The Adjacent by Christopher Priest

8/10 A rewarding read, with lots of clever ideas and plot strands.

Tibor Tarent, a freelance photographer, is recalled to Britain from Anatolia where his wife Melanie has been killed by insurgent militia. IRGB is a nation living in the aftermath of a bizarre and terrifying terrorist atrocity - hundreds of thousands were wiped out when a vast triangle of west London was instantly annihilated. The authorities think the terrorist attack and the death of Tarent's wife are somehow connected.

A century earlier, a stage magician is sent to the Western Front on a secret mission to render British reconnaissance aircraft invisible to the enemy. On his journey to the trenches he meets the visionary who believes that this will be the war to end all wars.

In 1943, a woman pilot from Poland tells a young RAF technician of her escape from the Nazis, and her desperate need to return home.

In the present day, a theoretical physicist stands in his English garden and creates the first adjacency.

As soon as you get a few pages in, the mood and tone is one of gloom and unease. The characters are vivid and convincing, even though some of this is set in a fictional Britain of the near future: The IRGB is the Islamic Republic of Great Britain. Priest never explains why, but it does not really matter, the reader should just go along for the ride, this is not a novel that concerns itself with info-dumps and background history.

The whole idea of The Adjacent is original and intriguing. With its four distinct time settings, this is thoughtful and mysterious science fiction.

Uncertainty permeates every page, and there are parallels with the Manhattan Project, when a well-meaning scientist unwittingly unleashes something that can be used as a terrible weapon. In the wrong hands, the Adjacency can have catastrophic consequences.

It’s a little meandering at times, and I did wonder where Priest was going with some of his narrative, but on the whole this is a rewarding read, with lots of clever ideas and plot strands. If you enjoy alternate worlds, romance, illusion and magic, then you cannot go very wrong with this.

The Adjacent by Christopher Priest
Published 2013 by Gollancz
ISBN: 978-0575105362

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