Tuesday, January 17, 2006

06.05 Indoctrinaire by Christopher Priest


Indoctrinaire (1970) by Christopher Priest

Christopher Priest is a British science fiction author who has caught my eye recently. I initially read a dystopic PA book of his called Fugue For A Darkening Island. It had some fairly interesting ideas and fit well into the whole late '60s British post-apocalyptic scene. The nex book of his I read was called The Inverted World (reviewed here).

Priest's work often features unreliable narrators, and thereby raises questions about narrative, truth, and the nature of memory and reality

Indoctrinaire charts this path very thoroughly and reminded me in many ways of some of Philip K Dicks writing. A research scientist working underneath the ice in Antarctica in a huge lab is taken away by some very suspicious characters to investigate a large area in Brazil where there appears to be a time shift. He finds himself in the middle of a huge savannah-like plain where there exists a single prison in the center. This gaol apparently exists hundereds of years in the future. The hero explores this alternate reality where nothing, not his jailers, his interrogation or the plain has any basis in the reality to which he is used to.

The novel, while interesting, had many unfortunate failings. It appears the author used the story to hang many questions of metaphysics and consequently the story suffers. The ending of the book gives some satisfying resolution but the journey there is ultimately poor.

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