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The Inverted World

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  4,627 Ratings  ·  444 Reviews
The city is winched along tracks through a devastated land full of hostile tribes. Rails must be freshly laid ahead of the city & carefully removed in its wake. Rivers & mountains present nearly insurmountable challenges to the ingenuity of the city's engineers. But if the city does not move, it will fall farther & farther behind the optimum & into the ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published May 28th 1974 by Harper & Row (NYC) (first published May 1974)
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Thomas Dachsel Well I don't think this is for kids younger than 10 to 12 -- way too confusing, due to the "warped" character of the world it describes. I read the…moreWell I don't think this is for kids younger than 10 to 12 -- way too confusing, due to the "warped" character of the world it describes. I read the book (in its German translation that originally was titled "Die Stadt" = "The City") during my adolescence (when I was around 16) and I think this would be the most appropriate age. It had a profound impact on me back then.

In the meantime, I read the English-language original version several times. The original version is very interesting because it has a prologue which was missing from the German translation.

The book contains a few sexual scenes, but not very explicit, so the earliest age I would recommend is around 14 to 16. Also the violence is very much toned down.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Glenn Russell
Jul 28, 2015 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

With “Inverted World” British science fiction writer Christopher Priest has written a work that is beautiful, powerful and profound. These are the words of critic, scholar and science fiction writer Adam Roberts. Equally important, at least for me as someone unacquainted with science fiction, is that Mr. Priest has written an accessible and enjoyable novel. And part of the enjoyment was having my imagination challenged and expanded -- I felt like I do after finishing a rigorous workout, only, in
Jun 09, 2016 Brad rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
This novel is actually all kinds of amazing when it comes to the exploration of a few core ideas and more than very decent when it comes to exploring humanity, perception, and irreconcilable differences.

The story is ostensibly a coming of age story, an acceptance of one's world, and then, eventually a deep dissent without a true solution, but it comes across so easily, so effortlessly, that I'm truly unsurprised that this was nominated for the Hugo in '75 and won the British SF award in the same
Jun 09, 2016 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, favorites
Some science fiction books are written just to entertain, some are depiction of the author’s vision of the future, and some are for conveying the author’s philosophical or political ideas. Occasionally I come a across sci-fi books that are pure thought experiments, where the authors sets out to explore some outlandish idea to its logical conclusion. For all I know Christopher Priest had some other intent for the book but clearly thought experimentation appears to be the primary purpose.

Aug 25, 2016 Szplug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feeling really burned after Nixonland, I meandered about my home horde, reading some Gass and Kronenberger essays, some of Prestowitz's Three Billion New Capitalists, dipping here and there into Borges, Scruton, and Posner, but nothing was really sticking other than my skin to the back of my chair. Then I espied my good ol' shelf of NYRB Classics, so beautifully formal, so stiffly aesthetic, redolent of that pulpy pureness that engenders almost a postcoital bliss—so why in the hell not? Summer a ...more
May 15, 2009 Manny rated it really liked it
So, we know from Einstein that space and time are both part of a larger concept that unifies them, and moreover that spacetime is curved.

Much to his credit, Christopher Priest manages to turn this observation into a metaphor which forms the basis of an imaginative, well-written science-fiction novel. There are some startling images, and he gets you curious right from the start. Why is the city on rails? Why does it have to keep moving? Why do they refer to the direction it's come from as "the p
Jun 13, 2016 F.R. rated it it was amazing
The middle section of ‘The Inverted World’ is extraordinary. It’s going to be difficult to write about it without giving too much away, but if you want me to reach for easy and cliched shorthand to describe it then, well, it’s like an acid trip. I’ve always liked the big desert landscapes in Sergio Leone movies and I’ve also always liked the way that his best films have a certain dream-like quality to them; well, the huge and daunting vistas are present, but there’s also a trip of the ...more
Apr 27, 2012 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Though my knowledge of SF is obviously nearly less than zero – surpassed only on the downside by my understanding of science in general, I’m going to hazard a few thoughts about what seems (from my point of view, at least) to be wrong with this genre.

Browsing today through the Sci-fi lists of some of the GR people I follow, I’m stunned to see that even those who are big, BIG readers of this genre think most of the books that they’ve read are, basically..., crap (or mediocre, anyway – two and thr
Krok Zero
You know how dumb-asses will describe something as being "like ___ on acid." This book is like if Philip K. Dick wasn't on acid. Like, if Dick had been a studious young man into engineering and physics instead of a drugged-out freakazoid. The content of Priest's novel is wacked-out and mind-bending in a sort of Dickian way, but the tone is dry and the prose is stilted (well, in that one respect it's not so far from Dick) and the details are scientific. Somehow it manages to be highly engaging an ...more
Nov 18, 2008 Terran rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: SF readers who enjoy abstractions and mysteries
Shelves: reviewed
I found this book both fascinating and frustrating. Overall, I would highly recommend it, but with caveats.

I had never read Priest before, but I picked this up randomly when I was on travel and running out of reading material. It was shelved next to The Prestige, his 1996 (IIRC?) novel that was recently filmed. Susan and I really enjoyed the movie, so I thought that this Priest guy might be worth a gamble. I avoided The Prestige as a first cut because I wanted something new. (And I knew how tha
Joseph Delaney
This book is set on a world with different physical laws than we experience on earth. The explanation for why things are so is only revealed close to the end of the novel and is a real surprise!
Andy Wixon
Jan 08, 2011 Andy Wixon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-re-read
This is a warning as much as a review - I'm sorry to say that I haven't looked at this properly in about a decade - but basically I just want to say: this book will mess with your head.

Really. The first time I heard of it, it was preceded with the words 'hyperbolically strange' and that's a better capsule description than any I can give. Basically, it's the story of a young fellow named Helward Mann (possibly a crashingly unsubtle piece of metaphor, possibly not) who's just coming of age as a ci
Nate D
Dec 31, 2012 Nate D rated it really liked it
Reads like a simple adventure story, but with an unexpected level of cleverness and complexity, both of underlying concept and usefulness as cautionary fable. I can't entirely speak for some of the underlying physics (some "hard" sci-fi what-ifs mix well with social concerns here), but its terribly interesting and seems well-thought-through enough that I have no complaints.

Starting simply but intriguingly with a city that must constantly move through an uncertain and perhaps threatening world on
4.0 stars. Outstanding science fiction novel. This is the first novel by Christopher Priest that I have read and I plan to read the rest of his wroks based on the strength of this novel. Great premise, good characters and and tightly woven plot that is never boring. Unlike some other reviewers, I thought the ending was great. Highly recommended!!

Winner: British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Bart Everson
Jul 12, 2012 Bart Everson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: both science fiction fans and people who think they don't like science fiction
Shelves: octavia-sf
I've enjoyed an ongoing debate for a few years with a friend about the role of characters in literature. My friend argues that great characterization is more than just a hallmark of great writing. According to him, it's kind of the whole point.

I disagree. In the main he's right, but there are exceptions. Borges comes to mind immediately. And also this novel by Christopher Priest

When I first read Inverted World some thirty years ago, it made a huge impression on me. It might make an impression o
Ivan Lutz
Dec 10, 2015 Ivan Lutz rated it it was amazing

Mislim da nikada nisam pročitao roman koji me je tako matematički razvalio da me je naprosto bolio mozak od silnog poimanja svega što je autor naveo i opisao. Nisam ranije čitao Priestov roman - iako sam čuo da je odličan - pa samim time i kasnim za reakcijom dobrih 40 godina jer je napisan davne 75. godine.
Što reći o svijetu koji je opisan rotacijom funkcije y=1/x ? Nešto nevjerojatno. Neki dan sam barem dva sata crtao hiperboloid i ucrtavao mjesta na kojima bi trebao biti optimum,
March 2009

I'll just say what everyone else is saying: this is not an easy one to review. On one hand, Inverted World appears pretty straightforward: Helward Mann comes of age in the city of Earth and ventures outside for the first time, where he learns that the city rests on wheels, forever rolling north along tracks. But as we learn what the city is moving towards--and what it is moving away from--the central mystery of the story becomes weird, strange, eerily convoluted, and--for me, at least-
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who don't mind weird-ass mentalised science fiction
Shelves: sf-novels-aaargh
This is some kind of weird-ass mentalised science fiction stylee, let me tell you. People go through changes in this book, but not in a good way.
Mar 24, 2011 William1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm no great fan of Science Fiction, but this novel transcends the genre. It has a corker of a plot, which I won't spoil here. The only thing I was not crazy about was the way Priest uses dialog throughout to relay a lot of exposition. That's okay early in the novel because the narrator is a young apprentice of a guild; it's natural for him to ask questions about his new duties and surroundings. Toward the end of the book, however, the device shows its creakiness. But don't let me put you off ...more
NYRB, you have never failed me. This was a book group pick, and, though it was an NYRB, I didn't think I was in the mood for this. Turns out, this was exactly the book I needed. Hard sci-fi, yet surprisingly accessible, with a blow-you-away premise. There are a couple of issues I'm still troubling over, but I think that's a sign of a good read -- I want to figure it out, I'm engaged enough to keep puzzling with it, long after the last page. Priest's writing reminds me a lot of George R. Stewart, ...more
Feb 23, 2009 Richard rated it liked it
Wow - I enjoyed this. As literature, it's not that special - the characters don't really stand out and the writing wasn't particularly evocative. But the story makes for an excellent puzzle. Translated into stars, it's maybe a 3 1/2. I came across the author from his introduction of another book - The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. Inverted World is a bit of a sci-fi mystery with a premise that's incredibly odd but also fascinating. In a run down landscape, where society seems to have fallen apart, ...more
Valentin Gheonea
Oct 11, 2016 Valentin Gheonea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pe alocuri invechita, dar se poate inca citi cu placere.
The Inverted World is choke-full of big ideas for a relatively short book. But the real problem with this book is, towards the end, Priest turns unconvincingly realistic with his approach and hence it seems a bit rushed and a lot of things are left unexplained.

I think Priest wrote himself into a corner and then seeing no way out, rushed towards a more realistic and thus an anti-climatic end. But in retrospect, I think that might have been the only way as he himself was not sure how to end the bo
Jurica Ranj
Jun 30, 2015 Jurica Ranj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-library
Knjiga koju sam pročitao u 2 dana. Genijalna ideja, sažeta naracija i postepeno upoznavanje sa svim detaljima funkcioniranja grada i njegovog društva su jednostavno gušt za čitati. Svijet u kojem se odvija radnja je fascinantan, ali nažalost rasplet i njegovo objašnjenje je ispalo ubrzano, "očekivano" i time razočaravajuće, jer sam se ipak nadao odmaku od poznatih nam stvari, a također i zato jer postoje stvari u priči koje se ne uklapaju u to objašnjenje. Unatoč toj boljci, knjiga je odlično ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Hadrian rated it liked it
Shelves: british, scifi, fiction
A rather ordinary scifi adventure story elevated to something more with a great plot twist. I obviously won't go into it for the sake of spoilers, but I can say that this asks a few stark questions about isolation and belief as well as bringing up neat scientific concepts.
Dec 02, 2014 Krbo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nevjerojatno dobar SF, super ideja i odlično napisano.

Jedno 4-5 puta pročitano.
(od 1988.)
Jul 02, 2013 Liviu rated it really liked it
Shelves: genre-sf, read_2013
The Inverted World is an example of why sf even when written well literary like here is a very time-dependent genre with books aging fast whether because reality overtakes them, others write many similar stuff in case of success or simply that genre conventions were so narrow (lack of diversity) to start with.

The Inverted World is also a novel that would be just awesome for a beginning sf reader from say 1970-1990 as it does the "sense of wonder, strange reality but with an explanation" pretty w
Jul 27, 2008 Elmistico rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elmistico by: Mon intuition.
Shelves: sf
Il faut dire que Priest sait comment accrocher son lecteur dés le début. Quand on apprend que le personnage avec lequel on va voyager à un âge de 1000 kilomètres, une question se pose alors directement, comment un âge peut être mesurer en kilomètres.
Ainsi avec ce héros de milles kilomètres habitant une cité mobile appelé Terre, on est lâche dans un monde inconnu a nos yeux mais aussi aux yeux du héros principal. On se sent totalement perdu ce qui renforce alors la proximité avec Maan, en effet c
Ever had that feeling of the world moving beneath your feet? Perhaps it's more than just a feeling. Or perhaps not....

My brain has been boggled all the way through this. Just when I thought I had it figured out, he throws in another shocker. It is just so, so good. It's a wonderful dystopia mixed with a kind of pyscadelic Victorian thought experiment piece of fiction, mixed with bizarre sci fi... and it makes for such engaging and page-turning reading.

The main focus of this book is a "city" on
Stephen Curran
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Alternate Realiti...: inverted world 1 16 May 06, 2015 12:25PM  
The Evolution of ...: September 2014 Group read - The Inverted World 14 50 Apr 16, 2015 07:47PM  
SciFi and Fantasy...: Christopher Priest - The Inverted World - Sept 2014 14 41 Sep 11, 2014 11:23AM  
Dystopian Society: MAY BOOK 8 30 May 08, 2014 09:50AM  
Dystopian Society: Suggestion for May's book 9 36 May 05, 2014 12:34AM  
What's The Name o...: SOLVED. endlessly railroad building SF [s] 10 43 Jan 25, 2014 04:11PM  
NYRB Classics: Inverted World, by Christopher Priest 1 9 Oct 23, 2013 02:10PM  
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Christopher Priest was born in Cheshire, England. He began writing soon after leaving school and has been a full-time freelance writer since 1968.

He has published eleven novels, four short story collections and a number of other books, including critical works, biographies, novelizations and children’s non-fiction.

He has written drama for radio (BBC Radio 4) and television (Thames TV and HTV). In
More about Christopher Priest...

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“Civilization on Earth planet was equated with selfishness and greed; those people who lived in a civilized state exploited those who did not. There were shortages of vital commodities on Earth planet, and the people in the civilized nations were able to monopolize those commodities by reason of their greater economic strength. This imbalance appeared to be at the root of the
“Do you think it could be that those in charge of the guilds keep the system in operation after it has outlived its original purpose? It seems to me that the system works by suppression of knowledge. I don't see what that achieves. It has made me very discontented, and I'm sure I'm not alone.” 0 likes
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