I remember reading the opening of this weird SFF book back in high school where a guy’s kidnapped from the present and imprisoned in the future for a crime no one will tell him about. I never finished it. The thing I remember is the guy being interrogated at a table that had a holographic hand hovering above it. Anyway I set the book down or lost it or whatever, and probably couldn’t have told you who had written it – until today when I started reading Indoctrinaire by Christopher Priest. That’s the book. I’m not sure how it found me here in South Korea.
The Glamour is a suspense novel that borders on the fantastic about a love triangle between people with the ability to make themselves invisible. It reminded me some of Patricia Highsmith’s Those Who Walk Away and some of Fritz Leiber’s The Sinful Ones. Nothing much happens for the first 100 pages, but I found myself swept along and reading anyway. The middle section, narrated by Sue, the woman torn between two men with varying degrees of “invisibility”, was the highlight where she talks about “the glamour”, the ability to become unnoticeable, and their subculture in modern day London.
Of course, “the glamour” also operates as a metaphor for certain social anxieties. Some might prefer it to be either one or the other – metaphor or speculative element, but magic powers as a metaphor for a universally observable social experience fits well with all the unreliable narrators, doubling, and pomo identity hijinks Priest employs in his novels. If that metaphor in the end makes me regard social experiences differently, then I’d say it’s successful.
To Priest’s credit he stays balanced on the border long enough to explore interesting ideas and resists the desire to provide simple solutions to them.