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The Quiet Woman After a Chernobyl like accident at a fast breeder reactor on the north coast of France, Britain is shrouded in radioactive fall out When her best friend is murdered, a young writer is forced to make sense of the deadly world she now occupies Feels like a missed opportunity Good until halfway, then it starts becoming confusing I found the chapters dealing with Gordon s job extremely boring. My first contact to Cristopher Priest in long form Not so fortunate for me.A readable novel, but, because of it s final scenes, without any discernable meaning, at first glance, at least Only after I ve read some of the comments here, the things becomed clearer Still, there are some things left unexplained The background image, of a Britain under a nuclear disaster was interesting, though Also the characters and the writing was good, it was just the misshapen end, that spoils everything.Any My first contact to Cristopher Priest in long form Not so fortunate for me.A readable novel, but, because of it s final scenes, without any discernable meaning, at first glance, at least Only after I ve read some of the comments here, the things becomed clearer Still, there are some things left unexplained The background image, of a Britain under a nuclear disaster was interesting, though Also the characters and the writing was good, it was just the misshapen end, that spoils everything.Anyway, hope that the next one by him that I will be reading, will bewell structured and finalized It s the same with the books I like to read A book should seem to reveal something about its author, and there should seem to be intimate details of the author s life coming out But there should also be little facts that don t add up, that misdirect the truth There s nothing unique about this, because a lot of writers do it I suppose this is a warning When you find my books you will be right to make assumptions about me from them, but you will be wrong to make too many There aretrIt s the same with the books I like to read A book should seem to reveal something about its author, and there should seem to be intimate details of the author s life coming out But there should also be little facts that don t add up, that misdirect the truth There s nothing unique about this, because a lot of writers do it I suppose this is a warning When you find my books you will be right to make assumptions about me from them, but you will be wrong to make too many There aretrails for you to follow, but they are disguisedThe Quiet Woman is a novel by Christopher Priest, originally published in 1990 and set, one can assume, some time in the late 80s or early 90s We can date it from the glimpses of emergent technologies fax machines are widespread, landlines are still the most prominent means of communication, and the nascent internet is only for professionals The Cold War is over, but fears of nuclear annihilation are still present, albeit in a very different form The southern part of England has been contaminated by a leaking reactor in the north of France, and though London was unaffected, the countryside around it was washed in radioactive rain, and it now exists in a kind of suspended reality not entirely safe, but not deadly either The tourists and farmers are gone, and the long term effects of the exposure on those who remain is unknown One such resident is Alice Stockton, a writer She lives alone with her cat, and scrapes a living writing historical non fiction about notable women, until one day she discovers that the manuscript of her latest book has been confiscated by the Home Office Something in it is objectionable, but they won t tell her what When she returns home from her enquiries, she finds that her only friend in the locality Eleanor, an elderly writer of children s books has been killed Her fascination with the case soon brings her into contact with Eleanor s son, Gordon, who seems to be something of a creep It isn t long before Alice becomes fully involved in the mystery surrounding her death.As the story develops, we discover that Eleanor wasn t just a nice old lady she had a history of campaigning against the nuclear industry At once the prospect of government conspiracy emerges could this have anything to do with Alice s book Suddenly we are introduced to a second point of view as the narrative switches back and forth between a realistic third person narrative that follows Alice and an intimate first person mode that seems to lie within the mind of Gordon And Gordon sees things he sees his father and brother dying in a bizarre Ferris wheel accident he sees his mother, distraught with grief and mad and rambling he sees a series of spinning black cylinders in a field at night he sees an experimental stealth bomber crash in the field adjacent to his mother s funeral.The book is over twenty years old now, but its concerns still feel fresh The nuclear incident was inspired perhaps by the Chernobyl incident, but we might think also of the Fukushima disaster several years ago On publication the death of Eleanor might have had echoes of the murder of Hilda Murrell in 1984, but today it s tempting to think also of the death of David Kelly in 2003, since both of these were perceived to have been affected or effected in some way by the security services What begins as a playful bit of literary absurdity over a banned book turns into a much darker narrative about the nature of the surveillance state.Gordon describes himself as aninformation contractor, with a specialisation in surveillance managementHe is a corporate spy, his vocation couched in the vaguest, most officious terms imaginable At one point he describes a meeting with a newspaper, the Herald vaguely reminiscent of the Guardian in terms of its political outlook and he explains how they have not paid their bill for services rendered, and what his company plans to do about it All this seems remarkably prescient in light of what we ve learned recently about the proclivities of the British press to rely on phone hacking and other semi legal surveillance techniques while investigating stories of questionable public interest.Nobody else seems to see the world in quite the same way as Gordon Alice s life is shaped by paranoia and anxiety, yet she is grounded in the immediate busywork of living Gordon sees the world in calm, orderly terms, but he has an inner life of such intensity that it seems to bleed through to reality At least that is how the reader is expected to feel at times the experiences of the two protagonists differ in such a striking way that it isn t clear which of them is providing a definitive account of events The style of the writing suggests that Alice s is the true story whereas Gordon s experience is fantasy, but this seems to me an entirely intentional distraction, and by the end of the book both threads have the bleary, over saturated quality of manufactured experience.It s a strange book It doesn t entirely click as a piece of drama the pacing and development of the plot is aimless, the other characters are wholly peripheral, and there s no resolution of anything either in particular or in general But I found it quite enthralling regardless It has the atmosphere of a slow burning horror film, one where you feel that something awful is on the verge of happening at any moment The story presents itself a series of banalities punctuated by increasingly strange, almost hallucinatory sequences that have almost no effect on the plot Some readers expecting aconventional novel might find this disappointing or frustrating, but I found it absolutely compelling Those many disguised trails are, I feel, exactly what I often seek out in fiction.There s a potent sense of mood here that contains within it a series of fascinating suggestions about the world we live in today As with the novels of J.G Ballard, the power of the human imagination is the central transformative vessel here, but while for Alice it works as a call to action, for Gordon it tempers every moment of his existence In his mind the line between fantasy and reality has blurred to the extent that it ceases to exist And yet he s the one with all the power, both physically and politically he can access an unprecedented digital archive of information over all the other characters in the story, and with a few keystrokes he can modify it as he chooses This puts paid to the old lie so beloved of surveillance fanatics that if you have nothing to hide, you ve nothing to fear to record life in any media, then to concentrate access to this media in the hands of an unaccountable and largely invisible sector, must inevitably lead to the usual human failings associated with the corrupting influence of power I ve spent nearly 12 of the past 36 hours on trains, so have a backlog of reviews to write This was my first train book, a title found in the dystopia keyword search Like the majority of the dystopia keyword list that I ve read to date, I don t consider it a dystopia It reminded me of Rule Britannia, the Daphne du Maurier novel in which America invades England The Quiet Woman also depicts ominous disaster impinging on a bucolic rural cottage occupied by a woman The Quiet Woman is unsett I ve spent nearly 12 of the past 36 hours on trains, so have a backlog of reviews to write This was my first train book, a title found in the dystopia keyword search Like the majority of the dystopia keyword list that I ve read to date, I don t consider it a dystopia It reminded me of Rule Britannia, the Daphne du Maurier novel in which America invades England The Quiet Woman also depicts ominous disaster impinging on a bucolic rural cottage occupied by a woman The Quiet Woman is unsettling in a different way, though There s a sort of analogy drawn between the risk of radiation, after a meltdown accident, and the similarly invisible risk of a shadowy private sector spy company run by a maniac Alice, the central character, is dealing with possible radiation sickness and the inexplicable censorship of her recently finished book I was a little disappointed not to find Aliceinteresting she is sympathetic, however she isn t given much to do Things happen to her, she rarely takes the initiative I wouldn t necessarily mind that if her personality had been developed a bitPerhaps this is exacerbated by the fact that Alice is often seen through the eyes of an intensely creepy man with several names This man gets the only first person narrations in the book, which are at first unsettling and then become horrifying There s a scene of rape and murder that seems to take place only in his head and was so viscerally horrible that I nearly stopped reading Priest certainly manages to make the man seem like a truly frightening predator As you can perhaps tell from the emphasis I m putting on these remarks, I didn t really enjoy The Quiet Woman at all It is well written and creepy, however it turned out to be a claustrophobic psychological drama rather than anything approaching a dystopia A bit of stray radiation isn t enough world building for that Christopher Priest s novels seem a bit hit and miss The Prestige was great Indoctrinaire and this one didn t do much for me I thought he wrote The Unconsoled, but turns out that was Kazuo Ishigiro The format of the title must have confused me The Unconsoled is much better book and a generally mind bending experience, so I suggest reading that instead

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