Friday, 7 October 2011

The Scotsman Abroad | On An Island

So the latest of my reviews for Strange Horizons went up a week or so ago.

It's of The Islanders by Christopher Priest, which you may recall was one of my most anticipated new releases of the year.

Turns out I wasn't wrong to be so excited about it. Here's a snippet, from the very beginning of the article:

Whatever you think The Islanders is, think again. 
That is unless you think it's the first new novel by Christopher Priest in almost a decade; it is that. But none of the other things you may or may not or may yet imagine of it are even close, to be sure. 
Actually... strike that. The Islanders isn't even a novel in the conventional sense, because despite appearances to the contrary, or else precisely because of them, The Islanders is not so much a narrative, with a plot and characters or any of the usual storytelling accoutrements, as it is a travel guide — a work of reference — purportedly written by and for tourists en route to or through the Dream Archipelago, which is to say "the largest geographical feature on our world" (p.8): an elusive arrangement of some several hundred thousand islands, large and small, scattered about a single vast ocean and enclosed on the north and the south by two gargantuan continents entrenched in perpetual warfare with one another.
I say that. But in truth (not that there is truthfully a single truth to be arrived at throughout this astonishing testament to Priest's much-missed mode of magical realism, unless there is), these too — these broad, whispered, hand-me-down physical characteristics — are called into question on more than one occasion as we track the seemingly meandering ley lines of The Islanders. For various reasons, you see, foremost amongst them gravitational anomalies known as temporal gradients which make aerial navigation practically impossible — and this is very much par for the course in Priest's latest — "There are no maps or charts of the Dream Archipelago. At least there are no reliable ones, or comprehensive ones, or even whole ones" (p.14). 

Ladies and gentlemen, be my guest: click on through to read the rest!

And if you're still on the fence about this beauty of a book, I'd also point you towards Adam Roberts' excellent review of The Islanders over on Punkadiddle. Adam writes that The Islanders is "a magnificent novel, one of my books of the year," and I'm not at all inclined to disagree.

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