Wait, you ask, You just said you were reading A Dance with Dragons, so where’s that review? I know, I know. I suffer from a common library curse: as soon as I start reading a long book, my ILL requests come in. It happens all the time. Most of the time, that means that the ILL book gets sent back before I can read it, but sometimes it’s worth it to interrupt perfectly good books.
Because The Inverted World is amazing. It’s the most interesting, entertaining book I’ve read in a long time. I read it so quickly because I could not stop. It’s crazy and delightful and entirely addictive. I don’t know how I’d never heard of it (or Christopher Priest) before. Maybe it’s because I don’t read much sci-fi.
If you haven’t read it, you should skip the summary below, find the book, and read it now. Anything I say will be a spoiler because this book is such an experience that you should just read it. So. Go on. It’s okay…
The plot is kind of complicated. I tried to explain it to Palmer yesterday, and said explanation didn’t work too well. Luckily, the internet has graphics. It’s about Helward, a young man who lives in a city on top of a series of railroad tracks. The entire city is moved one mile every ten days. The young man finishes school, gets married, and joins a guild. As an apprentice, he experiences what every guild does: he helps move and lay the tracks, helps with the power supply, fights with the militia, and barters for labor (and women – 75% of the children born in the city are male, but women from outside have females more often) in surrounding villages. He learns about his city and his world through experience. His last task as an apprentice is to return three “transferred” women to their villages, now south of where the city has been moved by about forty miles. As he gets farther away, everything starts to change, and he discovers why the city has to move: everything stretches out due to extreme centrifugal force. Turns out, according to the guildsmen in the city, the planet is shaped like a top with a pole in the north, and the land constantly slides toward the south, where the centrifugal force eventually spins it into nothingness. The city wants to stay in between, a place called optimum. Once Helward joins his own guild, he ventures farther toward the optimum to survey the land for the city’s future movement. He meets a woman who is better educated than most villagers, and Things Happen.
I’ll stop there, but it’s so hard because this book is mind-blowing! I hold it responsible for my not sleeping two nights ago. I made myself stop reading around midnight when I was halfway through, and I didn’t get to sleep until at least 3am because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Which means that I spent lots of time yesterday reading the rest of it so I could go back to A Dance with Dragons and sleep.
As with The Master and Margarita, a Google image search reveals some cool covers of The Inverted World:
This is another case of Goodreads recommendations being spot-on. After I read The Slynx and enjoyed it so much, I browsed through the “Readers also liked” slider and found The Inverted World. I immediately ordered it through ILL when I discovered that my local library (somehow) doesn’t have it. It’s also another case of NYRB Classics being predictably awesome. I’ve loved every one I’ve read so far.