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The Gradual

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  530 ratings  ·  96 reviews
A new literary novel by the critically acclaimed author of The Prestige, Christopher Priest. A rich and involving tale of the creative mind, the rigours of living under war and the nature of time itself.

Alesandro grows up in Glaund, a fascist state constantly at war with a faceless opponent. His brother is sent off to war; his family is destroyed by grief. Occasionally he
Hardcover, 301 pages
Published September 27th 2016 by Titan Books (first published September 15th 2016)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, british
Spiritual Relativity

The Gradual is an allegory, and a fairly complex one at that. As with any allegory, it remains impenetrably obscure without some hint as to the key for its interpretation. I think the key here is medieval monasticism, specifically Gregorian Chant as the undisclosed but barely hidden theme of the book.

The first clue is of course the title itself. It refers to a ‘time gradient’ which affects travellers as they move about in Priest’s decidedly dialectical world from evil and ug
Glenn Russell
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing

A mind expander and a mind blower. After reading and reviewing Inverted World, The Affirmation, The Prestige, The Islanders, The Space Machine, The Glamour, I was wondering if Christopher Priest would continue to amaze and confound. He did! Matter of fact, The Gradual might count as one of the most memorable, magical and beautiful novels I’ve encountered. Here are a number of highlights:

Island World: We are on a planet very much like Earth with our familiar modern technology, things like automob
Manuel Antão
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Reality-Transforming SF: "The Gradual" by Christopher Priest Published September 2016.
“’There’s a problem with time and I don’t know how to explain it to you.’” (*repeated several times*)
In “The Gradual” by Christopher Priest
I just put down the book. Blew my mind. I'm kind of seeing things at the moment…
When Phil Dick died only Christopher Priest remained to explore similar themes. Despite exploring similar literary traits, Prie
For once a highly expected novel which delivered.

First person narration from musician Sandro Sussken, native of the Glaund Republic, a military dictatorship on the Northern mainland in a permanent war with the Faianland Alliance, war that after a while moves into ritualized combat on the uninhabited Antarctic continent; but the world of the novel is the Dream Archipelago one (of The Affirmation, The Dream Archipelago collection, The Islanders and Adjacent - first and last here having dual action
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-collection, sci-fi
Superb. Recreates the haunting feeling of strangeness seeming totally normal for the protagonists living in the world Christopher Priest creates effortlessly. Inverted World (70s) is still one of my all time favourites and here again there is the same delicate, subtle, pervasive otherness that seems so normal. So many authors embark on world-building with a heavy hand. They either over-explain or leave the reader totally lost. Here it is perfectly achieved, so skillfully that it seems as if this ...more
ash c
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I pondered over this book for 5 months (this is how the slippery descent into being a Reader starts, where books plague your mind months after you read them...) and I still am not confident that I know what the heck was going on in the book to write a coherent review. Part of it was because the political aspect of the story bored me and I skimmed through a lot of it.

I'm shelving this to re-read. This was amazing yet I can't quite put it into words. And I thought the Adjacent was hard.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-my-best-of
Books do not get more beautiful than this one. Everything about it is at superlative: the theme centered around fate and the meaning of art, the rich and tormented characters (even the secondary ones), the beautiful structure that takes the central character into one journey and the readers into another one (and without being too complex), the plot that makes you want to turn just one more page, the wonderful prose and style that are at the same time extremely clear and superbly rich.

And what a
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Islanders
Recommended to Alan by: Ryan, and previous work
The Gradual is aptly named.

Christopher Priest's 2016 novel takes its sweet time, gliding only gradually into focus, quietly insinuating itself into your synapses. There's nothing very odd about it, to start with. Alesandro Sussken begins his narration with a summary of commonplaces, common nouns that could describe many places, many lives:
I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war. The latter interfered with the former. After I became an adult, a composer, many pieces of my music were stole
May 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
just couldn't get into this book, the idea was good but sadly the book didn't carry it off though. ...more
Katia N
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war.” - This is the one of the most beautiful first sentences I came across in a while. And the book follows from it. The story is about a composer. It is set out in an imaginary land moving between the mainland infested by a military junta and an Archipelago of exotic islands with free people and colourful life where time bands backwards and forwards while you travel. But I would not call it “fantasy” or “magic realism”. It is more like a dreamy medi ...more
Spencer Borup
Jan 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
I don't believe I have ever been so disappointed in a book.

When I came across Christopher Priest's new novel, THE GRADUAL, I thought two things: 1) "OMG, this guy wrote THE PRESTIGE, one of my favorite novels of all time!" and 2) "OMG, a book about a music composer who discovers time travel while traversing mysterious islands?!? THAT SOUNDS AMAZING."

What I found upon reading THE GRADUAL, however, was a novel broken in every way.

The story itself was rambling, disjointed, at times laughable and a
Brian Clegg
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Priest may not be a prolific writer, but he was writing when I first got interested in science fiction, and he's still producing remarkable novels - most recently The Gradual. It's a remarkable book - mysterious, intriguing and with a main character who really takes the reader along on his sometimes dream-like experience.

In one respect, this is not what I expected from reading Christopher Priest many years ago, as then he was a science fiction author, and this is fantasy. (Unless you
Ian Mond
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Gradual is a further addition to Christopher Priest's suite of stories and books set in the Dream Archipelago. Prior to reading this novel my only experience of the archipelago was a brief encounter in The Adjacent (a brilliant book that deserved wider attention). Unless I'm horribly mistaken, The Gradual is the first novel since The Affirmation that's a full length narrative rather than a series of short stories, vignettes and snippets about each of the islands. Also unlike The Affirmation ...more
Lauren LaTulip
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you haven't read Christopher Priest before, please do. He writing is unique, intelligent and humane. If you have read Christopher Priest before, enjoy this journey...

Christopher Priest's book The Gradual is immaculate and teasing, set in a slightly different reality, narrated with precision and foreignness. The autobiographic tale of a talented musician, Sandro lives during a war which rages offscreen while he develops his music and gains world renown. Part of an international tour, he begins
Kyle Muntz
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I've been wanting to read another novel by Christopher Priest ever since The Inverted World, and decided to pick this up after the excellent film version of The Prestige. But despite all the interesting ideas, this novel is missing everything a novel about human beings should have. I'm not sure if his other writing is so powerfully dull but now I'm sort of afraid to try finding out. ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is only the second book I've ever read by Christopher Priest and it won't be my last.

This is a rather strange and surreal book at times; actually not at times but rather almost every page. Sometimes this strangeness and level of surreal doesn't work well when it's taken too far and I thought this was close to that point but didn't reach it, thankfully. I liked the book overall as it had a interesting albeit strange and sometimes hard to follow ideas and plot. The writing itself, the prose,
Jillian Quinn
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-review
Originally published on my Rant and Rave About Books blog:

I received a lovely hardback copy of The Gradual from Titan Books in exchange for an honest opinion. First, I want to mention the cover of this book because I was so excited to read it as soon as I opened the box. The Gradual is about time and travel but unlike anything I’ve ever read before that handles time travel. I couldn’t help myself when I started taking pics of this book. When I pulled the
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Priest’s 2016 The Gradual is the latest in his novels of the Dream Archipelago. They are set on a world very much like our own, but with a globe encircling archipelago of islands that defy human explanation. It is science fiction of the sort that involves humanity’s relationship to unexplained phenomenon, rather than with science, that would be more properly known as speculative fiction or literary SF. Playing with the perception of time is something SF writers like to do, such as in ...more
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Home is the sailor, home from the sea"
-- from 'Requiem' by Robert Louis Stevenson

In many ways a genre-crossing novel, The Gradual exhibits the kind of features I have now come to expect of Christopher Priest's books -- a sense of viewing reality in a distorting mirror -- solitary or alienated protagonists -- a planetary romance blending aspects of science fiction with the kind of magic we associate with fantasy -- allusions and illusions that create dream-like images and sequences.

Above all the
David Harris
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm grateful to the publisher for an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

This was the first of Christopher Priest's books that I'd read. While I gather from other reviews that it's particularly accessible for him and so probably a good place to begin, I am still dismayed that I've missed out on such a good writer for so long. I'll put that right soon.

The Gradual is the latest of a collection - not really a series - of stories (some short, some longer) that includes the motif of the 'Dream Archipel
Will Donelson
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Though this may seem a cruel way to begin a review for a book I did not think was by any means terrible, upon finishing The Gradual I was struck with an overwhelming question of "What was the point?"

The book is billed as a Sci-Fi, however the time travel aspect of the story is dealt with in such a matter-of-fact and almost bureaucratic way that it ends up feeling more like window dressing than anything else. Indeed, I knew nothing about the book when I began reading it, and when I was around a t
Chris Marcatili
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
2.5 stars.
The Gradual is in a way a complex book about artistic inspiration and the passage of time. The protagonist, Alessandro Sussken, is a composer in a fascist state called Glaund. It is at heart a time-travel novel, but not at all the standard type. There's no intentional passage back and forward in linear time, no hand-wringing about paradoxes. Sussken moves to-and-fro in time as he moves from island to island in a great, expansive archipelago. Each journey causes slippages, and each slip
Sep 20, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, netgalley
While far from a terrible book, this really just wasn't for me. The 'gradual' in the title seems to refer to the intolerably slow pace during which we have to suffer the narrator's whining as he travels ever so slowly around some 'magical' islands where nothing actually seems to happen. It's a full third of the way through the book before there's any glimmer of interesting events, and that fades very quickly. Worse, by the time we find out that yes actually there is something quite cool to find ...more
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
The composer Alessandro Sussken seeks inspiration and his brother by travelling through the Dream Archipelago, a journey which Priest readers have made many times. This time, though, going from island to island means negotiating baffling shifts in time. Priet's understated style delivers beautifully exact other worlds. There aren't the existential or alt-historical shocks of The Affirmation or The Separation; it's a haunting meditation on time and how we make sense of it, in this case through mu ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A brilliant meditation on aging, longing, loss, and hope.
✨ Aaron Jeffery ✨
This was unlike anything I’ve ever read and not what I thought it would be at all. I loved it!
Christopher Priest’s latest journey into the Dream Archipelago explores time and ageing. It also considers the mysteries and allure of music:

‘Music for me was the voice of the human spirit. It existed only in the space between the instruments that produced it and the ear that appreciated it. It was the movement and pressure of molecules of air, dispersed and replaced instantly and unceasingly. It lived nowhere in reality…’

For me the ethereal and ungraspable nature of music perfectly captures the
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-british
I liked The Gradual, but it has left me confused in a typically Priestian way. I don't know what to think, or say.

Edit: Here are some things I thought of saying:

The setting is Priest's Dream Archipelago, previously visited in The Affirmation, The Islanders, The Adjacent, and The Dream Archipelago. A composer goes on a tour of the islands and discovers a form of time travel - that's all I'll say as far as the plot goes. The world and the story unfolds, well, gradually (ha, ha). Tension is built u
Gem BookEater
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Christopher Priest is apparently one of the UK’s greatest writers – on the cover just there you can see that the Sunday Times considers him a ‘Novelist of Distinction’! I’d never heard of him before this book let alone read him. When I looked him up when I was about halfway through this I found he’d written over 15 books including one which was turned into the award winning film The Prestige. It just goes to show how easy it is to miss even best- selling authors!

Anyway this book is starts in a c
Alex Storer
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite being once again set in the Dream Archipelago, The Gradual was quite a different kind of story from Mr. Priest, and certainly a little different to what I was expecting. This book, whilst still reading like one of those vivid, all-night-long dreams, was a much lighter affair, with little of the foreboding or darkness that you'd find in books such as The Glamour or The Adjacent, etc. From that point of view, I admit to being slight disappointed, but the real merit in The Gradual came in t ...more
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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

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