Saturday, 24 September 2011

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Islanders - Christopher Priest

Release Date: 22/09/11


A tale of murder, artistic rivalry and literary trickery; a chinese puzzle of a novel where nothing is quite what it seems; a narrator whose agenda is artful and subtle; a narrative that pulls you in and plays an elegant game with you. The Dream Archipelago is a vast network of islands. The names of the islands are different depending on who you talk to, their very locations seem to twist and shift. Some islands have been sculpted into vast musical instruments, others are home to lethal creatures, others the playground for high society. Hot winds blow across the archipelago and a war fought between two distant continents is played out across its waters. The Islanders serves both as an untrustworthy but enticing guide to the islands, an intriguing, multi-layered tale of a murder and the suspect legacy of its appealing but definitely untrustworthy narrator. It shows Christopher Priest at the height of his powers and illustrates why he has remained one of the country's most prized novelists.


There are some authors who really should transcend genre and one of these is Christopher Priest who whilst he’s known for Science Fiction writes in a style of a magician (which is appropriate enough considering he wrote the Prestige) as he manages to distract you with subtlety so that you don’t notice what’s happened before he’s ready to reveal it to you. It’s wonderfully imaginative and whilst I haven’t read his whole back catalogue I did recognise some of the characters from having appeared in other titles.

Add to this a wonderfully brusque descriptive manner and he’s an author who cuts to the heart of the story, making it character based and thought provocative. It’s clever, it has its own witticism about it and when you add the final touch of a story that was hard to put down its one that left me exhausted when I turned the final page. A real joy and one I’ll look forward to reading again.

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