Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Book Number 43

The Inverted World

Inverted World (1974) by Christopher Priest

I picked this book up because I had read another by the author called Fugue For A Darkening Island. That novel is much in the spirit of the dystopic British catastrophe genre.

Inverted World comes across as pure science fiction. Helward Mann grows up in the City and has never been anywhere else. His father, a distant man, is a Master Guildsman. When Helward becomes of age he is apprenticed into his fathers guild and finds out what those in the City are unaware of - the City moves. Literally, the City constantly moves northward across the land. In order to facilitate this there are various guild specialties:

His guild is the Future Guild: "responsible for surveying the lands that lie in future time of our establishment"

He must also apprentice with the other Guilds: The Track Guild pulls up the rail-way from behind the City and lays it in front; the Traction Guild maintains the winches and cables that pull it forward; the Bridge-Builders guild gets them over physical obstacles; the Barter Guild makes deals with the impoverished villages they pass for workers and the Militia Guild protects the City.

Helward questions why the city must always be moving and is sent on a trip south where he finds that the nature of their planet dictates that if the City were ever to stop it would be destroyed. Ultimately, a series of events occur that begin to break down the Guild system and slip this novel into the post-apocalyptic genre.

I had no expectations for this book and was pleasantly surprised to find it an enjoyable read. The science is wacky and pretty hard to swallow even in the context of the story. Like many of his contemporaries, his portrayal of the characters social interactions seem stilted. Nevertheless, a fine book.

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