Stage magic is about slight of hand, misdirection, and pointing your audience in one direction while making the illusion happen somewhere else. From ‘The Prestige’ to ‘The Adjacent’, reading a novel by Christopher Priest can make you feel like you are watching a magic trick. You know something is happening right in front of your eyes, but you aren’t always sure what that is. In his latest novel, he sets that same tone but this time is helped by telling his story through time. Ranging from World War I to the second World War to the future, something is happening that connects it all but can you tell what it is? Priest’s works are riddles that you slowly solve as you read, though his novels often require at least one re-read to fully appreciate it.
I should pause here to say it helps if you are familiar with his other works. While not a necessity, it would be a great benefit if the reader has read ‘The Dream Archipelago’, ‘The Affirmation’, and ‘The Islanders’. It won’t make the difference of completely understanding the story or not, but references are made to these works that will make you feel more comfortable.
We open in a possible future where a freelance photographer going by the name of Tibor Tarent is traveling home from Turkey and his wife is killed. Not only is she killed, but it is done using an advanced weapon that has fallen into the hands of terrorists on a political stage that resembles our own Earth but with quite a few differences. This isn’t necessarily our future but it is “a” future of our planet.
Quite abruptly we jump to World War I which involves a stage magician named Tommy Trent that is trying to help the British make their reconnaissance planes invisible to the enemy. This section will feel brief compared to the rest of the novel, but the concept of misdirection is stressed here in a few areas and much of the novel feels that way.
During World War II we see an English technician who first meets a woman who wants nothing more than to go home. This is one portion of the novel that didn’t feel like it was fleshed out or necessary. Eventually, the technician ends up in the Dream Archipelago which is a fantasy world (as I mentioned above, it’s not a necessity to have read that book to understand this).
At this point, if you don’t want any true spoilers of the novel then I have to suggest you stop reading as the next section will start to explain how the tale is weaved together. It isn’t an end all answer, but it is far more satisfying to get to this part on your own.
Not scared away yet?
We move forward and find out about the weapon behind the original attack mentioned in the future portion of the book. It apparently was designed as a defensive weapon and doesn’t actually destroy an object but moves it to an adjacent quantum dimension. The wife in the first portion wasn’t killed, she was moved elsewhere, or else-when.
Time travel? Alternate realities? You might start to think that the various tales told above are starting to make sense and come together things change again. In the very end, a satisfying closure is given, if you’ve been paying attention. But to truly absorb everything that has been laid out on page, you are going to have to re-read the novel at least once.
Overall, I felt that ‘The Adjacent’ was a great read. It isn’t for everyone and if you are looking for something to get lost in that will make perfect sense, then this book isn’t for you. If you want something to stretch your mind and imagination into new places and enjoyed the film ‘The Prestige’? You might want to pick this one up.