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

The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence

What a great read this turned out to be.  I was completely engrossed and fascinated. Jorg Ancrath starts of as a young prince who wants to get his throne back, get back everything he has lost and most importantly get revenge and he is prepared to do anything to achieve his aims. The thing is that Jorg Ancrath is a despicable violent bastard. He does things that should curdle your blood. But despite all of it, Jorg's voice is compelling. I couldn't help but put myself in his shoes. For most of the trilogy I was Jorg Ancrath even through his dastardly deeds(especially through his dastardly deeds). There was a part of me that couldn't help identifying with his ruthless streak of getting what he wants no matter what the cost. I have yet to find another character who embodies "The end justifies the means" more than Jorg Ancrath. The world itself set on an Earth of the far future. (Similar to the dying earth series by Jack Vance and Book of the new sun by Gene

On Hans Zimmer

I have been listening to quite a lot of soundtracks lately. Two composers in particular stand out, Hans Zimmer and Clint Mansell. I have written about Clint Mansell over here . Hans Zimmer has somehow managed to score a lot of my favorite movies including Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight , the Gladiator, Sherlock, Pirates of the Caribbean just to name a few. In fact chances are that if there is a movie's score you like in the last decade its by Zimmer.(Apart from Lord of the rings of course :)) The thing about Zimmer though is that he is able to deliver even in movies that are not particularly good. Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons come to mind immediately which feature some great violin solos courtesy Joshua Bell. Here are a few of my favorite tracks. Put your headphones on and listen. Discombulate from Sherlock Red Warrior from The Last Samurai Time from Inception Jack Sparrow's Theme Science and Religion from Angels and Demons

Samit Basu-The Gameworld Trilogy

So this goes out to Samit Basu one of the finest writers of this generation. (Notice that I didn’t add Indian to the phrase) I remember picking up the first part of Samit Basu’s Gameworld trilogy The Simoqin Prophecies at a book store which has now sadly been closed(It was one of those book cafes that open along with CCDs and Nirulas). The book was languishing amongst the other scifi/fantasy titles in a corner and surprisingly the book had received little marketing but nonetheless the book piqued my curiosity. Reading the back cover I decided to give the book a shot. (Besides the title seemed really cool) Little did I know what was in store. The book turned out to be a  gem, plain and simple, written with such playfulness, such wit that one struggles to comprehend how something like this even saw the light of day. The trilogy can be read on many levels and enjoyed on each one of them. Kind of like Asterix and Obelix which have these goofy physical gags but also abound with r