Skip to main content

The Islanders by Christopher Priest : A Mindbending and narrative defying read

No book has surprised me as much as The Islanders in the past six months. The review is late in coming only because I couldn't figure out how to put what I felt into words.(In case you don't know who Christopher Priest, he is the guy who wrote The Prestige out of which the gobsmackingly brilliant Nolan movie was crafted)
I expected The Islanders to be a great but slow read but instead it turned out be a great page turner. Priest builds a great narrative out of seemingly disparate strands and all his criticisms of the Clarke Award nominees seem well founded
The Islanders is more a series of stories about different places but they connect in subtle ways and it makes for a surprinsingly cohesive whole. There is a masters hand at work here because in less dexterous hands the novel might have disintegrated into a meaningless nothing. Priest throws a line here and there that just shifts your perception, and makes you view what you have read earlier in a totally different light. There is a chapter on Thrymes(I don't want to spoil anything by giving too many details) and that single piece of writing is alone worth your money. That single chapter is what I recall six months after reading it. (Actually almost everything is brilliantly conceived but the Thrymes will chill you to the bone)
The Islanders is presented as a guidebook to the Dream Archipelago, a network of islands that has not yet been fully mapped and explored. In the beginning you even wonder if its a novel. Slowly but surely Priest draws you in and builds up intrigue. There is murder, there are doppelgangers and then there are  unreliable narrators and mime artists. There are discussions about artistry and about art. The writing is always top notch with scarcely a word out of place.
The Islanders was stuck in my head like a tune that does not go away. I would experience epiphanies all of a sudden that connected two seemingly different stories. The second read was the headiest sensation I experienced in a while. A truly great and heady piece of work.
A tweet from Gollancz informs me that Priest's next novel The Adjacent is out in August 2013 and I couldn't be happier about the same.

You can buy The Islanders here.


Jess said…
Cool stuff. Posted the review on our facebook site. (Christopher Priest wrote a short film related to magic called The Stooge. We’re in pre-production for it now. Also working on the project is Tom Joyner (Jaws), Kent Butterworth (The Simpsons), Rogelio Fojo and many more talented crew and cast members.
Kartik Kaipa said…
Hey great that you are doing a short film based on a priest novel. He writes fantastic novels that are different upon every reading. Hopefully your short will be the same.

Popular posts from this blog

Rule 34 by Charles Stross : You will never look at your email the same way again

This is one of the great reads of the year(with a terrible cover though). Charles Stross writes a near future police procedural in this one. Its a future where 3d printers are a reality and plans for printing almost anything are available online(This includes all sorts of weapons of course). This of course leads to a whole lot of materials being smuggled. Its a future where you have to bid to get a bus to go your way. The police instant messages and everything has gone digital. The rise of the internet has lead to an increase of unimaginable crimes. Our lead detective Liz works in the Rule 34 squad. A series of apparently connected murders take place. Only no one can figure out the perpetrator and the motive behind the crimes. Stross moves from the grissly murders to explanations of AI, singularity and spam with ease managing to keep you on the edge of your seat. Its a complex novel that virtually demands a reread. It is also written in a weird second person style that jar

Places to eat in Kanpur

Our real exploration of Kanpur began in our 5th year when we had our stipend to spend so hopefully this article will prove helpful to all the foodies out there. Surprisingly(and I really mean this) there are a number of terrific places to eat in Kanpur. Hopefully this article will prove helpful to many who are looking forward to spend their stipends. By far the best way to reach places to eat in Kanpur is to catch the bus that the institute provides. The bus runs everyday(except Sunday) at 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm. The bus returns at around 10:15 pm. Murgi(Our food and snacks Coordinator, every wing should have one) always takes the phone number of the conductor so that he can stay updated about where the bus is and so that the return is convenient. The bus service is really a life saver and unless you have a bike should be the first option. It is also better to roam during weekdays than weekends simply because there is lesser ruckus everywhere. Going to a restaurant on a weekend is an ab

Murgi’s fun facts

This one goes out to Mrigank Gupta aka Murgi. Murgi is such an awesome dude that even Chuck Norris and Rajnikanth can’t hold a candle to him. Below are Some facts that are indeed facts When Murgi was an infant he changed his own diapers Murgi was born toilet trained Murgi is actually the eldest in his house. He let the others enter this world before him When Murgi was born he got his own birth certificate from the doctor’s office Murgi never sits idle. He is just pretending to be like us Murgi never listens to excuses on the phone. He simply tells you what to do and disconnects. When Murgi will finally take a vacation the world will stop spinning While Chuck Norris counted to infinity twice, Murgi had already finished counting thrice and was solving everyone else's problems. Natural selection does not apply to Murgi. (Courtesy Ikka) Murgi caught an electron at rest.(Courtesy Ikka) When Arthur Eddington was asked if he really believed there were just three peop