A Dream of Wessex by Christopher Priest

This took me right back to the 1970s when I read most of my sci-fi. Thoughtful political and social background to a story set in the near future (early 1980s) with projections to a further future. The decay of the environment, scarcity, the division of the world into not surprising blocks all rang true. The world is largely composed of an Islamic bloc including North America and a Soviet bloc including the UK where the story is set. Australia, I’m pleased to report, is one of the few independent countries.

Character development doesn’t stand comparison with Shakespeare, but it compares favourably with the run of the mill science fiction I’ve read so much of. Priest is a polished writer, which makes him easy to read. The basic premise was believable, it’s nice not to have to be convinced to suspend disbelief.

I confess I hadn’t heard of him before, despite being well regarded, most notably these days for having written the book that later became the Nolan movie The Prestige. I could read more. It struck me as rather PK Dick without the drugs.

Trots off to look up that idea online. Spots this:

« Je me sens très différent de Philip K. Dick car ses problèmes avec la réalité sont liés avec la drogue. Tandis que moi, cela a plus à voir avec la psychologie, les croyances, etc.”

My French is pretty lousy, but I take that to be a quote from Priest. I’d rather read a Dick than a Priest and I think that the things Priest does okay, Dick does fabulously.

Interestingly, even though both writers are so concerned with the mind and the nature of reality, there is the same sense for both writers that their books would make great movies. I don’t know why more of Priest’s haven’t been. The thing that is nice about this is that although one feels they would make good movie material, that is quite independent of the books being good. These days there are too many books which have as their only reason for existence the hope that they will be turned into movies.

I guess Priest is a writer not in fashion. I don’t even have a GR friend who has admitted to reading this. Pity!





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