‘The Adjacent’ by Christopher Priest

gollancz-cover-for-the-adjIf you like novels which spoon-feed story and tie up all the loose ends in the final chapter, don’t read this book. If you want to read something to relax, wind-down and stop using your brain, don’t read this book. If you want to read a couple of pages before bedtime, don’t read this book.

If you like riddles, being gripped and staying up till five in the morning reading, only to find out that you have to bully your sleep-deprived mind into figuring out what the hell just happened, read this book.  The Adjacent has got a lot of flack from critics for this obscureness, but I loved it, and would highly recommend it as a quantum-physics sci-fi mind bender!

Besides, who would expect anything else from Christopher Priest? Famed for his precision, his linguistic dexterity and his oblique story-telling, The Adjacent is another in a string of superb but alluringly puzzling novels. Part of its charm is discovering the story and its many questions, so I won’t give too much aware here. Suffice to say, it is told from several points of view, primarily that of photographer Tibor Tarent, living in the near future. After his wife, a doctor working in the Middle East, is murdered by political deviants, he is returned to England, where he is kept under governmental custody. Other narrative characters include a Polish female World War 2 pilot; the English engineer who finds her purse; a magician summoned to the front-lines; and a quantum physicist from the present-day.  All of them are caught up in a phenomenon of modern science which has the power to destroy reality as we perceive it.

The Adjacent is reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, a personal favourite of mine, but is Gibsoneqsue in it’s indirectness. The lack of explanation is present everywhere: the mysterious IRGB; the dreadful climatic shifts in the weather; the cliff-hangers which are resolved only by your own mind. It is all told as if the reader was as contextualized in the world as the book’s characters are. Backstory, though Priest obviously knows it like the back of his hand, is not necessary for us to know.

The genius at work in the book – and again, I don’t want to give too many spoilers – is that Priest connects a series of events which actually don’t add up at all. The result is that if you look at The Adjacent directly, and try to express the theory contained therein, you’ll comes up bizarrely blank and confused, as are the characters of the book. If you think about it in the corner of your mind, though, the whole thing falls beautifully into place. Priest manages to conjure up – and implant in the reader’s mind – a new way of thinking, which breaks down our concept of linear reality.

The Adjacent was published by Gollancz in June 2013 and is available to buy in hardcopy or for Kindle.