'Inverted World,' Chapter 8 though Chapter 8 of Part 2: discussion thread

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So, we're getting to the halfway point of Inverted World. Christopher Priest's carefully constructed narrative gives out bits and pieces of information like breadcrumbs woven into the plot, and the world which Helward finds himself is probably starting to seem a bit more familiar to you.

We find Helward on a Hellish journey right now, accompanied by some interesting females who are currently undergoing some rapid and terrifying physical changes. What exactly is going on here? What should we make of this world?

As usual, expect spoilers in this thread but don't discuss beyond Chapter 8 of Part 2 if you've managed to read ahead.

Two reminders: We are giving away two copies of Inverted World here, and we also have a Goodreads Group right here.