Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Islanders (SF/Fantasy Novel)

Islands. Artists. Winds. Wars. Lovers. A Murder. Social Reformers. Tunnels. Theater. Deadly Insects. Writers. Traces. Glass Panes. Visual and Temporal Distortions. 

The Islanders by Christopher Priest reminds me why I keep bothering to read science fiction. This novel is fresh and imaginative, defying an easy categorization. Is it a fantasy, mystery, science fiction, or regular fiction? It takes place in another world, yet has things like gap years (British) and cell phones. Many of the chapters are part of some overarching plotline, but some are not. A number of the plotlines interweave. Most chapters are written in the third person, but some are written in the first person. Some chapters take place in the past, others in the present or possibly future. It is easy to see why The Islanders won the 2011 British Science Fiction Association and 2012 Campbell Awards.

Briefly, the novel is set up as a gazetteer of the islands that circle the world. The chapters appear alphabetically by island name. Most chapters describe the geography and other things that a tourist might need to know. Most chapters also include some part of a story. The result is that storylines are told geographically rather than chronologically, like most novels.

I am so, so glad that I read The Islanders. It mentally challenged me. It made me laugh. It made me think about life differently. Some of the passages were so beautiful, I sighed. One chapter was so horrifying that I had to get up and distract myself to make the images leave my mind. I am sure that I missed some of things going on, and I hope to reread the novel some time in the future.

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