„The Islanders” by Christopher Priest – A review by Elias Combarro

    (Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.)


    With such masterpieces as The Affirmation, The Prestige and Inverted World, Christopher Priest is one of my favorite authors. In fact, I own autographed copies of most his books. Thus, I was very excited when I heard his new novel was coming in 2011 and it would have the form of a fictional travel guide-slash-encyclopedia. I love books with non-linear or alternative narratives (House of Leaves, for instance, is a novel I greatly admire; read my review in Spanish) so I was really looking forward to it.

    However, I must confess that I felt a bit underwhelmed after reading The Islanders. I really enjoyed some of the stories (the book is, in fact, a loosely connected fix-up) and various scenes have stayed with me, but I cannot help finding The Islanders lacking in cohesion and overall interest.

    The book is structured in chapters which are devoted to different islands of The Dream Archipielago in which several of Priest‘s previous novels and stories are set. These chapters, in turn, are ordered alphabetically. Some of them are very short (one page or less) and some are more like short stories or even novelettes. These longer chapters are fairly interesting and, in fact, the one about the creepy thrymes is excellent. But I failed to see point of including many of the shortest ones, which seemed pretty irrelevant to me. I understand the intention of reflecting the geography of the Archipielago in a fragmented novel with parts of different lengths and forms, but I cannot really say it worked for me.

    It is true that Priest pulls some wonderful tricks (for example, the fake prologue which is written by one of the characters of the book or the references to other novels, such as The Affirmation) but I missed that moment when everything falls into place, when suddenly all the bits and pieces make perfect sense and your mind is just blown away. I’ve come to expect that kind of revelation in all Priest‘s stories and it was a bit of a disappointment not finding it in this book.I suppose that I have missed may details and hints that a more attentive reader might have got and that the book may possibly benefit from a second read. But, as much as I feel compelled to re-read The Prestige, for instance, I don’t really think I’ll try The Islanders again.

    Note: This review is part of the BSFA Awards Special. You can get an entry for the giveaway by answering the following questions on the comments of this post: Have you read The Islanders? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it, are you considering reading it?

    © Elias Combarro.

    The interview was posted in english version on Elias Combarrro’s The Sense of Wonder Blog. We’re reposting

    the interview with the permission of Elias and we’re thanking him.


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