Christopher Priest is best known for The Prestige, a twisty turny tale of two magicians at constant loggerheads, trying to outbest each other through sleight of hand and all other manners of subterfuge (in case you somehow missed it, Christopher Nolan made it into a very good film starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and, most importantly, David Bowie).
The author likes to pull similar tricks on the reader, as nothing is ever as it seems in a Priest novel, and The Adjacent continues this bamboozling, though extremely fun tradition.
The Adjacent is a perplexing beast, dealing with multiple timelines and characters, including a recently widowed photographer in a near future world, where West London has been levelled by a bomb.
After that opening chapter, we’re suddenly whisked to the first world war (as well as a first person perspective, Priest does like to keep one guessing), where a magician is drafted in to help hide planes from german guns.
In keeping with Priest’s love of melding the fictional with the reality (which in itself is very much in line with what he’s going for. What is real and what is fiction?) the magician runs into one HG Wells, which brings to mind Nikola Tesla’s appearance in The Prestige. Just when we’re settled into these two separate narratives, we’re suddenly in World War II. It doesn’t sit around for very long.
The Adjacent really does keep one on one’s toes, but unlike other novels that are out to turn your brain into a quivering, befuddled jelly, it’s one that stays intriguing without disappearing up its own pipe.
Priest has been around for a while, so he knows how to keep a reader engaged, and The Adjacent is no exception. This is a beautifully written novel; humorous, melancholy and always intriguing.