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The Islanders Hardcover – June 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Christopher Priest has long been the sort of author critics tend to whip out the serious descriptors for. . . . Judging only on the basis of this mesmeric travel guide to "an endless sprawl of lovely islands," I would not for a second hesitate to declare Priest a giant of the genre."  —Strange Horizons


"One of the most complex, challenging and satisfying fictions from one of our finest novelists."  —Telegraph


"Priest demonstrates once more his ability to surprise and dazzle with this twisty novel in which nothing is ever as straightforward as it appears."  —Library Journal 


"Entirely unforgettable."  —Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Christopher Priest's novels have built him an inimitable dual reputation as a contemporary novelist and a leading figure in modern SF and fantasy. His novel The Prestige is unique in winning both a major literary prize, The James Tait Black Award, and a major genre prize, The World Fantasy Award. It was also made into a 2006 Academy Award-nominated film directed by Christopher Nolan. His other awards have included the Arthur C. Clarke Award and four Hugo nominations.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; 1 edition (June 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575070048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575070042
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,618,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitehead on September 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Dream Archipelago is a vast string of thousands of islands, wrapping themselves around the world between two great continents. Some of them are deserts, some are home to great cities and others have been riddled with tunnels and turned into gigantic musical instruments. The Islanders is a gazetteer to the islands...and a murder story. It's also a musing on the nature of art and the artists who make it.

The Islanders is Christopher Priest's first novel in almost a decade, a fact which itself makes it one of the most interesting books to be released this year. His previous novel, The Separation, a stimulating and layered book about alternate versions of WWII, was one of the very finest novels of the 2000s. True to expectations, Priest has returned with a fiercely intelligent book that works on multiple different levels and which rewards close, thoughtful reading.

The Islanders initially appears to be a travel gazetteer, a Lonely Planet guide to a place that doesn't exist. Several islands are presented with geographic information, notes on places of interest and thoughts on locations to visit. Then we get entries which are short stories (sometimes only tangentially involving the island the entry is named after), or exchanges of correspondence between people on different islands. One entry is a succession of court and police documents revolving around a murder, followed by an extract from a much-later-published book that exonerates the murderer. Later entries in the book seem to clarify what really happened in this case, but in the process open up more questions than are answered. Oh, a key figure the gazetteer references frequently is revealed to be dead, despite him having produced an introduction to the book (apparently after reading it). Maybe he faked his death.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Simone Oltolina on April 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Christopher Priest is one of those authors that give a good name to genre fiction. So much so in fact that I've repeatedly seen his novels described as `literary Science Fiction', as opposed to, I guess, something like `commodity Science Fiction' or `throwaway SF'.

Priest has won a number of prizes, most recently the BSFA's (it was the fourth time, if memory serves). Still, he's so good that I wouldn't be surprised if his name popped up in something like the Man Booker's shortlist, alongside Murakami or David Mitchell.

`The Islanders' was a very surprising novel for me. It started out slowly and then it picked up steam, in a very subtle and inventive way.

It presents itself as a guidebook to an imaginary `Dream Archipelago', with a foreword written by the first among a long list of unreliable narrators. Each chapter is then devoted to just one island but don't expect your average travel writing. Some chapters are quasi-technical descriptions of the terrain, weather conditions and so forth while others are in fact about famous people who lived there. Others still will present court documents or take yet another form.

After a while you will start picking up clues and understand that, beneath it all, there is a plot or, in actual fact, several main ones (including a murder mystery) and a few minor: there are recurring characters, tales of ghosts, scientific experiments gone wrong, etc.

Some chapters act as self-contained short stores while others, as mentioned, evolve throughout the narration (sometimes there is not actual solution, with the mystery left hanging in the air...).

I used the word `inventive' and I think this is the most apt, but if you manage to get past the first chapters and start picking up signals, then you might want to add another one: `excellent'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard LeComte VINE VOICE on July 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Priest is the kind of genre writer who defies genres; his best-known work, "The Prestige," straddled steampunk and horror (and was made into a very good film by Christopher Nolan). He returns in 2011-2012 with The Islanders, a novel structured as a gazetteer about a series of islands in the Dream Archipelago on a completely fictitious and somewhat unsound planet. Each chapter describes life on a particular island, either through frequently humorous and satiric exposition (some of the islands seem a lot like some areas of our own world) or short-story-length narratives about natives or visitors. Priest has created an intricately designed world in which many of his themes -- the malleability of history, theatrical magic, the environment, science gone awry, ghosts, war -- play out in interconnected stories. A few main characters weave their way through the novel, including a reclusive writer with a dark secret in his past; a crusading anthropologist; a horn dog of a painter, and an artist who creates installations by digging long tunnels. If you have some patience, and a desire to read works that fold in on themselves like a Borges story, I highly recommend this novel.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mad Professah on March 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I did not enjoy this book. It is an interesting collection of short stories that appear to be related because the stories take place on a series of mysterious islands. The book includes basic fragments of an overarching set of stories and plots that appear to emerge as one reads. Because of that, one thinks (expects) that by the conclusion, one will get enough information to get the big picture and some resolution but in the end one is just left with a blurry, unresolved picture, like an out of focus snapshot or low-resolution jpeg.
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