THE AFFIRMATION by Christopher Priest


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As in The Inverted World (1974) and The Perfect Lover (1977)--but now almost completely outside the science-fiction genre--Priest works the shadowy line dividing objective and subjective reality, again with absorbing but not wholly convincing results. Peter Sinclair, mentally battered after the death of his father, the loss of his job, apartment, and girlfriend, retires to the country where, seeking to affirm his identity, he begins to write an autobiography; but, dissatisfied with mundane events and experiences, which he feels do not reflect the real truth, he embellishes and rewrites the script. The result is a fictional analogue--where London, England becomes ""Jethra"" in ""Faiandland""; girlfriend Gracia becomes ""Seri""; and so forth. In this alternate world, Peter has won a lottery whose prize is immortality; to receive it he must journey among the tropical islands of the Dream Archipelago (a familiar Priest locale) to the clinic on Collago. And with him Peter now carries an alternate-world version of his manuscript--a fictionalized autobiography containing references to ""nonexistent"" places and people such as ""London,"" ""England,"" and ""Gracia."" Finally, then, as minor crises drive Peter back and forth between the two worlds, they entwine ever more inextricably, until reality becomes blurred and finally unidentifiable. In a plot recalling the psychological thrillers of L. P. Davies and Desmond Corey, Priest's colliding worlds are deftly constructed, with the intersections beautifully timed; and, despite the numbing dialogue and wispy characters, Peter's plight is sufficiently arresting to hold the attention. Less original or crisply vivid than Priest's best, then, but skillful entertainment for the cerebral-puzzle, states-of-mind audience.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Scribners