Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Scotsman Abroad | The Adjacency Effect

Horror of horrors: I've been without the internet for the last 48 hours!

Actually, aside the initial inconvenience, it's been a fine few days. I squeezed a whole hell of a lot of reading in, finished the superior third season of The Killing, played the final Dishonored DLC, and caught up on a few awesome comics.

It's amazing, the sheer quantity of stuff you can get done when you aren't distracted by emails and tweets and feeds and so on. If I'm honest, when I woke up this morning to see that they'd fixed things at the exchange, I was almost disappointed. Almost.

In any case, I've got an awful lot to catch up on before I'm back on track, so today, for your entertainment, let me point you elsewhere.
Seamless storytelling can sometimes seem like magic, but in The Adjacent, Christopher Priest goes to great lengths to stress the applied aspects of both practices: 
"What I do [...] is contrived to look like a series of miracles, but in reality the preparation of a magical illusion is a prosaic matter. Few people realise the amount of rehearsal conjurors have to put in, nor what goes on in the background. A trick often requires technical assistants, who will help design and build the apparatus. The movements a magician makes on stage are the result of long and patient rehearsal, while still having to look natural and spontaneous to the audience. It is an acquired practical skill, in other words. Only while in performance, in the glare of the limelight, can magic look like inspiration. Even at best it is never more than an illusion. Things are never what they seem." (p.86)
This is true of almost every facet of The Adjacent. Its narrative feels fairly straightforward at first, but the farther into the fold we go, the less linear and logical it looks. One tale turns into two, two into ten... ten threads or thereabouts, then, which contradict as often as complement one another, seeming to stand alone from the whole at the same time as suggesting some imperative collective resonance. Meanwhile, whatever motivations or expectations Priest's cast of characters either have or lack at the outset are quickly obliterated; annihilated on even the theoretical level by something uncomfortably akin to the Perturbative Adjacent Field proposed by Professor Thijs Rietvel.
You can read the rest of my review of The Adjacent over at Strange Horizons.

In short, it mightn't be the place for readers new to Christopher Priest to begin, but for those of us who've stuck with him through thick and thin, it's an astonishingly rewarding novel. In long... well, you know where to go.

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