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Inverted World

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  5,180 Ratings  ·  487 Reviews

A uniquely powerful novel of a society in decay. On a planet whose very nature is a mystery a massive decrepit city is pulled along a massive railway track, laying the line down before it as it progresses into the wilderness.

The society within toils under an oppressive regime, its structures always on the point of collapse, the lives of its individuals lived in misery. No

Kindle Edition, SF Masterworks, 324 pages
Published (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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Glenn Russell
Jul 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Christopher Priest, Born 1943, British Novelist and Science Fiction Writer

With Inverted World 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 afte
Sep 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2016-shelf
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
Aug 21, 2011 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
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 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2012 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
Nate D
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
Andy Wixon
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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!
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 imaginatio ...more
Bart Everson
Feb 05, 2010 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
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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 th ...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
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
Alfred Haplo
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-f
Does perception change reality, or reality changes perception?

Helward Mann, the protagonist, had only known one reality. Born and raised in an efficient organization of utilitarian functionality within the enclosure of earth’s only surviving city, Mann’s system of beliefs centered around Destaine’s Directives, the dictum of the city’s founder. As with many men before him, Mann was a guildsman in servitude to the perpetual mobility of the city. For the city is not static, and must never be in or
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
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, my-collection
I read this in 1981 - and thinking back so many years, I realise that it was the book that kindled my love for physics based science-fiction, and how we might have to adapt if we lived under different laws of physics. It is a gem, and has hardly aged after so many years. The protagonists are well rounded, their society well portrayed, and the extrapolation of the implications of a different physics have been carefully thought through. It is obvious that this is a work that was several years in g ...more
Jurica Ranj
Jun 22, 2015 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 št ...more
Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Valentin Gheonea
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pe alocuri invechita, dar se poate inca citi cu placere.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nevjerojatno dobar SF, super ideja i odlično napisano.

Jedno 4-5 puta pročitano.
(od 1988.)
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 27, 2008 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
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Alternate Realiti...: inverted world 1 17 May 06, 2015 12:25PM  
The Evolution of ...: September 2014 Group read - The Inverted World 14 52 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...
“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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