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  1. #16
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Good point, odo.

    What do you think about Lotterie-Collago/the stone shoes? A metaphor for author’s ego and narcissism – a desire to live forever through your work?

    I loved the re-drawings of the two central characters in Sinclair's life – Gracia and Felicity. The latter is certainly both Kalia and Lareen. The former – Seri, but I can’t quite figure out Mathilde (on the boat) – is she some kind of abortive first attempt at Gracia?

    The final paragraph of chapter five is puzzling me ... '... I dreamed about her that night ... something ... something and then I found that my understand/interpretation/perception of her had changed ... something'.

    Is she the 'real' Gracia, with the Gracia of London merely a metaphor created by Sinclair who really is living in the Dream Archipelago (looking at the book from the inside out)? Mathilde is certainly a puzzle.

    I can’t quite get to grips with Sinclair's relationship with Lareen/Felicity, which is written with greater subtlety by Priest. It’s every bit as important as his relationship with Gracia/Mathilde – but it’s far tougher to break into. I suppose this is a metaphor for the book, which has a habit of becoming more complex when you think you’ve worked it out …

    TA is certainly tragic, but it’s the terrible loneliness that affected me. If you’re looking to warn people about running away from problems and the dangers of escapism this is the book to begin with. “You’ll never leave the Archipelago” takes on an entirely different – and very sinister – meaning as you hit the final chapters.

    I'm interested in the relationship between the Dream Archipelago of Peter Sinclair and the superb Dream Archipelago short stories. The first tells the tale of a young solider who gets to meet the author of his favourite book (which - interesingly - is called … The Affirmation). A book (and an author) that no one else seems to have heard of.

  2. #17
    Registered User odo's Avatar
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    Err, I think I'd have to re-read some parts of the book since I read quite a while ago and I don't remember the details (especially the names of the characters which I always tend to forget). But I do remember the impression that everything (everyone) in London is strongly related to something (someone) in the Dream Archipielago. The Seri/Gracia relationship was the most striking one (and the one I remember more clearly). At first, it seems that Seri is a "rewriting" of Gracia but with all the things that were annoying to Sinclair cleared away. It is an invention of Sinclair and she is completely dominated by him (that was my impression, at least). But soon she "takes control of herself" and diverges from what Sinclair intended her to be. And every moment she resembles Gracia more and more. That was a kind of revelation to me: is Priest saying that we can't control our own lifes? That we are only metaphores of ourselves? I find this idea certainly frightening, but deeply interesting. We can try to reinvent ourselves, but maybe there are forces (the destiny?) which is far beyond our control.

  3. #18
    Registered User cloudXXI's Avatar
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    Talking

    "I don’t think I’ve learned as much about the art of writing, the complexities and sophistication of narrative structuring and the nature of memory from any other author … and yet – paradoxically - every Priest book also leaves me thinking I’ve understood nothing at all."

    You MUST read The separation. It´s just another level of "the complexities and sophistication of narrative structuring and the nature of memory".

    Priest is working in his next book called "The Dual", a book about islands nobody can see, it could be great.

    I´m sorry but I read The affirmation some time ago and I can´t say too much about it. I remember being shocked with the last sentence of the book and searching for its meaning..when I found everything fits perfectly I felt something few times I have felt with a book. A feeling of joy for reading (and understanding) a truly masterpiece, a book written for an inteligent writter, for inteligent readers, a challenge. I think Priest only reach such a level with the short story "The negation".

    Anyway, in order to understand the way Priest thinks, I´m going to quote a conversation with the author, there are spoilers of The separation, The affirmation, The glamour and The prestige:

    Question:

    >Ok, I have to recognize that at the end of the book (talking about The separation)I felt totally lost. I have read The prestige, Inverted
    >World, The affirmation, The glamour, The separation
    >and The Dream Archipielago. I thought that all your
    >stories had a "clear" and "true" end, a definitive
    >"version", I think I have discovered the "true" end of
    >The affirmation (the "real" story is the London story
    >and the Jethra part is something Peter imagine in his
    >madness), The glamour (they aren´t invisible, they are
    >just people nobody pay attention at, and practically
    >all the story is the book Niall wrotte in his madness)
    >and The prestige (Borden has a twin. Is correct? So I
    >was trying hard to discover the true version of The
    >separation; and when I read the interview (made to Priest about the book)I realise that, maybe, the version I had found in that books is
    >just nothing but one among many versions.
    >
    >Am I right?, There are "true" versions of that books
    >or "The story is there, but there is not a single
    >"true" or definitive" version"
    >as happens in The separation?

    Answer from Priest:

    No, I would disagree that there is
    always a definitive version. That would suggest
    that each book is a puzzle that has to be solved,
    a challenge to the reader ... something that
    makes you feel clever when you find the answer
    (or foolish when you don't). I think of them as
    merely stories, books written to entertain, while
    giving the reader something to wonder about.

    I always like to leave DOUBT in my
    books. Doubt is the story of my life -- I have
    difficulty believing in anything that is said to
    be true. So, if anyone is in any doubt about one
    of my books, I say that's a good thing.

    HOWEVER ... I do understand that doubt
    can make readers feel a little cheated, or make
    them feel they have missed the point, and I
    really don't want to do that. For instance, I
    would say that your interpretation of the other
    books is accurate. But take The Glamour for
    example. You say: "they aren´t invisible, they
    are just people nobody pay attention at, and
    practically all the story is the book Niall
    wrotte in his madness." That's all correct. BUT,
    at the same time, isn't there something uncannily
    "true" about the idea that some people are so
    "ordinary" looking that no one notices them? It's
    a feeling I certainly have, when I'm trying to
    call a waiter in a restaurant, etc. So I would
    claim that this "truth" is as important as the
    literal truth of whatever the story might say.
    Yes, these people are not invisible, in the usual
    sense they are transparent (and so on), but they
    are psychologically invisible. Everything that
    Niall writes might be literally "true", but it might also be in
    metaphor.

    Yes, Borden is two people, identical twins.

    Yes, London is more real than Jethra.

    And so on. None of this is a game: it's
    my way of trying to make people think enjoyably.
    In fact, intelligent dispute (such as you display
    in your e-mail to me) is exactly the BEST response I could hope for.

    In The Separation there is no definitive
    truth. Just one: the real world in which we live,
    in which I wrote the book and in which people
    live who read the book. There is no changing
    history: right or wrong, WW2 worked out the way
    it did. But I saw The Separation as a series of
    questions about the way history treats the war. I
    ask: what would have happened if [something had
    happened differently]? Or: did [some incident in
    the war] really happen the way they told us it
    did? Or: why did they try to make a secret of
    [something that happened]? Or: where does the
    truth lie? The one thing I know for certain about
    WW2, and all wars, is that no one ever tells the
    whole truth about what went on, because war is an
    inherent evil. People who fight wars always feel
    guilty afterwards, and they try to blame others
    for what went wrong, or they make excuses for
    what they actually did. All we have to go on is
    history ... but history is always written by the side who won the war!

    At the end of the novel, afflicted by
    hallucinations, Joe is confronted with the
    possibility that all his efforts to bring an
    early end to the war (that is, the peace deal
    between Hess and Churchill in Stockholm) might in
    fact have been another hallucination. He fears he
    is dying, and he believes that if he dies then
    the Stockholm peace will die too. So he tries to
    cling to life to preserve that peace, even though
    his own life is full of confusion: his wife seems
    to be building a relationship with another man
    (Harry Gratton), his own twin brother (JL) might
    or might not be the father of the child she has
    just given birth to, he might have been driven
    insane by the injuries he has suffered in the
    bombing. But ... suppose the peace deal in
    Stockholm actually was real -- why would the
    death of one man affect that? (Surely, only if he had in fact imagined
    it?!)

    The reader has only one solid knowledge:
    the peace deal in Stockholm did NOT take place
    ... because we know that iin reality in 1941 the
    war suddenly grew much worse. Germany invaded
    Russia, Japan attacked the USA, Britain began
    systematically bombing the German cities into
    ruin. The idea I was trying to convey was: maybe
    the peace I described might have been better than
    that? Britain and Germany not fighting any more,
    the European Countries released from German
    occupation, a deal worked out about moving the
    Jews out of Germany, so avoiding the worst
    excesses of the Holocaust ... and several other
    things that never happened in reality, but which
    might have been better if they had! (I didn't
    have any suggestions about what might have
    happened to Franco. There are limits to how much
    any one writer can tackle in a novel.)

    Sorry, I am probably answering you in
    too much detail. Your English is excellent, but I
    do not want to take advantage of your good nature
    and intelligent curiosity. The main thing I want
    to convey to you is that if YOU feel you have
    missed something about the end of the novel, that is not true.


    P.D.: Odo, Dios los cria y ellos se juntan . Y es que al final somos cuatro gatos en esto de las novelas de "marcianitos"

  4. #19
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Thanks for that post, Cloud. It's confirmed a few ideas I've had running through my mind. In the Dream Archipelago story "The Negation" Priest pretty much lays his cards on the table with respect to intepretations of his work i.e. it's pretty much up to the individual. There is no right and wrong answer. Moylita Kaine is the obvious Priest mouthpiece and Dik must symbolise every fan that's ever queried Priest on his works.

    The Glamour is a fantastic piece of work. I love the bit where Susan attempts to convince Richard she's invisible by walking naked in front of a family watching a football game on the TV and saying 'Look - they can't see me!'

  5. #20
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    40 pages into The Extremes.

    Man, this author is some piece of work!

  6. #21
    Registered User odo's Avatar
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    "The extremes" is not one of my favourite Priest novels. Anyway, it has some quite interesting ideas. Maybe it has one of the least ambiguous endings in Priest's works.

  7. #22
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by odo
    "The extremes" is not one of my favourite Priest novels. Anyway, it has some quite interesting ideas.
    I enjoyed The Extremes immensely. It's one of the most beautifully crafted books I've read (along the lines of Le Carre at his peak). His writing is so polished it slides into the mind without friction. In other Priest books I've thought the odd line, paragraph or passage might have been snipped, but not this one. In fact, I'd say this book is Priest writing at his best.

    I love the way he goes about meticulously describing Teresa's equally meticulous personality and then begins to undermine it – through the world around her – one detail at a time.

    Did you get the clue in Chapter I?

    Maybe it has one of the least ambiguous endings in Priest's works.
    I've been looking through some of the Amazon.com/co.uk reviews and I'm struggling to understand the antipathy towards the ending. I love it. It's a logical end-point to Teresa's development as a character and thus works perfectly.

  8. #23
    Registered User odo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mugwump
    Did you get the clue in Chapter I?
    Do you mean all that stuff about the mirror, the little girl and the gun?


    Quote Originally Posted by Mugwump
    I've been looking through some of the Amazon.com/co.uk reviews and I'm struggling to understand the antipathy towards the ending. I love it. It's a logical end-point to Teresa's development as a character and thus works perfectly.
    Don't get me wrong, I think the ending is good and fits perfectly with the rest of the novel. But I find something different in this book when compared with other Priest's novels. It lacks, imho, the deepness of other works and the treatment of virtual/alternative reality is just to simple for my taste (compared to Dick, Tony Ballantyne or Egan).

  9. #24
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by odo
    Do you mean all that stuff about the mirror, the little girl and the gun?
    No, much later ... at the end. There's a huge clue that something's not quite right.

    Don't get me wrong, I think the ending is good and fits perfectly with the rest of the novel. But I find something different in this book when compared with other Priest's novels. It lacks, imho, the deepness of other works and the treatment of virtual/alternative reality is just to simple for my taste (compared to Dick, Tony Ballantyne or Egan).
    I think it’s a profoundly deep and thought-provoking ending - perhaps the best of all his works. The book is essentially a story about grief, how we deal with it and what choices we would make given the chance to go back in time. Throughout the novel Teresa tries to emotionally distance herself from ExEx: it’s all VR - it’s not “real”. In the end she realises that it’s no less real than reality. With ExEx she gets the chance not only to resurrect her dead husband but put right all the things that weren’t so in her marriage. Whether she’ll ultimately be happy inhabiting VR with her husband is left for the reader to ponder.

    In many ways it’s very similar to Stephen Soderbergh’s Solaris.

  10. #25
    Registered User odo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mugwump
    No, much later ... at the end. There's a huge clue that something's not quite right.
    I''l have to re-read. I haven't got my copy right here, but I'll try to take a look at it tonight.


    The book is essentially a story about grief, how we deal with it and what choices we would make given the chance to go back in time.
    Yes, but I didn't find the disquisition very interesting or deep. A kind of "oh, I'll try again and I'll sure make it right this time; oh, d*mn, I failed again, why it has to be so difficult?". It's ok, but no so profound, imo. And then we have the usual Priest issue of what is reality and what is not. I don't find the technology behind ExEx to be very believable, so all the confussion between reality and simulation looses strength. That's the weakest point of the novel for me.

  11. #26
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by odo
    I''l have to re-read. I haven't got my copy right here, but I'll try to take a look at it tonight.
    If you look at the end of Chapter I

    A brilliant white light suddenly surrounds her.
    Teresa is out of the car when the light comes on. But when Amy turns the exterior light on she's still in the car. Don't forget - the entrance to an ExEx session coincides with being surrounded by a brilliant white light. The possible implication of this is obvious, and would go some way toward explaining some of the bizarre occurances in Teresa's visit to "Bulverton".

    Yes, but I didn't find the disquisition very interesting or deep. A kind of "oh, I'll try again and I'll sure make it right this time; oh, d*mn, I failed again, why it has to be so difficult?".
    I'm not sure what you are talking about here.

    It's ok, but no so profound, imo. And then we have the usual Priest issue of what is reality and what is not. I don't find the technology behind ExEx to be very believable, so all the confussion between reality and simulation looses strength. That's the weakest point of the novel for me.
    I don't find the technology any less believable than most of the perfect VR mechanisms described by contemporary SF authors. The difference is Priest doesn't spend twenty pages explaining the technical whatnots. I like the way the links between Teresa and Grove start multiplying exponentially near the end. I have a passing interest in "Small World" paradigms (six degrees of separation etc.) and this ties in nicely. Indeed, there’s a strong link with sociological/anthropological metrics (calculating the probability that a killer will appear in a certain area) which I find fascinating.

    I also like the way he weaves shareware into the ExEx concept. I remember years ago when Doom first arrived and ID software opened .wad files up for enthusiasts to play with. This really is the logical "last step" in VR/gaming.

  12. #27
    Registered User cloudXXI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mugwump
    If you look at the end of Chapter I

    Teresa is out of the car when the light comes on. But when Amy turns the exterior light on she's still in the car. Don't forget - the entrance to an ExEx session coincides with being surrounded by a brilliant white light. The possible implication of this is obvious, and would go some way toward explaining some of the bizarre occurances in Teresa's visit to "Bulverton".
    Are you sure? I´ve re-readed it (spanish translation) and she´s out of the car trying to catch something from inside the car.

    Could you write the english edition?

    Are you trying to say she´s already in an ExEx session?

  13. #28
    the puppet master ArthurFrayn's Avatar
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    I don't think I've seen you so starstruck Mr. Wump except for maybe with Brian Aldiss. Gotta see wtf this is about.
    My brother had recommended The Prestige when it first came out and I bought it. I think I'll move it up in the TBR pile...
    Last edited by ArthurFrayn; May 20th, 2006 at 12:13 AM.

  14. #29
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudXXI
    Are you sure? I´ve re-readed it (spanish translation) and she´s out of the car trying to catch something from inside the car.

    Could you write the english edition?
    At last she collects some of her stuff and climbs out. A brilliant white light suddenly surrounds her.

    Yet when Amy turns the light on she's '...reaching in through the open rear passenger door'.

    Are you trying to say she´s already in an ExEx session?
    There's a lot of evidence that points to this:

    1. She's introduced in the same fashion 'Her name is Teresa Simmons' / 'Her name was Sammie Jessup' etc.
    2. The flashback sequences at the bar, on the road (with the man dangling from the roof). These are difficult to explain, even as hallucinations.
    3. The encounter with Mitchell in the corridor in which Teresa bizarrely jumps into a bed with a man she clearly despises (Mitchell's actions - especially his words - vaguely remind me of a game player/designer using cheat codes).
    4. Bulverton is described as being a small town in decline with a population made up of people close to or at retirement age, and yet GunHo chooses to build a hi-tech (and presumably expensive) ExEx facility there. Even more surprising is it's overbooked.

    There are quite a few things about ExEx that seem fishy, too. As mentioned, the technology is curious. The nanobots I can accept, but the data-capture methods and the way the scenario is recreated - perfectly - from a handful of witnesses who, no doubt, would have been under immense stress at the time raise a few suspicions. We know that it is possible to enter an ExEx session whilst in an ExEx session. Teresa may well have done this before we meet her in the opening pages. Indeed, it's possible "Teresa" is being occupied by someone else (a man?) and thus isn't Teresa at all.

    That said, in the context of the novel and the underpinning themes it really doesn't make any difference if Teresa inhabits 'reality' or not. If the line between reality and virtual reality is invisible – as is the case in this novel – virtual “Teresa” and the world she inhabits is as real as the keyboard I’m typing on.

  15. #30
    Registered User Mugwump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurFrayn
    I don't think I've seen you so starstruck Mr. Wump except for maybe with Brian Aldiss. Gotta see wtf this is about.
    LOL! He's easily my favourite author of the moment. Complex and thought-provoking material conveyed with accessible prose. His themes are the unreliability of memory and how we perceive reality through our memories. I've read six of his novels and loved every one.

    In many ways he’s similar to Philip K. Dick (in most of his novels “reality” is either undermined or pulled from under your feet completely) although he works less with ‘traditional’ SF tropes and is a far better writer (I enjoy the paradoxes and conundrums that PKD creates, but I’m not enamoured with his delivery).

    My brother had recommended The Prestige when it first came out and I bought it. I think I'll move it up in the TBR pile...
    The Prestige is a good starting point. Be sure to play very careful attention to what’s being said. Priest litters his novels with subtle clues that can be missed if you don’t know what to expect. After that you can either go with his early – meat and potatoes – SF (still very good) such as The Inverted World or The Space Machine or you might try his later stuff (which is tangentially SF – and many other genres) beginning with The Affirmation.

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