection of stories from this strangest of places; like being trapped inside a strange lilting and slightly dangerous dream you don't want to escape from; beware of inherent time and reality distortions.
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on 8 October 2013
"The Dream Archipelago" is a series of interlinked short stories guaranteed to fascinate, horrify and disturb. Christopher Priest is a master of psychological horror/SF, and these stories must rank among his very best work. Without giving anything away, sometimes the twists take you completely by surprise, other times you know something unpleasant is simmering under the surface. I soon became obsessed with this intriguing, dream-like (or nightmarish) collection and was sad to finish it.
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on 2 February 2012
I read 5 times this book in 2011. I a totally obsessed by the story with the Insect / fruit thing.
this short story is cut like a diamond. Priest looses you in the shine until the sharp end hammers.
Yuo actually walk in the jungle by the hero, actually feel the sweat and the thirst that finally dooms hims.
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