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Fugue for a Darkening Island (Pan science fiction) [Paperback]

Christopher Priest
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Nov 1978 Pan science fiction

Survivors of a terrible African war flee their blighted continent, and look for refuge in the countries of the West. But Britain is falling into civil war and anarchy.

One of Christopher Priest's earliest novels, FUGUE FOR A DARKENING ISLAND is a powerful work whose subject matter has become increasingly relevant in recent years.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books; New edition edition (3 Nov 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330255444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330255448
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 10.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,630,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


it is startling how relevant this 40 year-old novel is, even today ... His prose is finely honed, his grasp of structure and tone a thing of darkly sparkling beauty, redolent of an elegance, a grace (STARBURST MAGAZINE) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Christopher Priest¿s prescient novel of global migration and disaster --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gruesomely Chilling And Convincing 19 Nov 2002
A powerhouse of a near-future dystopia, unrelenting in its grim intensity. This amazing novel by Christopher Priest is a glimpse into the future of an England caught up in an armed three-way conflict, between the Nationalist government of neo-Fascist Prime Minister John Tregarth, a liberal Seccessionist element and organised bands of refugee Africans, having fled a nuclear holocaust from the African continent. This breakdown is seen through the eyes of the book's protagonist Alan Whitman through his and that of his family's struggle to survive the anarchic hell of what once was England.
The book itself is written in a disjointed, fractured style of writing (with constant use of flashbacks), that to the casual reader can leave one feeling confused and disoriented, however, closer inpection of the book's structure reveal this to be to the book's benefit as it leaves the book short of fat and strong on substance and structure. Parts of the storyline as seen through the eyes of Whitman impart a dreamy, hallucinatory feeling to the reader who can never be sure of what will happen next. One may not be satisfied with the length of this short book (128 pages) but personally, I found the short length to be satisfying.
This book is gritty, unstylised and yet not so much a product of its time. Despite its themes reflecting the NEW WAVE exploration of entropy and dissolution, the book's storyline immediately brought back to me, the strong feelings that arose from the M.V Tampa crisis in Australia of 2001, prior to 9/11. I remembered the feelings of fear, hostility and paranoia from the Australian public towards the stranded refugees and the possible reaction of the public towards these boat people had they been allowed to land in Australia. The book is as relevant now as it was back upon release in 1972.
I believe this to be perhaps the most accurate and disturbing example of classic dystopia and political sci-fi ever written.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid early novel from a great author 8 Jun 2011
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
When you get the chance to go back and sample an established authors earlier titles you are either heavily delighted or disappointed that its not quite met the standards of later titles. Why people fall into one of these two camps I'm not sure but its something I've observed on more than one occasion. Whilst this one doesn't have quite the polish or character development of later works such as The Extremes or The Quiet Woman, the concepts and dystopian ideas are present in this, his second novel.

As you'd come to expect its well written, the plot line thought provoking which when blended with what I term as a distinct vocal idiom really hooks the reader into this disturbing vision. Add to this decent dialogue some great twists and this really is a title that's hard to put down. Hopefully more will get to enjoy this title and develop their love for his work from there.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Civil war in the UK 8 May 2010
I have been trying to find this book literally for years, but have only recently managed to do so without spending a fortune. While it had its good points, it didn't really live up to my expectations. However, this book features on a lot of lists of apocalyptic fiction, which was the reason for me buying it, and I think my disappointment was mainly due to the fact that I don't really think it belongs in that genre. I only enjoyed it enough to score 3 stars, but I think it really deserves 4, hence my rating.

The story centres around a man struggling to survive a civil war raging between three sides throughout the UK. The conflict essentially arises from a tide of African immigrants arriving in the UK as they attempt to flee a nuclear war occurring within Africa itself. It is told in a non-chronological order with three main strands - one set in the far past when he met his wife, one in the recent past at the outbreak of the conflict, and a third in the present, during the war. The tale jumps between these periods, with small passages that reveal the story gradually. It's not a brilliant book but it did keep me reading and is certainly worth picking up if you can find it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, thought provoking read 25 Mar 2012
The African continent is no longer habitable and millions of displaced refugees have fled the country in search of sanctuary and refuge. `Fugue for a Darkening Island' is the account of one man Alan and his attempts to battle through the aftermath of the arrival of the `Afrims'.

This relatively short book took me quite a while to complete and its certainly a book which demands high levels of concentration. This is because the narrative is split three ways, Alan's recollections prior to the `Afrim landings', Alan's recollections post `Afrim landings' and his present day experiences. These segmented `stories within a story' can become confusing and blurred if strict concentration is not maintained at all times! That being said, I found this book to be original, quirky and definitely thought provoking.

Imagine a Britain in which everything you knew had been destroyed; organisations which you have trusted all of your life have split loyalties and where your very survival is jeopardized on a daily basis. If you can do all of this, you have entered Alan's world and the murky aftermath of a global human catastrophe.

This book is ideal for stimulating conversation, whose side would you have joined? The nationalists loyal to the crown, the secessionists sympathetic to the `Afrim' cause, the `Afrims', the international aid organisations or the displaced British refugees? The book raises important questions surrounding race, identity, culture and simple human compassion. How would you have reacted in Alan's stead? Its not a question that I can easily answer.

This is a really good read, its one of those `what if' books which will truly get under your skin! If you love disaster novels with a twist, get this book. It will certainly get you thinking.
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