The Dream Archipelago Wrap


This thread is intended as a wrap-up up the entire Dream Archipelago slow read effort.

We read:
The Islanders (a sort of travelogue with inserted short stories)
The Dream Archipelago (a collection of previously published short stories)
The Gradual (a novel)

Other novels set in this setting include The Affirmation (often declared to be Priest's best novel), The Adjacent, and The Evidence (Priest's most recent novel).

@RichardAbbott and I have already spoken of reading The Adjacent together. I've already read the other two (of which I find The Affirmation to be the more successful). The Evidence is a mystery novel, in which the narrator is himself a writer of mystery novels. The narrator tells us all the things a writer of mystery novels should never do (and yet Priest himself is doing all these things! So it's rather meta.)

Does anyone have any further thoughts on this series or setting to share? Reception was rather mixed, but does anyone other than Richard and I feel compelled to read more books set here?

Any thoughts on a slow read for next year? Since @NeilNjae and I have both done one recently, I would fall on @RichardAbbott , @clash_bowley , or @BarnerCobblewood to lead one. Personally, I'm still liking the idea of doing The Silmarillion + Book of Lost Tales or Titus Groan/Gormenghast, but I know not eveyone is keen on those. Another possibility might by the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, though I gather the books rather lose steam after the first two.


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    First off, many thanks to @Apocryphal for stepping up to lead the slow read. It was an opportunity to finally engage with an author that's been at the back of my mind for a while.

    I thought the Dream Archipelago was the best read of the three. The stories were long enough to engage, but Priest didn't have to maintain consistency over more than a few ideas. The Gradual felt like a disjointed set of good ideas, and The Islanders was an experiment that didn't quite work. I think the reason the novels didn't work is that Priest likes to introduce ideas but not develop them.

    I'm not in a great rush to read more Priest novels.

    I like the idea of slow reads and would be happy to take part in another. What we read is another matter. The ideas above all seem good, and there's always the suggestion of Dune trilogy.

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    Yes, thanks @Apocryphal for introducing this series of books and persevering :)

    As you all know, I did come in the end to like what I think CP was trying to do with these books - while still being frustrated by his commitment to lack of consistency and systematic development of ideas. Having thought about it some more over the last week or so, I remain convinced that in The Gradual he was trying to write something about the time dilation effects of special relativity, but without any real adherence to said theory or its implications overall. But he was (and reasonably enough) intrigued by the idea that different observers would perceive each other's flow of time differently.

    I totally agree with @NeilNjae that "I think the reason the novels didn't work is that Priest likes to introduce ideas but not develop them" to which I'd echo the point we made a week ago that he has a tendency to introduce too many ideas to ever be able to develop them properly.

    I was disappointed that The Gradual did not seem to develop the specific musical referent of the title (a choral theme of declaration plus congregational responses forming part of a larger liturgical work) though music in general was of course central. My take on Dream Archipelago and The Gradual is that he was trying to address issues of synaesthesia in a variety of ways - I haven't read anything else of his to know if this is a perennial topic or not. For me The Islanders didn't click, but maybe if I went back now and reread it it would make more sense, But I can't quite imagine myself doing that. I am keen on reading The Adjacent however, to see if this confirms or (probably more likely) refutes my current thinking.

    Another vague disappointment, which I hadn't really thought about until now, was that the Archipelago doesn't seem to me to be very dreamlike! To be sure, there are some specific events that happen in the three books which could be accounts of dreams, but I haven't come away with a sense of dreaming (in either the daydream or nightmare sense). I'm not really sure what my impression of the Archipelago is, with its odd blend of being very contemporary in terms of technology and thought-life but also alien in terms of not Earthlike (leaving aside the analogies with the Greek Islands etc, which sometimes fits and sometimes doesn't).

    Personally I really like this concept of the slow read, and I'm quite sure that I have got more out of all the books (even NK Jemisin's Broken Earth series) than I would have done on a quick read. So I'm enthusiastic about another one. I have come across several references to Gormenghast of late but have never read it. Dune I am very very familiar with, but always happy to reread. Silmarillion almost the same sentiments. Philip Pullman: I totally loved the first in the series on reading it, but was disappointed with numbers 2 and 3 which I felt were stale and rather derivative (plus he increasingly lets his personal rhetoric and beliefs get the better of the storyline :) ). But it is a long time since I read the series, and I did enjoy the recent BBC version of books 1+2 (3 still to come) so maybe I should give them another chance? In short, I'm sufficiently committed to the idea that if nobody else wanted to lead one, I would happily fill in, but I have doubts about my ability to lead as well or interestingly as the slow reads to date.

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    Overall, I thought the best were some of the stories in Dream Archipelago. I quite enjoyed a number of them. My feeling is they were short enough that Priest was able to stay out of trouble explaining things. Neil has it - he comes up with great ideas, but is hopeless at developing those ideas. The Islanders was less successful, though I liked one or two of the stories. Perhaps it was the presentation. The Gradual did not work for me. Priest is an author I had read before - the Prestige was excellent - but I had always been intrigued by the premise of this series. I would not read more.

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