‘I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.’
I have read about the importance of opening lines in drawing a reader into a novel. Well, this book has one of the most original and intriguing opening lines that I have ever read. It made me so curious to know more about the “I” and his unusual age.
Christopher Priest won the BSFA 1974 Best Novel Award for this work. I first heard about him when the film adaptation of his book ‘The Prestige’ was released in 2006. When I decided to begin my BSFA Best Novel Reading Challenge, I discovered that Priest had won the award 3 times. Considering how good this novel is, I am really looking forward to reading his other two award winners, ‘The Extremes’ (1998) and ‘The Separation’ (2002).
‘Inverted World’ is the story of Helward Mann, a young apprentice on a voyage of discovery about his home and the mysteries surrounding it. This home is a city known as “Earth” which is being slowly winched along tracks northward toward some mysterious point referred to as “optimum”. We follow Helward’s journey as the veil is slowly lifted and he begins to perceive the reality of this inverted world.
In his afterword to the New York Review Books edition, John Clute describes this novel as “Hard SF” as well as “pure Christopher Priest.” I’m new to terms such as “Hard SF”, so I can’t really comment on whether I think it is or isn’t. All I will say is that this is a fascinating story of speculative fiction, a story that has terms like “mind bending” and “psychedelic” attached to reviews of it. It is a story that I’m still thinking about, despite finishing it a couple of weeks ago. Highly recommended.