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A Disconcerting Tour of Priestsville,
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This review is from: The Adjacent (Hardcover)
There is not much need, in a review of The Adjacent, to go into the details of the story, and to reveal more than what is said in the blurb would probably detract from your enjoyment. In some ways it is a book of themes above plot. That is not to say there is no plot, indeed it is a compelling and intriguing mystery with a clear journey. Largely it centres around one main story, in which a photographer named Tibor Tarent, living in a bleak near future Britain, is shuttled around from place to place, trying to make some sense of what has happened to his wife, and for that matter the rest of the world. And then there are the surrounding stories, set in different times, apparently different places or perhaps even different worlds, and yet all somehow related. There is a feeling of constant threat, of displacement, constant movement, and a need to return home. Many of the the settings could be described as Wellsian futures (depending on your perspective of the future). It begins in a fairly standard manner but by the second half becomes increasingly surreal and entangled.
This book is like a best-of album of past Christopher Priest works. It touches on practically all of the themes you will find in his other novels. Duality, the unreliable narrator, magic, distraction, war and conflict, alternative futures and many more. Throughout the novel, it is clear that certain words have been chosen very carefully and deliberately. There are numerous reflections and sudden contradictions, an unsettling feeling of simultaneous amnesia and déjà vu.
The Adjacent rewards the attentive reader*, containing many references back to itself, and for that reason it is best read when you are able to pay full attention to what you are reading. There is a certain resemblance in that respect to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, but The Adjacent is an altogether different concept, at the same time more surreal (and yet entirely believable) and written in a more succinct and readable manner.
I am certain that The Adjacent will divide opinion. Many will find it a little confusing and might not see the point. When reading certain passages I felt sure he must have made a mistake, but nothing is ever that simple. Personally, I revel in the confusion that is prominent in all of Priest's novels. This is unmissable reading for any regular reader of his work and certainly is powerful even standing alone.
If, as a first time reader, this is difficult to get into, I would probably recommend starting with one of his other books which focus on fewer themes at once. For example The Affirmation, which has a similar feel of descending into a deeper world and is my personal favourite. If you don't like The Affirmation, you'll probably feel similarly about The Adjacent.
*although after writing this, It occurred to me that the people looking for the trick are the easiest to trick...