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.
British novelist Priest (The Prestige) creates a mind-bending, head-scratching book (already much lauded in the U.K.) that pretends to be a gazetteer of the Dream Archipelago, uncountable islands spread around a world whose temporal and spatial anomalies make such a project futile. The dispassionate descriptions of separate islands include odd references out of which it's possible to begin assembling a cast of characters: maniac artists, social reformers, murderers, scientific researchers, and passionate lovers. Some of these categories overlap, and all the actors are maddeningly fragmented, apt to fade away or flash intensely to life. Interpolated bits of directly personal narratives sometimes clarify and sometimes muddy the story (or stories), while uncanny events struggle to escape the gazetteers' avowedly objective control and Priest's elegant, cool prose. The result is wonderfully fascinating, if occasionally frustrating, and entirely unforgettable.