The Dream Archipelago BONUS CONTENT! - The Adjacent, by Christopher Priest


Yes, this thread is where @RichardAbbott and discuss our reading of the adjacent, which for many of your readers, amounts to a BONANZA of Dream archipelago content for FREE FREE FREE! I realize others might think of this thread more as a penalty box, but that can't be helped.
I may post one thread per section as I read them - though of course, Richard, feel free to start one if you beat me to that section. This will let us move at different paces.

I suggest not reading any further if you are worried about SPOILERS, but this thread only covers part 1.

Part 1 - IRGB

Dec 06 - I have now reached the end of part one, which SURPRISE doesn't take place in the Dream Archipelago at all, but rather in Britain, and more specifically in the IRGB. Now, the meaning of IRGB is not so far spelled out to us in this book, but it is quite obviously not the Britain we know and love. Having read an earlier book by Priest called A Dream of Wessex, I believe we are now in the Britain of that book - which is to say, the Islamic Republic of Great Britain. This theory is borne out as we progress through the chapter - the Minister of Defense is an Arab prince. English women wear hijabs and burkas. Alcohol is somewhat verboten.

Our main character in this section is named Tibor Tarent - a British citizen of mixed east European and American descent. An ARTIST. He's a photographer - of what? Anything, it seems. He's recently returned from Turkey where his wife was KILLED in some kind of unusual bombing incident. We follow him from the time he lands to just before his scheduled de-briefing. We seem to be in a near future - there are smart phones, some kind of Hummer-like military transport vehicle known as a 'Mebsher' is common. Tibor has three high tech cameras - they don't have optical lenses, but quantum ones. As we progress into the story, we learn that quantum lenses have 'Adjacency' issues, which makes them now illegal in the IRGB. And somehow, the attack that killed his wife, as well as a larger one in London, and more around the world - are also somehow linked to the concept of 'ADJACENCY'. All we know is that the attack leaves a blackened triangular blast area that's perfectly EQUILATERAL, and seems to erase everything inside. Is this the effect of Adjacency - to move things into parallel worlds? Like from the IRGB to our world to the DREAM archipelago?

We're only introduced to the concept here. Answers will have to wait. We might (HORROR!) have to provide our own!


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    My feeling is that the first section is set some 50-100 years ahead of now. Climate change has reduced much of the countryside to wasteland, with trees in particular now very scarce, either because they can no longer grow or because people have out of desperation cut them down for resources. Much of Europe is uninhabitable for this and other reasons (not least the roving gangs of insurrectionists who prey on communities and travellers). Storms of truly devastating magnitude cross the country frequently - curiously, I am writing this having cleared up after Storm Arwen a few days, and we are waiting for Storm Barra later today or tonight. However, although Arwen felled a lot of trees and left quite a few thousand houses in northern England and Scotland without electricity, it was insignificant compared to the "Temperate Storms" of this book.

    Also, Tibor is told that he once met a speculative scientist who appears to have a theoretical knowledge of these 'Adjacency issues' but Tibor has no memory of the event. His working assumption is that the meeting - if it ever happened - was by chance and held no significance to him at the time. As readers, no doubt we are all thinking - this was probably the most important meeting of the book so far...

    Thoughts (partly motivated by starting the second section already):
    1) Tibor, like so many of CP's male characters, comes across a woman (with cool but unspecified cyber-implants) whose main intention is to get him into bed, and succeeds within a very short time of their first real conversation.

    2) My own working hypothesis is that each section will bring into a focus a different time and place (and, methinks, a different but closely aligned alternative reality very close to our own but not identical). I think that CP is again exploring in narrative form a Many Worlds hypothesis, with the quantum lenses of Tibor's cameras a crossover trigger, no doubt along with other similar devices using Adjacency technology. The characters think that the London disaster was a terrorist bombing... my guess is that it was a lab experiment gone wrong.

    3) Issues of secrecy and private knowledge play a big part. The main female - you know, the one who just wanted to bed Tibor - has these unspecified implants, has probably not given away her real first name (and certainly not her surname), and challenged Tibor about taking photographs of her without her permission while they were still in the Mebsher vehicle. The country itself is pretty much under martial law, and curiosity about the wider situation is discouraged. Europe and the Near East even more so, and as yet we know nothing at all about other parts of the world.

    At this point I am enjoying the read, largely as a kind of mystery novel where the reader's task is to discover the connections and underlying significance of things. There has been no concrete exploration yet of anything to do with the Dream Archipelago of the other books, and I am hoping (perhaps unwisely) that in the subsequent pages we might learn something about the relationship between our world and said archipelago.

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    I’m enjoying it a lot, so far, and more than The Gradual. This book so far doesn’t stretch disbelief quite so far. I like that the second part has a completely different writing style from the first. In the first section, he uses that clinical, matter of fact style that he mainly used through the other DA books. The second part is warmer, a little more antiquated. And has some nice surprises (discussion of which for the next thread).

    Priest doesn’t spend a lot of time on descriptions, yet he seems to be able to paint fairly vivid pictures into my mind of Tibor’s surroundings. He must be a master at getting the reader to fill in the blanks. I think he barely describes the woman at all. We know she has hair, a burka, and under all that an implant on her neck. Do we know anything more concrete about her appearance?

    Scanning ahead a bit, we will definitely come back to Tibor in later sections.
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    @Apocryphal said:
    ... I think he barely describes the woman at all. We know she has hair, a burka, and under all that an implant on her neck. Do we know anything more concrete about her appearance?

    Actually she doesn't wear either hijab or burqa... "[her face] was half shrouded by a scarf or shawl, a concession many Western women made to Islamic convention, but not formally hijab" - narratively useful as it means Tobor gets to see occasional glimpses of her neck, and also indicating that she is compliant with social conventions but probably not committed to them. And maybe it has something to do with the implant.

    Perhaps most significantly, she seems at first to Tibor to closely resemble his dead wife Melanie, though the resemblance becomes more superficial the more he gets to know her (in all senses of that phrase). She has shoulder-length, straight fine brown hair. We may yet find that she was selected to contact and proposition him specifically because of that resemblance?

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    edited December 2021


    Might as well continue on in the same thread as we head into Part II. As I mentioned above, I really liked that this had a different writing style. There was a naivete to it, which served to capture the period, I felt.

    So here we are arriving if France near the beginning of the Great War. Our viewpoint character (this chapter is written first person) is Tommy Trent, AKA The LORD OF MYSTERY. 'TOMMY' and 'Trent (trench)' both somehow evocative of this war. The Lord of Mystery was the name of a character in The Islanders, as you may recall, who performed illusions using a large piece of glass that subsequently fell on a well-deserving MIME-ARTISTE and killed him.

    Tommy meets another interesting character on the train, named BERT. Bert Wells. Herbert G. Wells. H.G. Wells, in other words. They speak about one of Well's books, and Tom teaches Bert a trick or two. I found this whole episode to be quite CHARMING. As we learned when we read THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, Christopher Priest is a VICE PRESIDENT of the H.G. Wells society - so he has every reason to know something about Bert Wells - and I have every reason to think this episode has some authenticity.

    Its curious, though, that it really amounts to very little, isn't it? A piece of fan fiction? I've speculated before that I think THE LORD OF MYSTERY is a stand in for Priest, himself, in his own novels. So here's Priest telling us (fantasizing?) about meeting one of his literary heroes on a train, both going to accomplish great things at the front, and then not doing so.

    Priest meets Wells again in the train station back home, and both seem befuddled and frustrated by their experience. Is this whole chapter based on a real episode from Well's life? I don't know his biography enough to say, but I like to think it is.

    Adjacency is mentioned briefly in this chapter - in the context of a magical trick in which the audience's attention is distracted from one thing by placing another, more interesting, thing adjacent to it. Is this the same 'adjacency' we met in part 1, or something else? Did Priest himself somehow distract our attention from something by showing us something more interesting?

    The next section returns us to Tibor. Will we find a connection between these two stories, or will part 2 only ever seem like a fan fiction interlude?

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    I agree that the complete change of scenery was refreshing and inventive, especially when backed up by the change in writing style. Seeing as how part 3 goes back to Tibor and follows linearly on from part 1, I did wonder if we were going to alternate between two timelines (I have not flicked forward to check).

    Thanks for the reminders about the Lord of Mystery in Islanders, I had completely forgotten that link.

    But yes... the big mystery of this chapter is that it seems to have no purpose! My current theory (unless we revisit the Trent-Wells axis in ch4) is that the real purpose is to educate us about the role of adjacency in magic, and that one key use is for the magician to have a clearly visible action which is irrelevant, plus a disguised (but often in clear view) action which is the real operative factor. What does that mean here? Is Tibor the overtly visible one who is actually irrelevant, and Tommy Trent the real motive force?

    On the assumption that the quantum adjacency which was flagged as both illegal and harmful to health (which to us suspicious 21st century citizens immediately suggests that it is actually really useful but The Government Doesn't Want You To Know) is fundamentally the same as the adjacency of magicians, then maybe we're going to get some kind of subtle connection between our world and that of The Dream Archipelago? That they're actually side by side but our attention is snared by one rather than the other.

    This in turn reminds me a bit of the travel between places of Piranesi. which was largely undescribed but there were hints that some kind of distraction was needed to get the traveller's mind to slip away from our world and into The House.

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    I thought I'd chip in with part 3 - a little shorter than the first two, and continuing the saga of Tibor. He is propositioned again by implant lady (who calls herself Flo, but with the suggestion that this is not her real name). She wants him to bypass the debriefing at a farm in Lincolnshire - now used as a military camp - and go straight to Hull (having driven several times across Lincolnshire recently, I'd say on purely aesthetic grounds that that would be a good choice). But Tibor, drawn as he is to the possibility of spending more time with her (and, indeed, more time in bed) decides that he really ought to go with the original plan.

    So he leaves the Mebsher a short distance from the farm and starts out to walk the remaining short distance which, mysteriously, the all-terrain vehicle cannot manage (note to non-UK readers - Lincolnshire is astonishingly flat and it's hard to think of any plausible reason for this inability... so maybe it's part of some kind of military protocol or jurisdiction issue). But then - shock horror - he witnesses the Mebsher and all its occupants (including Flo) being zapped by what we presume is the same means of destruction which killed his wife and wiped out large parts of West London. The blast zone is a perfect triangle and the detonation was initiated by a flash at the apex of a zone above the vehicle.

    Tibor is unharmed and gets himself to the camp, preferring to avoid being spotted and interrogated by the soldiers who come out to the explosion site. Then it all gets a bit weird and military-bureaucratic (I don't think CP likes the military) and as a result Tibor is given the run-around by various staff members, assigned the wrong room, given the brush-off, and told that he shouldn't be there anyway, but rather in Hull (I assume that Flo had already triggered some official rerouting orders for him, but we don't know this for sure). Tibor is well fed up, but then encounters a woman who -like him - has lost everything meaningful in her life to what is explained as terrorist attacks. They find solace with each other (but platonically, which shows remarkable restraint on the part of CP) and the chapter closes with them being upset with each other, and seemingly both of them have nowhere to go.

    So... we don't really get much further in or understanding of the world, or Adjacency, but we do get to learn a lot more about Tibor, and just how messed up this particular world is... what with climate change, social unrest in pretty much all of Europe and the Near East, and now an apparently unstoppable weapon in the hands of groups bent on insurrection, it all looks very bleak.

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    Good summary! No, indeed, Priest doesn't seem to like either the military or bureaucrats. He's forever describing how unimaginative people can make what ought to be simple exchanges a real bore as soon as one piece of their formula is missing.

    I get the feeling that although she says 'Flo' isn't her real name, that it really is her real name - or at least more real than other names she's using. Maybe a childhood name, or a nick-name she always identified with. I don't think there's anything concrete in the text to suggest this - it's just my impression.

    Bleak was definitely how I was feeling after finishing this part, too.

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    Not to be confused with south Essex. The year is sometime after 2023. Our main viewpoint character in this section is Jane Flockhart, a journalist. She's in East Sussex to interview a physicist named Thijs Rietveld, who is most famous for inventing the Perturbative Adjacent Field, or PAF. This was billed as an 'infallable weapon of passive defense', also called The Weapon That Will End War. The idea is that this field moves an incoming weapon into an 'adjacent quantum dimension' before it strikes, this making weapons themselves obsolete. But the PAF itself could never be used as a weapon... silly rabbits.

    Anyway, Jane is interviewing Rietveld for an article. Eventually a photographer arrives to take pictures to accompany the article. Surprise! It's Tibor Tarent - an earlier version of him. Tibor takes Rietveld out into the garden to photograph him, and when he comes back, he seems somewhat mystified. He says that he will never forget this very interesting man (never mind that in the last chapter, set in the future, Tibor seems to have forgotten him).

    One thing that made Rietveld so interesting was his ability to move a conch shell from hand to hand without actually moving it. He snaps pictures showing the shell in the left hand, the right hand, both hands, and no hands. It's literally a shell game!

    There's also an apparatus in the yard which is a model tetrahedron. This one's just a model. A real one would be a weapon. Since this seems to fit the bill as the weapon that leaves triangular dead zones, presumably it will indeed become a weapon. Actually, by the time this interview takes place, I think it has already been weaponized and turned to ill.

    The day after the interview, Thijs kills himself.

    What's the significance of the shell game? How come there's one shell, or no shells, or two shells?
    What do we make of the fact that Tibor says he'll never forget Thijs, yet in the very last chapter he had forgotten Thijs?
    Is there more to Jane Flockhart than meets the eye?

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    @Apocryphal said:
    Not to be confused with south Essex.

    Although the two are not all that far apart as the crow flies, by regular transport you'd have to plough through (or round) London :)

    Questions I had:
    1) Is this the same timeline as the main Tibor Tarent one, albeit somewhat earlier, or an adjacent different reality? For example, the UK is referred to as such, rather than IRGB. There are no mega-storms, and no hint of climate change. Commuter trains run every half hour into Charing Cross. It is a pleasant summer's day, with bees, buddleias and roses on show. It is utterly normal and contemporary.

    2) A near-parallel world would also explain why Tibor has forgotten the event, though to be fair with the long list of calamities which are going to occur between the now of section 4 and the now of sections 1 and 3, it's a wonder Tibor can remember his own name...

    3) Why is Rietveld so anxious that Tibor not photograph the apparatus itself? It reminded me of one of the recurring Thunderbirds themes, where there was a huge antipathy to anyone (esp the Hood) taking pictures of the various vehicles, as though an external pic could tell you all kinds of secret about how the thing actually worked.

    4) Why on earth would Rietveld kill himself? It seems an extreme reaction, to say the least.

    5) Quantum annihilation operators. Way hay :) this seems pure CP to me - he has picked up on a valid technical term and built part of a world around it which has only very tenuous connections to the original. I actually don't have a problem with that, given that we know he doesn't (and doesn't want to) write hard sf. But in the proper sense creation and annihilation operators are mappings of a system up and down energy levels from the ground state in appropriate size quantum increments - also called ladder operators for this reason. There's a lot of technobabble about bosons and supersymmetry which is kind of cool but unstructured and reads to me like a kind of random heap of particle physics words!

    But... given that he has introduced annihilation operators, and morphed them into a means to annihilate things by moving them "sideways" into another quantum dimension... how could he (Rietveld ) ever possibly have imagined that this could not be weaponised? Seems kind of totally obvious to me. But... and here's the cool bit... is he (CP) going to subsequently introduce creation operators (the adjoint of annihilation ones) as a means of getting things from the adjacent reality into ours? Which could be how the shell game works? (and is even more easily weaponised than the first ones, I suspect). The whole thing raises questions to me as to how CP imagines you would fine-tune the apparatus to, as it were, select which adjacent reality you want? Maybe in the original defensive conception nobody cares - you are just getting rid of the attacking thing - but in other contexts this would surely be kind of crucial? But, again, I suspect CP will not be inclined to go into that sort of depth.

    So, an interesting chapter, though quite short. I can see how it dovetails with the IRGB-based chapters, but this still leaves our WW1 chapter with Tommy Trent and HG Wells dangling as a bit of a loose end. Was it relevant to the book, or just a bit of self-indulgence on CP's part?

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    I think think you are quite correct that this is an alternate reality, rather than something purely in the past. This Tibor will never forget the encounter. The other has (or never had it? Does that suggest that ‘Flo’ has learned facts from across reality? I’m going to assume not, for now.)

    Killing oneself always seems like an extreme reaction to people who are not depressed. But suicidal people feel so crushingly bad about themselves that suicide seems the easy way out. This ‘feeling bad’ can seldom be explained in rational terms.
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    @Apocryphal said:
    Killing oneself always seems like an extreme reaction to people who are not depressed. But suicidal people feel so crushingly bad about themselves that suicide seems the easy way out. This ‘feeling bad’ can seldom be explained in rational terms.

    Yes, a fair point. I guess what I meant to say was that in narrative terms it comes out of the blue - Rietveld did not strike Jane as suicidal, or particularly depressed, and she spends a fair bit of time at the start of the chapter saying that all the common tropes about him are not true. But there he is dead, and Jane is presumably as baffled as we are as to what led him to this act.

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    I think it was mentioned in the previous chapter, but I can’t recall specifically. For some reason I was expecting it.
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    edited December 2021


    The action in this section mainly takes place at RAF Tealby Moor in 1943, where aircraft maintenance technician Mike 'Floody' Torrance is based. When the section opens, we first learn something of Lancasters, and a little more about Mike.

    One day Mike is preparing a newly-delivered plane for a mission and he finds a misplaced wallet under a seat which belongs to a Second Officer K. Roszca, ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary). Rather than turn it in as he is supposed, he decides to try and locate K. Roszca on his own by phone so he can arrange to hand the package over in person. We soon learn that K stands for Krystyna, and the package is a purse, not a wallet. Krystyna thanks him for returning the purse and will try to come and pick it up in person.

    Before that happens, Mike goes on a mission to investigate a downed plane which seems to have been caught in a curious triangular-shaped blast.

    Soon after, Krystyna Roszca flies into RAF Tealby Moor in a borrowed plane, and Mike is given leave for the day to meet with her. She takes him on a pleasure ride in the plan to Shropshire, where they land and have a picnic. Here the narrative breaks at chapterlet ten, and we get a written note from Mike, penned in 1953, introducing us to a short story called 'The Pilot', which is a first person account of Krystyna Roszca's life in Poland up to the present. She tells him of her lover, Tomasz Grudzinski, and how they grew up together and we separated as the war began. Mike Torrance looks very much like Tomasz Grudzinski.

    After telling her story, she flies Mike back to Tealby and they part ways. The two characters feel an emotional bond, but with Kyrstyna still in love with Tomasz, they are not free to develop their relationship further, though they do discuss possibly meeting up again. Kyrstyna flies off into the night. Some time later, Mike hears word that she has disappeared while flying a new Spitfire Mark XI reconnaissance plane (which she had described to him in loving detail when they had lunch), and is presumed dead.

    The last chapterlet tells us the rest of Mike's story through the war and afterward. After being de-mobbed in 1948, he marries his wife Glenys and they raise a family. Mike becomes a copywriter and later a biographer. Eventually he turns to writing Krystyna's biography - he starts to research her, her history in Poland and beginnings with the ATA. She discovers that after she met with him, she started a relationship with an RAF man named Simon Barret (whose plan was later shot down over the north sea with all loss of life). Checking into the story of Tomasz Grudzinski rather curiously yielded negative results - he didn't seem to exist.

    After his wife dies, Mike makes a trip to Poland to research further and can find no evidence of either person. Records show Tomasz' family line ending before the war, and his name doesn't come up in his regimental records. Furthermore, there's no record of any Roszca family in the area where Krystyna supposedly came from.
    Back home, ATA records do show that she flew the spitfire, and it just disappeared, with no wreckage ever found. Mike imagines her flying off into the clear blue sky, "scraping the roof of the world, flying without end, heading home, touching nothing but the free air and endless sky".

    This feels like a self-contained section, and the story of Mike Torrance has closure - it doesn't feel like we'll be revisiting him again in this collection. Curiously, the stories of Krystyna and Tomasz do not. Will we see them again? Did they come from another dimension, and maybe disappear into one as well?

    Certain names keep coming back, or at least similar names.
    Tibor Tarrent, photographer
    Melanie Rosco (nee Roszca) his wife.
    Tommy Trent, the Lord of Mystery, from the second section.
    Mike Torrance, aircraftman from section 5. Who looks very much like Tomasz Grudzinski.
    Kyrystina 'Malina' Roszca, the ATA pilot who's in love with Tomasz. She has a brief affair with someone named
    Simon Barret, an RAF pilot in section 5.
    Lieutenant Simeon Bartlett is Tommy Trent's contact on the front in section 2.
    Then there's Jane Flockhart in section 4, and the mysterious woman named 'Flo' in section 3.

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    I really enjoyed this section, partly because of all the interactions it hints at without becoming explicit. There are others in addition to your list. For example, the RAF base is at Tealby Moor, which is exactly where Tibor is in his meanderings around IRGB. His (ex) wife Melanie was known as Malina in her youth, which she explains as being a raspberry (but I had missed that her surname was originally Roszca, and also the Barrett / Bartlett possible connection).

    But... Malina Roszca of this section is far too young (or if you prefer, far too early in time) to be the same Malina Roszca = Melanie Roscoe who marries Tibor Tarrent. So either the names are just a mind-game by CP (which I tend not to believe) or else part of the adjacency / parallel world stuff is that times and persons don't exactly line up. And how curious that neither Malina nor Tomasz seem to exist.

    I am taking the triangular wreckage of the Lancaster to be a mind-game as there was no other obvious reason for the adjacency weapon to be implicated... on the other hand the crash site must be pretty close to the triangular blast zone which engulfed the Mebsher in Tibor's reality.

    I was surprised that it only took them an hour to get from Lincolnshire to Shropshire but a swift check of Google maps convinced me that an Avro Ansen could easily do such a trip, and moreover (to my surprise) that the vector going out would be slightly south of west rather than north. I also got side-tracked by Avro Ansens which, it seems, were originally commissioned in the mid 1930s, were well-loved by pilots, and only went out of commission in the late 1960s (one is. apparently, still airworthy).

    I couldn't see any obvious geographic resonance for Shropshire, which I don't think has appeared yet in the story (maybe it's to come?). I even checked out the biography of HG Wells but noting obvious turned up.

    Spitfires at Hamble make good sense (some years back I lived on the fringes of Southampton, not all that far from Hamble), and we now have a rationale for the cover image you kindly inserted!

    All in all a nice piece of narrative, opening up a lot of questions as to its relationship with the wider story.

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    Priest seems to know a lot about planes, and I wonder if he’s an enthusiast, or just did research for this novel.

    It’s possible that the Anson and some of the Lancaster were made here in Ontario. From the Avro Canada page:

    “ National Steel Car Corporation of Malton, Ontario was formed in 1938 and renamed Victory Aircraft Limited in 1942 when the Canadian government took over ownership and management of main plant.[2] During the Second World War, Victory Aircraft built Avro (UK) aircraft: 3,197 Anson trainers, 430 Lancaster bombers, six Lancastrian, one Lincoln bomber and one York transport.”
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    edited December 2021


    And we're back to Warne's Farm on Tealby Moor with Tibor Tarrent and his new friend, Lou (full name: Marie-Louise Pejman). They pass several days, enduring a severe wind storm. During these days, they seem to be the only people in the place. After the storm, though, there are people in the place again, and Tibor is asked if he can identify the bodies from the Mebsher that was adjacency bombed in section 3. Particularly, it is 'Flo' that they want him to identify. They tell him her full name is Dr. Tebyeb Mallinan. There's also another covered body they don't need him to identify - a sixth - even though there were only 5 other people in the Mebsher aside from him.

    In exchange for identifying 'Flo' as Flo, he negotiates transport for both him and Lou in another Mebsher to Hull.

    Later, he goes outside to take pictures and things start to get odd. He discovers android-like guards outside of a large square building. When he approaches, they move mechanically toward him and aim their guns at him. When he departs, they return to their post, only to march out again if he approaches. We learn this place called Warne's Farm was once called RAF Tealby Moor.

    The Mebsher that will transport them arrives and they start to load it with the six coffins containing the attack victims He helps Lou get in, but then starts to recognize the people in the Mebsher - Hamid and Ibrahim, the Scottish soldiers are there, as is Flo. Tibor holds back, as he needs to get his backpack, left over by the building wall. Flo informs him they are already late and can brook no delays. She confronts him, and electronically revokes his diplomatic passport. Tibor steps back in confusion, and the Mebsher starts to drive way. He chases it a first, then gives up. In his confusion, an idea emerges that he knows who lies dead in the sixth coffin!

    And here this section ends. Below: Castle Farm, Tealby

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    Again the action is hotting up, and we have several sources of confusion here.

    First, he takes some pictures of part of the compound - not unlike the keep part of the Castle Farm picture you inserted - of a building which looks older and considerably more weather-worn than the main bits. But when he tries to show Lou these pictures, they have disappeared from his cloud storage area - whether they were never actually taken, or have been subsequently deleted, we know not. The building cannot be seen from either of the two rooms they live in, but Lou is not interested in going to look.

    Then there are - apparently - multiple copies of people - @Apocryphal you mentioned Hamid, Ibrahim and Flo, but actually there is a duplicate of Tibor there, and the two seem to have been taking pictures of each other. So I guess we have the slightly macabre situation of Hamid, Ibrahim and Flo conveying their own dead bodies to some other location. Or maybe dead alternates of themselves. And regarding Tibor himself, there now seem to be three copies - one inside the Mebsher, one outside, and (presumably) a dead version who was talked into heading off towards Hull with the dead Flo and is now in Coffin Number Six?

    BTW there was a date indicator in this section - the most recent mod that Lou could identify to the base was in 2036. long after it was abandoned by the RAF. So presumably Tibor and the whole IRGB thread is later than that, and potentially several years later, maybe 2040 or 2050?

    Also Tibor now remembers the adjacency scientist Rietveld, but speaks as though he warned him about the perils of adjacency, whereas what we read a few sections back seemed more like a bit of fun and a parlour trick.

    CP is once again writing about a peculiarly incurious protagonist (like Sandro in The Gradual). Tibor fails to get the pictures he took of the odd building, but when he goes outside again, instead of going to check his bearings, and maybe take some more snaps, he wanders off in a totally different direction and apparently has no more interest in said building. And for someone who was allegedly keen to get away from Warne's Farm, he is super-careless about keeping track of his bag. And Flo has twice told him his cameras would be confiscated, but never actually does this, whereas she seems able to cancel his passport with the flick of a digital switch. (I suppose strictly speaking, two different Flos have told him one time each).

    Back with the duplicates, and following on the assumption that we are somehow dealing with a sheaf of closely-similar almost-parallel worlds, I am wondering what causes the crossover events? Is it Tibor's camera? Or the use anywhere in the world (any of the worlds?) of an adjacency device, whether weapon or no? Is his idle snapshotting of people and places causing tanglements between the nearby worlds?

    It all continues to be good stuff with lots of mysteries... though our current knowledge of CP suggests that few of these will end up being explained...

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    edited December 2021

    OK... a super-long section which takes us into The Archipelago, and specifically the island of Prachous. This island was mentioned very briefly in The Islanders, but not described. It was mentioned as one of Sandro's destinations in The Gradual, and appears a couple of times in The Dream Archipelago. Several points in this section confirm (to me at least) that we are not dealing with a single world but a cluster of closely related ones. For example. Prachous is described as being close to Glaund (specifically "The Glaund Republic") which is described as being on the northern continental mass, but Prachous experiences extreme high temperatures and is in part desert, quite unlike the climate Sandro knew. (Oddly, and no doubt significantly, Prachous is described several times over as "a secular island... Religious observation is tolerated but not encouraged").

    But I digress. The section is divided into multiple subsections with loose connections between them. The striking thing is that we meet Archipelago-world versions of characters we have met in our world. The most obvious is probably Thom the Thaumaturge = Tommy Trent Lord of Mystery, but pretty much everyone we have met previously in the different our-world sections is there - Flo, Krystyna, Tibor (=Tomak Tallant) and so on. @Apocryphal has probably got a much more comprehensive list. Its not just the names, but other aspects of their lives - Kirstenya (Krystyna) is a pilot here, lost her first love in a war, during which he was rounded up with others, taken away and executed. She changes her name to appear less foreign, finally escapes in a disarmed military aircraft, and so on. And here is another common feature - all of these people have no real memory of where they came from - on the one hand they feel as though they have been there their whole life, but when probed cannot find any tangible memories until just before the story opens. So for example (jumping ahead slightly) Krystyna appears to think that she is still somewhere in our world and not too far from the European theatre of war... she just can't quite work out where she is. But her aircraft - impounded by the authorities for most of the section - turns out to be a Spitfire equipped with reconnaissance cameras.

    An oddity about Prachous - there is a mysterious township called Adjacent which officially doesn't exist, is difficult to find, not shown on maps, and of unknown size and population. It is believed that illegal immigrants end up there, though in the prevalent mood of secrecy on the island nobody is quite sure of this, and nobody wants to ask to many questions. When Kirstenya flies around it, it alternately appears and disappears depending on her angle of view, and the area involved is a huge equilateral triangle, just like the ones produced in our world by adjacency weapons.

    Back to the multiple worlds thing - we read not just one but two accounts of the last show of Thom the Thaumaturge. In both of them the magic show goes badly wrong, particularly for his glamorous assistant Ruddebet - in one of them, in which he is the focus of the narrative, she falls and dies, and the police allow a kind of mob rule ("civic retribution") to carry out their own revenge, which ends with Thom's brutal death. In the second, in which Kirstenya is the focus, the girl's fall causes only minor injuries, and the rapid intervention of Kirstenya herself (who has trained as a nurse) and a convenient doctor in the audience (who we suspect to be Flo, currently going by the name of Firentsa Mallin) provide rapid care and defuse the situation. It's sort-of the same situation, but with two quite different outcomes.

    The section closes with Kirstenya flying away from the island (illegally), passing through a vast electrical storm, and abruptly she is back in our world, dodging German FW-190 fighter planes and coming in over the English coastline. She is unsurprised by this (which makes me think that she continued to believe that she was in or world all the time) and simply starts looking for a place to set down. (In passing, the maximum range of a Spitfire 9 with drop-tanks is about 1400 miles, which limits her options as regards Europe).

    So... did this answer questions, or simply raise new ones? The whole chapter would only begin to make sense if you already knew of the Dream Archipelago, and readers coming to this story first would, I suspect, be somewhat baffled. As expected, adjacency provides a crossover route, though many other aspects of this remain obscure still. My theory remains that we have multiple copies of both our world and the Archipelago world - we recognise some of them more closely than others. Some as-yet-unexplained physical phenomena allow crossover - probably at least Tibor's quantum camera, though that cannot be the only cause. I'm still enjoying it, and it's still a mystery, but I'd have liked a few more resolutions to the mysteries than we've had thus far.

    One more section to go, plus whatever @Apocryphal gleaned from this section which I missed...

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    edited December 2021

    Yes, quite a long section - about a third of the book. And it'd divided into three parts. Each part is given a name, which corresponds to a patois meaning for Prachous. The first part is FENCE. You are quite correct about the schizophrenic nature of the island. It's described as being a neighbour to Glaund, which we know is in the cold far north, yet later the island has 'southern latitutes' - so either it's very long, on we're talking about different, possibly overlapping, geographies. We are also told of the war (which seems to be a constant in the Archipelago), but here we're told that it's called The War At The End of War. This is reminiscent of Adjacency, which is the Weapon That Will End War. Is the Dream Archipelago at the end of time?

    In the first part, main character Tomak Tallant, a photographer, is being guided by a pilgrim over the wild parts of Prachous. She's a missionary, or Spreader of the Word, which seems ironic because she spreads very few words Tomak's way, and stays very aloof. Eventually, the non-spreading of words gets to Tomak and he tells her she's boring and discourteous. Later, though, she comes to his room seeking sex (have we been here before?) and a last they talk. She points out that he's new on the island. She's been there longer, but neither can remember how they got there, or really much beyond the start of their hike or how they met. Her name is Firentza. Her relationship to Tomak is very similar to Flo's relationship to Tibor (which is also not so different from Lou's, either).

    The second name for the island (and the second part) is REVENGER. Here we get the story of Thom the Thaumaturge, told from Thom's viewpoint, and largely summarized above by Richard. Revenge is a reference to the legal system, which allows a community to resolve certain crimes by 'proportional revenge'. Thom the Thaumaturge is born of Prachous. At the end of the story, just as he's about to be punished by the crowd for negligence causing death, two women intervene to try and save him - one, a mysterious woman named Kirstenya, and the other a Spreader of the Word - possibly the same Firentsa as mentioned above. Thom dies in the subsequent affray, but both the Spreader and Kirstenya survive their injuries, though neither is aware of the other.

    The third meaning of Prachous is CLOSURE, and that's the title of the third part. This is told from the point of view of Kirstenya Rosscky, who isn't a native of the island, but came here in a Spitfire Mark XI. She is searching for Tomak, but finds Thom the Thaumaturge instead - who looks just like Tomak but without the burns. She follows Thom for a while before she decides he's not the person he's looking for. Thom eventually confronts her (which didn't happen in Thom's version of this story), and she would leave him alone were she not invited to the final performance by someone. In this version, Ruddebet falls from the rope and is injured, not dead. So there's no mob. However, Kirstenya rushes on stage to help the girl, as does a Doctor Firentsa Mallin. They meet briefly. Soon after, though, Kirstenya leaves the theatre and returns to her plane, then leaves the island for good. She lands in England - quite likely at Tealby Moor. But that's the end of this section. This is this story so different than Thom's version? Probably because it's on yet another plane of existence.

    So, I'm not clear if we have three characters or two. Seems like two. The man almost always has the initials TT (one time MFT - Mike 'Floody' Torrance). His wife seems always to have the initials KR (Kyrystina 'Malina' Roszca, Kirstenysa Rosscka), but sometimes MR (Melanie Roscoe). But we also have the FM (Dr. 'Flo' Mallinen / Dr. Firentsa Mallin) set of characters, who may be lovers, of perhaps a different version of the wife? And there's Jane Flockhart. It's not all clean and obvious. Like so many of Priests ideas, this is us suggested, rather than explained. It's almost like these initials are DNA bases (A, C, T, & G) that can be combined to make different things. Are there certain characteristics associated with M, or with K, or with R?

    I suppose I might describe this as a Four Dimensional novel. With Four Dimensional characters, since they exist in four dimensional space?

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    @Apocryphal said:
    So, I'm not clear if we have three characters or two. Seems like two. The man almost always has the initials TT (one time MFT - Mike 'Floody' Torrance). His wife seems always to have the initials KR (Kyrystina 'Malina' Roszca, Kirstenysa Rosscka), but sometimes MR (Melanie Roscoe). But we also have the FM (Dr. 'Flo' Mallinen / Dr. Firentsa Mallin) set of characters, who may be lovers, of perhaps a different version of the wife? And there's Jane Flockhart. It's not all clean and obvious. Like so many of Priests ideas, this is us suggested, rather than explained. It's almost like these initials are DNA bases (A, C, T, & G) that can be combined to make different things. Are there certain characteristics associated with M, or with K, or with R?

    I suppose I might describe this as a Four Dimensional novel. With Four Dimensional characters, since they exist in four dimensional space?

    I really like the idea of DNA bases and it seems to me you have hit on one of CP's structural designs here - though it also reminds me of the feelings we had about The Gradual... here is another cool structural idea thrown in among many others, but never really developed.

    Flo Mallinen is also Tebyeb Mallinan, ie TM. And the doubled initial of Tommy Trent et al - is this an important distinction from an undoubled one? Plus the scientist Thijs Rietveld (TR), a man who breaks the largely regular male pattern. And we also have that interloper HG Wells, who breaks the pattern in several ways - the initials don't fit, and he is actually a real person pressed into service. Is he the real prime mover, and we are distracted by the more visibly adjacent presence of all these other people? Or is he the distraction...

    I totally expect utter and complete resolution of all these things in the final 24 pages...

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    That reminds me - there's an H.G. Wells book The War In The Air I've been meaning to read.

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    I just had a thought this evening... the mystery of Firentsa and Flo... wait for it...

    Firentsa -> Firenze -> Florence -> Flo

    CP messing with us?

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    edited December 2021

    Makes sense! Though I'm not sure he's playing with us, so much as just giving us variations on Florence. I suppose they're all named after the city in their respective languages? It would be like using James, Diego, and Hamish. Not sure this can be extended to other names, though. Roszca/Rosscka probably means 'Russian', whereas Roscoe does not.

    BTW - I'm travelling tomorrow and leaving my book behind, so I'll leave the last section starter to you.

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    Shock sensation!!! Christopher Priest explains everything in the last few pages!!!!!

    Well, er, no, but then we weren't expecting him too, and would have been disappointed if he had, I think. And in truth, I think he gets closer to a resolved ending than in the other of his books we've read together.

    In summary, we are back with Tibor, who watches and listens for the Mebsher containing both alive and dead versions of the people he knows (including himself) to disappear on its journey... in passing, it finally struck me that this is Schrodinger's Cat writ large, into the lives of several humans rather than a hypothetical cat.

    He then goes back to the military camp, checking constantly that his passcard still works (he was rattled by how quickly the alternate Flo had cancelled his passport) and continues taking pictures.

    But then he finds himself in what we readers immediately recognise as the 1944 Lancaster airfield, and hears how Floody is about to be reposted. Lancasters are taking off in pairs, with the runway lights put out between each pair. Nevertheless, a roaming German night fighter tries to attack, but is driven off. The ground defence send up several Very flare rounds, and it seems to Tibor that each is directly above him. As he takes pictures he is, apparently, invisible and intangible to the wartime crew, although he can still open doors and has full command of his senses. He becomes perturbed that his camera cloud storage is offline and inaccessible, but dissociates himself from sensation to focus on recording what he sees.

    Then he suddenly encounters Melanie - was this his wife who died in Turkey, or the Polish girl who was in the AAT... or are they in fact the same? They _can_ see each other and converse, both relieved and delighted that they have, against all probability, been reunited.

    Another Very flare goes off above them, and this one changes into the adjacency device, annihilating them from the airfield reality and leaving them... where? when? They don't care, and it is sufficient that they are together.

    The closing sentence is (I believe) a deliberate recapitulation of the photo sequence that the (a?) young Tibor took of Thijs Rietfeld, with the shell appearing in one hand, then the other, then two shells, then none. Thijs ends up smiling, as does Melanie.

    So... for my money a good story, and a good ending, though as we would expect with a great deal left unanswered. I am very glad to have read it.

    @clash_bowley and @NeilNjae you might well have enjoyed this book, as it is a little more tied together than some of the others.

    In particular my biggest question is whether (especially in this last section) Tibor is travelling up and down in time, or sideways across nearly-adjacent world lines. I favour the latter, and also wonder whether the apparent time differences between IRGB in say 2044, the airfield in 1944, and the HG Wells scene in say 1916 are actually at "the same instant" and actually reflect different rates of time flow between the worlds. I don't think CP intends to answer that...
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    Yes, I also enjoyed it very much. I thought it was a much more successful novel than The Gradual, with it’s nonsensical adepts. Sure, not much is explained in The Adjacent, but at least in a broad sense it is explainable as a million spheres type setting. Some things are still a mystery:

    We’re the adjacency attacks ever really attacks, or just the side effects of something? Did the quantum cameras play a role in this? Presumably the people caught in the effect weren’t killed, but moved somewhere ‘adjacent’. Why the triangular affect?

    Overall, though, I thought it was it worked very well as a metaphysical love story.

    I’m now reading The Separation, which has many similarities. Twin brothers flying for the RAF (out of RAF Tealby Moor), a love triangle, and a subtle but noticeable (since we know to expect it) movement between realities. Also, the setting of the book is at least two versions of alternate history. The flight of Rudolf Hess plays a central role.

    From Wikipedia:
    “ Elizabeth Hand described the book as "exquisite ... an exceptionally frightening novel whose nightmare power derives from its chilling, almost clinical evocation of an historical reality with which we are all familiar, the London Blitz... a cliffhanger narrative of dual identities, betrayals, and shifting realities, as two versions of the twins' histories—and England's, and the world's—are woven together, like strands of DNA, to form a terrifying narrative. Priest has used doubles before to great effect, in his award-winning novel The Prestige; but The Separation trumps even that tale. Its chapters linger in the mind like scenes from a Hitchcock film, impossible to shake off; like Hitchcock's work, The Separation begs for repeated readings to appreciate the cold brilliance and execution of its intricate plot fully. A masterly novel that deserves to become a classic."
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    In an idle Christmas Day moment I looked up whether CP had any particular association with Lincolnshire, but seems not. In a 2012 blog article he writes of "a short but unhurried visit to the Lincolnshire Wolds – a research trip for The Adjacent. I had never before visited Lincolnshire, and was pleasantly surprised. Amongst other places, I went to RAF Scampton (you have to book ahead, as it is an operational RAF station), where there are still the original hangars where 617 Squadron’s Lancasters were stored and repaired, and where Guy Gibson’s office is situated."

    So RAF Scampton seems to have been the model for Tealby Moor, and over its lifetime has been home to both the 617 Dambusters squadron and also The Red Arrows. But Lincolnshire itself is not his home or anything.
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    Speaking of Lancasters, if you guys want to come and visit me we can organize a group ride in a Lancaster:
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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > Speaking of Lancasters, if you guys want to come and visit me we can organize a group ride in a Lancaster:

    Cool! Though I have to admit I'd rather go up in the Tiger Moth!
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    Seems there's only one place in Europe you can ride in a Lancaster, albeit only taxiing around the runway and sitting in the various stations rather than actually airborne... and it's in Lincolnshire...

    By a strange coincidence worthy of CP himself, I drove within 15 miles of this place today on my way back to Cumbria from my daughter's.

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