For me The Adjacent by Christopher Priest is part novel and part musical composition. Themes and plotlines repeat throughout. Characters reoccur. There are moments of beauty and harmony. There are moments of chaos, especially near the end. At the conclusion everything ties together, and the novel gives the reader a sense of release. I was also left with a mild sense of ambiguity: “What really happened?”
The central theme is the idea of being adjacent. Magicians use adjacency to misdirect the audience during magic tricks. The main character in the novel uses a camera that relies on adjacency technology. The adjacency defense falls into the wrong hands and soon becomes a horrible weapon. Adjacent is also the name of a mysterious shanty town.
The Adjacent has various other themes. Through photography and biography characters attempt to capture “what really happened.” War – WWI, WII, and a possible last war – also take center stage. Characters look for and attempt to give comfort. Characters attempt to find defenses for the weapons of war. Characters respond to the horrors of war. This is a novel that focuses on the human side of life.
One of the sections, while playing a part in the larger storyline, could be a standalone short story. It focuses on the relationship between a plane technician and one of the women who transports planes. She is portrayed as a romantic, heroic character, though in the end we wonder how much of her story is true.
Part of the story has haunted me since I finished the novel. The plotline takes place in the near future, where climate change has left parts of the world uninhabitable. The UK is also being devastated by powerful storms. I was left to wonder “Are the effects of climate change as devastating as the theoretical weapon?”
The Adjacent is only the second novel that I have read by Christopher Priest. I also read and thoroughly enjoyed The Islanders, which has a relatively similar style. Based on these two novels, I am definitely a fan. I am looking forward to reading some of his earlier novels and short stories.