Fiction Reviews


The Glamour

(1984 / 2005 edition) Christopher Priest, Gollancz, 7.99, pbk, 235 pp, ISBN 1-576-07579-1.

The glamour confers the property of invisibility on just a handful of people. It has been known down the ages but exists on the edge of reality today. Now three people with glamour come together. One does not know he has it and, to make things worse, has to find himself after losing his memory in a bomb blast. Another only has partial abilities and who is trying to escape a third who is deeply entrenched in the glamour. As our principal protagonist slowly recovers his memory, he has to come to grips with the unbelievable that there is a world of the invisible entwined with ours.

Christopher Priest has a reputation for being a 'literary' author. This means that in addition to being able to string words together rather skilfully, his books also have appeal to mainstream readers outside of SF and fantasy. So not surprisingly this is also one such work that will do well for those into literary fantasy as well as readers of mainstream books. Indeed the fantasy elements do not really emerge until over a third of the way into the story: in short fans of speculative fiction have to be patient. (One suspects that this delay is to hook mainstream readers.) However around the halfway mark the book takes off and we learn about the alternate world of the glamour and what it means to be glamorous. It is not all fun if you can't get people to see you or if people can't see threats from the glamorous.

This is not the first time that Christopher Priest has played with perceptions, and this is very much a book about how our individual perceptions leave us with wide blind spots. (It's all very allegorical.) Of his previous work exploring this theme, most notably, was arguably Inverted World. However while that book was decidedly science fiction, with The Glamour we are very much in mainstream territory, but as indicated the speculative elements are there and Priest develops them deftly. Indeed the whole novel is structured extremely well into a most satisfying package.

This is the book's fourth year in which it has been reprinted since the first edition just over two decades ago: so you need not just take my word as to this book's strength as the market has spoken.

Jonathan Cowie


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