10 thoughts on “The Adjacent – by Christopher Priest

  1. No spoilers intended.

    Pages 3 – 25.
    I live in Essex. The whole world seems to have become Essex. Or “a dialect of code.”
    Severe storms seem to batter the UK, ironically called temperate. Mixed race Tibor Tarent has lost his mixed race wife Melanie, but we are Priestily given our own code as to how she was lost, suspecting that he feels guilty about arguing with her just before the triangular slot bomb crater in Turkey that has swallowed her body (or not), as multi-besetting Terrorism causes all sorts of secrecy in his deviated route from the bereaved in-law parents via Southampton then West London toward Islington. Everyone and everything seem to have a position to enforce, including the weather. Priestly means ease of prose, textured, satisfyingly chewy, but clear. Love this author. Always. Not sure I yet got a grip, but I am enticed forward, but intend to take things more slowly than the action actually unfolds.

  2. Pages 26 – 38.
    Climate change and Europe’s wastes growing more uninhabitable, monitoring, conflicts from sparse resources, Muslim name-dropping, special passes, passive photography, and conspiring glances between Tibor and his few fellow travellers, why and whither; conspiring glances, too, between author and reader, or do I imagine those? Compelling plot drive, but whither and why? That’s the beauty of fiction. Never knowing where you are by not knowing where you’re going. Escapism by being trapped by curiosity…
    “He then downloaded back several of the shots and was satisfied by the deep shades of grey and black, the striking greens.”

  3. Pages 38 – 61.
    “He unexpectedly remembered moments of his childhood, of playing in woods where bluebells grew… […] …all conducted to the background hiss and rustle of green broad leaves and a giving wind.”

    This is some kind of fairy tale, where the legendary future is our protagonists’ present to the power of ‘adjacency’, a sort of contiguity or agency of digital connections, leitmotifs making a gestalt that I can’t yet imagine or encapsulate, the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction…
    Every position has its own force, not only the weather, but also a mathematical progression of geometrical terrorism where seasons become a single date like May 10 to echo 9/11? And the positions (photographic or sexual or hierarchical in government terms of the ungovernable) between Tibor and Flo (symbolic of hedonistically selfish as well as purely selfless existential ‘flow’?), Flo probably not being her real name but her name in the terms of the shards of fiction. She is one of his co-travellers, someone resembling his late wife who went early. We need to triangulate both women for some means of orientation but triangulate them with whom?

  4. Pages 65 – 86.
    image
    A change of gear as we travel with two eccentric sounding men by ship from England (one from Essex), then across France by train towards the killing fields of the First World War. They have been recruited for some sort of war effort not disconnected, I guess, with the old Lamson cash-carriers I remember in shops when I was a child in the Fifties. One of these men is a professional magician called Trent (cf Tarent) with a silk cape and the other is, in person, the visionary author of Tono-Bungay: one of the few physical books, along with ‘The Lady of the Barge’ by WW Jacobs, that stood on my parents’ mantelpiece during those 1950s again… Don’t ask.

  5. Pages 87 – 105
    image
    “How would it blend in against a background of trees, grass, concrete, mud?”
    Trent, taken on his own to where he is to help with the war effort, fears that his ‘magical’ skills are required literally to magick the British aeroplanes that actively photograph the enemy lines, magick them into passive invisibility – rather than, as he thought originally, to divert the troops with entertaining stage tricks to boost their happiness quota and thus their morale. He was to be more a Jonathan Strange than a David Nixon. Yet Trent being a lateral thinker, he thinks of magicians’ stage tricks of misdirection and adjacency to help divert any danger from our side’s spying aeroplanes. And of methods of camouflage.
    I suspect, however, that the author himself is employing such diversionary tactics by misdirection, too! We readers need to keep our wits about us. I shall make this real-time review of mine a beach-head for us all to muster against the Priestly narrative illusions…

  6. Pages 105 – 126.
    “Around the plane the grass was pressed into rippling flatness by the stream of air.”

    This section contains some extremely evocative writing upon the physical and mental experience of flying aeroplanes on the front line in the First World War, conveying both the ambient currents and the poignancy of bravery-on-the-edge. And Trent’s own sadly aborted flight into the logistics of distraction and camouflage when involving the politics of such heroism.

  7. Pages 129 – 140.
    “A skeletal pyramid of white light…”
    As the Stones did rock last night (cf the ‘fracking’ in both ‘The Quarry’ and ‘Some Kind of Fairy Tale’) on the Pyramid Stage at the Glistenberry Festival Worthy Farm, we now catch up with Tarent – as he leaves Flo and his transport. GPS triangulation guides him towards his debriefing at Warne’s Farm – a scenario still beset by ‘Lost’ logos and then by another devastating crater, geometrical fracking that seems to be making his terrorist-ridden rite of passage through this quilt of a narration to be landmarked with Whovian leitmotifs of an over-arching plot gestalt…?

  8. Pages 140 – 157.
    “…feeling once again that he was cracking out of the hardened carapace of his past, sliding vulnerably into an unknown future.”
    The ironic contrast of the woman in a burqa at Warne’s Farm with the fact of his being unexpected there and the human need for touching and loving as another woman in his allotted room becomes closer to him with electronic-derived backstories interweaving… both poignant and strangely humorous. Through style and innuendo, this ostensibly SF novel is fast becoming one that surely has much left to haunt me with, judging by the fact that visibIy I have not yet cracked even half its physical carapace as a real book…

  9. Pingback: THE GRADUAL by Christopher Priest | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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