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The Islanders by Christopher Priest

The Islanders (edition 2012)

by Christopher Priest, Grady McFerrin (Designer)

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152None78,329 (3.88)21
Title:The Islanders
Authors:Christopher Priest
Other authors:Grady McFerrin (Designer)
Info:Gollancz (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Islanders by Christopher Priest

  1. 20
    City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer (anglemark)
    anglemark: There are similarities in style and theme.
  2. 00
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Similar in structure and in themes.

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I would recommend reading the short stories in The Dream Archipelago before attempting this book. They introduce the setting for the Dream Archipelago, a constellation of islands which stand off the coast of two warring blocs and which seem to have almost personalities of their own.

The Islanders initially appears as a travel guide, with entries on the various islands in the Dream Archipelago. Yet these entries tell us little that is not either confusing or contradictory. The names of the islands are particularly useless as they all seem to blend together, rather than stand out. The Guide as well soon becomes untrustworthy as its purported author appears as a character in some of its entries for islands. And there are a small cast of characters that re-appear in different entries, some more or less consistent than others in their motivations and actions. The strangest tale, which re-appears the most, is that of the apparent murder of a mime artist, done using a plate of glass in a theatre. Would something as unlikely as this actually occur?

Add some brilliant stories that plough very different furrows: a romance in a secret base of one of the Powers trying to use technology to map the islands (unsuccessfully), the awful wildlife on another island and the true nature of the old, empty towers on some islands, and you have a classic, about our world but not of it. Even the winds are different enough to have names in the local patois and a person (both revered and reviled) who builds 'sculptures' to channel them for artistic effects.

Every thing is named, but the names mean nothing. ( )
1 vote AlanPoulter | Jan 31, 2014 |
This one reminded me a bit of some of Jeff VanderMeer's works, in a good way. While the constantly-shifting perspectives and narrations were a little jarring at first, it ended up being a great pleasure to try and puzzle out what was happening. Highly enjoyable, and Priest's created a fantastic and very strange world. ( )
  JBD1 | Nov 20, 2013 |

Though presented as a gazetteer of islands in the Dream Archipelago, where time swirls and nomenclature is unstable, there is actually a story, or several stories, here, dotted across the spots of land separated by the ocean. I found it very satisfying: the artist who sculpts tunnels into the islands to make them sing in the wind, the mime artist killed by a mysteriously dropped pane of glass, the writer who somehow writes the preface to a work which describes his own demise and funeral, the venomous scorpion-like creatures which are never spoken of, the educator, the randy artist, all with parts of their narrative here, there and hidden. At first I was inclined to be a little grumpy about whether or not this is actually a novel, but it looks more like a novel than, say, Tristram Shandy (not setting the bar terribly high, I admit). I really liked it. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Dec 26, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575070048, Hardcover)

Reality is illusory and magical in the stunning new literary SF novel from the multiple award-winning author of The Prestige—for fans of Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell
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 his undiminished power to dazzle.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This book pieces together the rather unpleasant lives of the main characters is entertaining; and there are episodes complete in themselves, short stories really, which are satisfying. The ghosts are excellent. And I consider the thryme an absolutely first-class invention.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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