donderdag 17 september 2015

Christopher Priest: The Islanders


The Islanders is a rather recent novel by Christopher Priest. It has 325 pages and an introduction of 11 pages by Chaster Kammeston (a character in the book).
I got it from Bol.

“A tale of murder, artistic rivalry, and literary trickery; a Chinese puzzle of a novel where nothing is quite what it seems; a narrator whose agenda is artful and subtle; a narrative that pulls you in and plays an elegant game with you. The Dream Archipelago is a vast network of islands. The names of the islands are different depending on who you talk to, their very locations seem to twist and shift. Some islands have been sculpted into vast musical instruments, others are home to lethal creatures, others the playground for high society. Hot winds blow across the archipelago and a war fought between two distant continents is played out across its waters. The Islanders serves both as an untrustworthy but enticing guide to the islands; an intriguing, multi-layered tale of a murder; and the suspect legacy of its appealing but definitely untrustworthy narrator. It shows Christopher Priest at the height of his powers and illustrates his undiminished power to dazzle.”

I enjoyed this actually.

The book is made up as a traveling guide to a large, partly yet uncovered group of islands with a chapter per island. So in essence this is a collection of short stories. I liked this setup very much.
Some of these stories are very boring, consisting solely of a description of the general make up of the island, nature, law, currency etcetera. Most of them have some kind of story though with characters and actual things happening. And most of these chapters are amazing.
So it’s either a boring chapter containing absolutely nothing interesting or a chapter where something happens but I don’t care about it or it’s a brilliant chapter about a murder, a man working in a theater, drones, very creepy little monsters (thryme) cave research …

It took me at least 100 pages to figure out that there is a thread through all these seemingly unrelated stories. There is one big mystery about a murder and then some smaller ones.

Some parts of these mysteries are not clearly worked out and I am left with quite a few questions. Obviously I won’t talk about those questions because those would be spoilers and you really need to read this novel without any sort of spoiler.
But I have so many questions left unanswered. Now I don’t care of a story is not neatly wrapped up at the end of a book but here I’m the one on the mainland and the answers are somewhere on the islands. That’s how far I am from a real solution.

I liked his writing style; clear no frills, humorous. The book reads easy and engrossing except for those boring island entries.

Happy reading!