tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > The Adjacent

The Adjacent by Christopher Priest
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review of
Christopher Priest's The Adjacent
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19-21, 2017

I've probably read 4 Priest novels now: Indoctrinaire (1970), The Inverted World (1974), The Extremes (1998), & The Adjacent (2013). Alas, I only remember The Inverted World, wch I liked very much, & The Adjacent, wch I liked almost as much. As such, I don't feel prepared to generalize about his writing. One of the 1st things that caught my attn in this one was:

"They walked as far as what Gordon described as the decoy site, one of dozens that had been built around London as a fire lure during the Second World War, to try to keep the Luftwaffe bombers away from the city. Bracknell then had been a village three miles away, and the decoy was out in the wild. There was not much to see; the remains of a dugout shelter, bricked up and overgrown with weeds, and some half-visible piping firmly buried in the soil. Gordon said he took an amateur interest in those old decoy sites, and described how they had been used." - p 14

These sites were known as "Starfish" b/c the "S" & the "F" stood for "Special Fires". Simulations of buildings set ablaze by bombings were created to make the bombers think they'd hit their targets. There were 237 of these sites wch are reputed to've diverted 730 bombing raids.

The story begins in the 21st century, focusing on a photographer whose wife has recently been apparently annihilated by a mysterious weapon. The world is even more war-torn than it was in the 20th century.

"Tarent spent the rest of the morning in the guest room, making a start on the immense task of sorting through the thousands of photographs he had taken during the trip. At this stage he restricted himself to looking for the dud or unfocused shots and erasing them. Fortunately, the signal was strong in the Roscoes' house, so he could access the online library without any problems. He kept all three cameras on recharge, because online editing quickly depleted the batteries." - p 16

Tibor Tarent, the photographer, has just returned to Great Britain & is confused about what his official status is as he travels under the auspices of a government agency:

"They passed through increasingly built-up areas, approaching the capital. The younger official leaned forward to the driving compartment, said something quietly to the driver, and almost at once the smoked-glass effect deepened on all the windows as well as the dividing glass, making it impossible to see outside. Two dome lights in the car's roof came on, completing the sense of isolation.

"'Why have you done that?' Tarent said.

"'It's beyond your security clearance level, sir.'

"'Security? Is there something secret out there?'

"'We have no secrets. Your status enables you to travel freely on diplomatic business, but national security issues are a matter of internal policy.'" - p 21

He switches to traveling an armored personnel vehicle:

"The Mebsher was originally designed for military use: a means of transporting troops and matériel through hostile territory in a vehicle that could withstand most forms of violent attack, including RPGs and IEDs." - p 25

I wonder: Is it common to most readers's vocabularies that RPG = Rocket Propelled Grenade & IED = Improvised Explosive Device? Do we really live in a world that violent? Alternatively, how many readers know that EG = For Example (translated from Latin to English)?

The reader gradually learns that Britain is apparently under Moslem control:

"They were soon under way again. As the Mebsher moved slowly out of the town centre one of the crewmen came on the intercom. It was a formula greeting: peace be unto you, Allah is almighty, welcome back aboard, keep your seat-belts fastened, food is available in the galley but remember that no alcohol is allowed aboard, please follow all instructions from the crew in the event of emergencies, Inshallah." - p 34

"After a year's visit to the USA he returned to Britain while the political and social upheaval that accompanied the foundation of the IRGB was still in progress." - p 39

The reader deduces that IRGB = Islamic Republic of Great Britain.

As Tarent travels, he tries to make sense of what's happening:

"Yet he was also convinced that none of the people he had encountered in the last few days had any conception at all of what he had been doing abroad, what the chaos of events there was like, the morbid sights he had witnessed and the terrifying events he had experienced, the parlous state into which so many parts of the world had fallen. Half of Europe was now virtually uninhabitable." - p 43

The reader is moved on to an earlier time period, WWI, where a stage magician & a famous SF writer are en route to France to add their expertise to the British cause:

"While the ship was immobile I could never quite throw off the fear that a pack of German U-boats must be speeding towards us, lining up their torpedo tunes. Our ship was so small, over-loaded, thin-hulled, seeming to me vulnerable to almost anything while it floated on this troubled sea." - p 74

"['] They are ruled by Prussian imperialism, and their economy is dominated by Krupp, the maker of armaments. Krupp and the Kaiser stand side by side. It has become an inhuman system. [']" - p 86

"I remembered what Simeon Bartlett had said about the giant Krupp cannon. Was it real? Would they really target bases like this one before turning it on Paris? I also remembered that H.G. Wells had prophetically written about the power and influence of the Krupp company." - p 102

I wonder: How much of the USA's economy is dominated by arms dealers? & how hidden is this dominance? According to an Amnesty International website, the USA is the largest exporter of major arms tallying 31% of the global shares ( https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/new... ). The same website claims: "A definitive figure for the value of international conventional arms transfers is difficult to calculate with precision. In 2010, the total value, as recorded in national statistics, was approximately US$72 billion. Since then, it is estimated that" [..] "the arms trade has been approaching US$100 billion annually."

I've sd it before & I'll say it again: if arms dealers were held accountable for what their weapons were used for, the international murder rate wd go way down. I think executing an arms dealer for every death caused by their weapons is an excellent idea - starting w/ the CEOs. The arms dealer's entire assets wd then go to improving the lives of those close to the original victim. It seems only fit that the arms dealer's spoiled families shd become homeless.

"'But you couldn't have written that book. It was by H.G. Wells!'

"Captain Wells nodded again. I stood up in astonishment, then sat down again suddenly, because the carriage was rocking. I gripped the edge of my seat.

"'Then you are...' I said." - p 87

Yes, he's Nicolas-Edme Rétif de la Bretonne! & this bk is about a secret weapon disguised as a shoehorn! Nah, I'm jest joshin'.

"British merchantmen had been attacked by German submarines from almost the first days of the war. The U-boats scanned their targets and took aim from beneath the surface, using the periscope." - p 107

Since the periscopes looked like fancy women's shoes from the late 18th century, the only defense against the diabolical German U-boats was to train shoe fetishists to look for the periscopes. Sighting them caused immediate ejaculation & the genetically-modified sperm swam quickly to the submarine 'egg' & penetrated its hull causing it to sink.

The magician muses on misdirection as camouflage, the reviewer muses on misdirection as spoiler-spoiling:

"There is one more method magicians use to make something seem to disappear. It is in fact one of the main techniques of stage magic and is employed in almost every trick you ever see performed." It is the art of misdirecting the reader. (p 108)

Finally we get to a shoe that's right next to the title:

"Another kind of misdirection is in the use of adjacency. The magician places two objects close together, or connects them in some way, but one is made to be more interesting (or intriguing or amusing) to the audience." - p 110

The time shifts to an earlier part of the 21st century:

"I had interviewed a Nobel laureate before — the writer, philosopher and pacifist Bai Kuang Han, who was awarded the Peace Price" [sic] "in 2023 — but Thijs Rietveld was a much more formidable challenge as a non-specialist journalist." - p 168

"Using what quantum physicists sometimes call annihilation operators, an adjacency field could be created to divert physical matter into a different, or adjacent, realm. An incoming missile, to use the famous example described by Professor Rietveld, need not be intercepted or diverted or destroyed — it could be moved to an adjacent quantum dimension, so that to all intents and purposes it would cease to exist." - p 169

It's kindof like diverting bombs to someplace where some nice peaceful birds & squirrels are living in the woods. What if that missile goes to an alternate dimension where there aren't any arms dealers?! There goes the neighborhood, right? Out of sight, out of mind. But what if that missile turned out to be like the 1987 "Gar-barge", a barge filled w/ NYC garbage that 6 states & 2 countries wdn't allow to be dumped in their turf. What if that alternate dimension sends that damned missile right back. It'd be like a toxic badminton match.

That sd, I've always wanted to be able do something like that. Imagine how much I cd've improved life in Baltimore if everytime some group of idiots in a passing car shouted out "Faggot!" I just made them go away. I promise to be selective about where they go. The sun might be nice. Then I can charge them tanning fees (in advance, of course).

"But then Tibor Tarent said, 'Would you help me get my stuff back in the car?' He led me outside—his car was parked opposite the house. As soon as we were away from the house he said, 'That is one of the most amazing men I have ever met. I'll never forget what happened. Did you see what he was doing while I was taking pictures of him?

"'I was in the kitchen — I couldn't see too well.'

"'It's impossible to describe. I'll show you the photos tomorrow. He was like a magician — he could make that big sh"oe "appear and disappear. I couldn't see how he was doing it.'" - p 174

Shoe fetishism was developed by Rétif de la Bretonne as a form of birth control by misdirecting jism from its human target. That's what the neolojism "fetishjism" refers to. Alas, what started out as a civic-minded way of keeping the population down w/o harming anyone during the French Revolution was immediately turned to harmful profit by the arms dealers:

"'You obviously now realize what happened to me a few years ago when I was in Strasbourg. We were naïve, all of us but especially me — we thought we were making a breakthrough into something that would neutralize" unwanted pregnancies from much-needed hedonism. "It would always be safe to use, non-aggressive in nature, harmless because it would remove harm. But what we all feared soon came to pass: minds other than ours worked out how to make quantum adjacency into a weapon of war." The shoe was on the other 3rd leg. (p 175)

Don't even mention WWII!:

"In charge of the Instrument Section of the squadron was Flight-Sergeant Jack Winslow, and RAF regular who had joined up in 1935, and who seemed to the new recruits almost omniscient about they aircraft they serviced." - p 183

"Zaremski finally realized I was there.

"We were to evacuate again, he announced, this time towards Bucharest. No civilians would be transported — priority would be given to air force personnel. The intention was to regroup and form an independent detachment of the Polish Air Force . We would then launch guerrilla air raids on the occupying armies of the homeland. Zaremski named an air base in the north of Romania where we had permission to land and where there would be all the facilities we needed." - p 226

"Staring down at the large field below the end of the main runway, Torrance looked for and found the still-visible trace of where H Henry had crashed after being shot down: the large black triangle burnt into the crops by the wreckage was starting to be grown through, and would soon disappear." - p 236

Not if I have anything to do w/ it. While we're not mentioning WWII:

"The reality was that in April and May 1940, which was around the time Krystyna had travelled from France to England, the Soviet authorities in Occupied Poland rounded up the entirety of the officer corps of the Polish army and air force, some twenty-two thousand men in all, transported them to the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in Russia, and massacred them." - pp 248-249

Was that really necessary?! No doubt that was some megalomaniac's wet dream, presumably Stalin's, but it's not mine. I have a bk entitled Katyn - Stalin's Massacre and the Triumph of Truth by Allen Paul wch I haven't read yet & may never read. According to the back cover blurb of this bk, the "U.S. government cover-up of the crime continued long after the war ended." Naturally, that makes me curious: Why wd the US do this?

When Tarent is 1st traveling in the Mebsher & he's been taken to the destination chosen for him the driver doesn't take him to the gate. It was unclear to this reader whether that was b/c there was no road to the gate or b/c the driver of the Mebsher had too busy of a schedule for such precision:

"'But which direction is it from here?'

"'Along this ridge,' the driver said, gesturing with his hand. There was a trace of an old footpath leading away. 'Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle. You'll have to walk the rest of the way. Sorry about that but it's not far. This is as close to the place as we could take you, and this diversion means we are now running late.'" - p 136

The "Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle" seems to indicate that the road leading to the gate was inadequate for the vehicle. However, 146pp later:

"He look across to the south, through the few trees that still stood there, past the first of the Warne buildings, and was rewarded with a glimpse of the huge dark shape of the Mebsher, heading slowly towards the main gate." - p 282

Did you find yrself doing the math to check whether I was correct about the 146pp difference? This apparent discrepancy between descriptions isn't a continuity error on the part of the author, it's an indication of the constantly shifting realities. Even tho he's seen his corpse in a metaphorical shoebox:

"The soldier straightened, glanced around, and for the first time looked directly at Tarent. The two men stared at each other.

"It was Hamid, the young Scot who had been one of the drivers of the Mebsher that brought him here." - p 285

Is my "Even tho" sentence misdirection or a clue?

"'Flo?' Tarent said, his heart racing.

"She looked at him more intently. 'Why do you call me that? Who are you?'" - p 287

This is a shoe-in for one of the most spoiler-spoiling reviews possible. I want to give you the story, b/c I'm writing about it & find it interesting, but I don't want the story to be spoiled for you. As such, I give you significant moments taken so far out of context that they become insignificant for you in terms of The Adjacent & only dubiously significant for you in terms of this review. It's my hope that you'll read this bk & have an AHA! moment in relation to this review. The narrative keeps refreshing itself (p 295), the narrative is a gradual reveal:

"These covered most of their faces, so Tomak Tallant did not even glimpse the woman's face until the second day." - p 297

"Tomak Tallant"? That's awfully similar to "Tibor Tarent", eh?! Priest does what I think most good writers do, he puts it there in front of the reader but doesn't hammer it into the reader's brain, the reader puts whatever number together w/ whatever number to reach whatever number. The characters don't understand what's happening but try to & the reader's put in the same situation. It's not really that hard but the clues take their good ole time to appear:

"'I thought Prachous City was the largest on the island.'

"'It's the capital, but Adjacent is more populous.'

"'What is that name you are using?' Tallant said.

"'The shanty town is know as Adjacent.'

"'Adjacent to what?'

"'I have no idea.'" - p 310

Most wars create refugees but the war or wars in The Adjacent put a new spin on that. Is the 21st century going to be worse than the 20th?!

"'Who are they?' Tallant said. 'Where have they come from? It's supposed to be impossible to get past the border controls.'

"'The people in Adjacent have found a way. In theory they are all at risk of deportation.'

"'So how do they do it?'

"'I've no idea.'

"'You said you were there. Didn't you ask them?'

"'I heard many answers, none of which I understood, and anyway I think none of the stories are true. Ask yourself, Tomak: how did you get to Prachous? Where were you before we met?'

"Tallant felt a cold, familiar inner fear, something he habitually shied away from." - p 311

"Using the ambient light in the hangar, Tarent took a series of rapid shots of the two Lancasters, expecting at any moment that he would be shouted at, or manhandled, or threatened with some breach of the regulations covering this place. But is was as if he was not there. Everyone ignored him. He moved towards some of the men as they worked, took close shots of what they were doing. They continued to ignore him." - p 409

Strange. People are ignoring you? You must be getting older. Maybe they want you to go away & stop being such an embarrassment.

"It was a long room, packed with airmen, the air thick with cigarette smoke. Tarent's first breath made him reel back, gasping. He turned away and re-opened the door, seized by a bout of helpless coughing. Never before in his life had he been in a place so full of smokers." - p 411

He hasn't been to a party in the 1970s yet.

The last page gives mod-a-go-go info-a-go-go:

"For more fantastic fiction, author events, exclusive excerpts, competitions, limited editions and more:

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I like it, there're some communication possibilities. I read an enormous amt of SF & it was nice to read something by someone who's, presumably, still alive. Now the reviewer is gone.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 8, 2017 – Finished Reading
December 21, 2017 – Shelved
December 21, 2017 – Shelved as: sf

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