Christopher Priest. [Starmont Reader’s Guide #50.] Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1989. x + 104 pp. [From 1993 distributed by Borgo Press, San Bernardino, CA.]. ISBN 1-55742-110-2 (hardcover); ISBN 1-55742-109-9 (paperback).
This book is out of print, but used copies are sometimes available.
Fugue for a Darkening Island
The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance
A Dream of Wessex
“The book has the standard [Starmont Reader’s Guide] format: Chronology, Biocritical Introduction, a chapter on each of the novels and one on the short stories, and an annotated bibliography. Priest himself reviewed the book in the Autumn 1990 issue of Foundation: ‘It is … remarkably free of factual errors, his reading of CP’s books and stories is close, sympathetic and well argued, and overall it is intelligently put together and highly readable, with a minimum of academic jargon.’ I have no quarrel with Ruddick’s treatment of three of the four books by Priest I have read – Inverted World (1974), A Dream of Wessex (1977; US title, A Perfect Lover), and An Infinite Summer (1979; short stories) – and certainly none with Priest’s discussion of them in his review, the finest self-critique of an SF author known to me. … Priest is one of the best contemporary SF writers, and Ruddick’s book one of the best in the Starmont series.” – R.D. Mullen, Science Fiction Studies
“Ruddick’s study is keen and thoughtful, his readings of the novels excellent. This book is a cut above the general run of Starmont Guides.” – Adrian de Wit, IAFA Newsletter
“This is an admirable little volume providing the kind of concise introduction to each book that makes you want to go out and reread them. In fact, [Ruddick] made me see several of the novels, especially the early ones, afresh.” – Paul Kincaid, Vector
“At present, Ruddick’s study provides us with what is probably the most important document in the case of Christopher Priest, containing as it does a comprehensive overview of his writings (both fiction and nonfiction) up to and including his penultimate novel, The Glamour (1984). It is indicative of the success of this study – at least as far as the present reviewer is concerned – that I’ve already reread my old copy of Fugue for a Darkening Island (1972) and have just ordered a copy of Priest’s A Dream of Wessex (1977) … This is, all in all, a very useful guide to the writings of an important figure in British science fiction.” – Veronica Hollinger, Extrapolation
“Most startling to me was the chapter on The Glamour, a novel I enjoyed … for its portrait of people who can render themselves invisible to notice, and for its consecutive contradictions of basal realities. According to Ruddick’s thorough and logical analysis, however, I had completely failed to understand the book because I had not figured out the identity of the narrator, which is crucial to the book’s theme and meaning.” – Donald G. Keller, New York Review of Science Fiction
“By a curious coincidence, Chris Priest, Nick Ruddick and I spent our formative years in close geographical proximity (Nick and I even attended the same school). … Chris Priest is among my closest friends, and I am on perfectly friendly terms with Nick Ruddick. In these circumstances, how could I be other than scrupulously polite about what is, inevitably, a scrupulously polite book? … Chris Priest’s output is of a perfectly manageable size, allowing Nick Ruddick the luxury of working at a comfortable pace and reasonable depth – a luxury of which he takes full and thoroughly competent advantage. His customary clarity fails at only one point, when he describes a half-hearted criticism made by a reviewer of Inverted World (me, as it happens) as ‘curiously illogical’; I must confess that I cannot quite make out whether he is calling attention to the oddness of the particular illogicality in question, or to the oddness of the fact that such a well-respected logician should momentarily have failed to maintain his awesome rigor. Perhaps he was trying to be diplomatic.” – Brian Stableford, SFRA Newsletter
“I first saw this book about a year ago when Professor Ruddick sent me an inscribed copy. As it fell out of the envelope, I was struck immediately and favourably by the classic simplicity of the title, then repelled by the cover illustration (a photograph of a youthful-looking CP, with what appear to be sinisterly divergent eyes.) I did not read the book straight away, for fear of terrible discoveries. When I did finally brace myself to open it, later the same day … I skimmed the summaries of the novels and short stories with eyes half-closed. (I have now read the whole book properly.)
“Because I know CP and his works as well as or better than Nicholas Ruddick, I can say certain things about this book with immense authority. It is for instance remarkably free of factual errors, his reading of CP’s books and stories is close, sympathetic, and well-argued, and overall it is intelligently put together and highly readable, with a minimum of academic jargon. …
“I have to confess that I am not a fan of my own fiction. Dissatisfaction surrounds all. I know the ideas are sound, and the plots are intricate, and that each of my novels has at least one ‘good bit’ that props up the rest, but once a novel has gone into print I cannot bear to look at it again. By then past dissatisfactions are being tackled internally, the process of reappraisal has already begun, hope rises once more. From this uniquely special point of view, it is a miracle to me that Nicholas Ruddick could make Christopher Priest so interesting and stimulating.” – Christopher Priest, Foundation