The Affirmation is one seriously good book, managing to create a complex and mind bending scenario that plays on the structure of reality, levels of existence and the nature of the mind - the very notion of "self" and the idea of identity.
The story is narrated in the first person by the central protagonist Peter Sinclair - a self confessed unreliable narrator and it's this unreliable narration that forms the very basis of this profound and thought provoking story.
I can understand why some people have referred to Christopher Priest as being a British version of Philip K Dick, there are a number of similarities like the way that science fiction elements are very underplayed; the focus on the everyday characters and how they react in the situation that the one major science fiction element throws at them. There is also a certain timeless quality to the prose which adds to the classic and simple style and the whole idea behind the book; that of personal reality, is at the heart of many PKD books.
While the style may be simple the ideas are not, mind blowing would be more accurate, the vision presented is that one reality is set within our normal world and another within a twisted mirror universe which Peter creates as a vehicle to provide a level of anonymity for the people that feature within his biography. The "real" reality is drawn into question by Peter's mental state - clearly struggling after the death of his father, loss of his job and break up of his relationship, Peter has some serious issues - along with the perceived reality around this, while there are events that cast doubt over everything. There are also a number of allusions to his state of mind, how those around him perceive this biography that create an even greater cloud of doubt and confusion.
The basic premise is fairly straight forward and told in an easy to read and uncluttered style however complications are gradually built upon in such a way that casts serious incredulity over which version of the increasing numbers of disparate realities is the real one, a twisting story that confounds, befuddles and bemuses in an equal measure and yet also just incredibly well done; with gripping and eloquent prose and well structured events.
Another story that you really do have to pay attention to, even at the very end you are left in serious ambiguity as to what's really going on. To be able to do this to a reader and yet keep them transfixed on the book is something very special, a serious talent that should really be applauded.
The Affirmation is a simply mind-blowing piece of fiction, one of those books that you just have to return to in an attempt to find an answer and one which deserves a place in everyone's collection.
Written on 11th November 2011 by Ant.
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