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The Islanders Hardcover – 22 Sep 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; 1 edition (22 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575070048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575070042
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 602,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


...piecing together the rather unpleasant lives of the main characters is entertaining; and there are episodes complete in themselves, short stories really, which are satisfying. The ghosts are excellent. And I consider the thryme an absolutely first-class invention. (THE GUARDIAN)

He understands the magic of imaginary worlds, where hot winds race across parched landscapes and everyone is a dreamer. It is his first book for nearly ten years, and well worth the wait... dotty but engrossing. (Max Davidson The Mail on Sunday)

A glowing mosaic of a novel, puzzling, transporting and nigh-on impossible not to start again immediately once finished. (Alison Flood The Sunday Times)

Filled with allusions to earlier stories, but never self-indulgently so, the book's ostensible exploration of the people and places of the Archipelago only serves to emphasise their unknowability. And our guide is someone with a very definite agenda. Gradually, a story of rivalry, trickery and murder begins to emerge. (GRIMMFESTBLOG)

I think that the Dream Archipelago experience the author presents in The Islanders and in the related story collection, is indeed a masterpiece of modern sff and I expect to be enchanted by it again and again across the years. (FANTASY BOOK CRITIC)

"The Islanders is a magnificent novel, one of my books of the year, and you must read it." (PUNKADIDDLE)

It's clever, it has its own witticism about it and when you add the final touch of a story that was hard to put down its one that left me exhausted when I turned the final page. A real joy and one I'll look forward to reading again. (FALCATTA TIMES)

You'll relish the mistiness and the lack of straight lines, the way the narrative fades in and out of clarity and the fact that, whereas other novelists tend always to provide something to hold on to, a handrail that will take you comfortably through the narrative, Priest never does. He certainly keeps hold of you with that unmistakable style that's beautifully restrained but also disturbingly vivid, but what he never does is say: 'This is the story.' (THE HERALD)

Book Description

Reality is illusory and magical in the stunning new literary SF novel from the multiple awarding winning Christopher Priest

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Only nine reviews so far? Hmm. I think this book can safely be called unique. It's not for everyone; but if you can get through it you won't forget it

Nice trip? '[M]ost of the cells in the prison do command an attractive view across the harbour..' Wish you were here? This is the kind of thing that could give fantasy a good name. Devilish ingenious - is this what being trapped inside a computer game would feel like? - combining novelistic episodes with aspects of a geography, or do I mean topography, handbook ('people who ran wars needed maps'), an entymological treatise and a deliciously po-faced local guide ('the visitor will be delighted by the impeccably maintained Covenant Palace' - of course Jan Morris got there first; have you been to Hav?) this is a yarn or adventure of the highest originality. The reading experience is a little like a sauna, sashaying from steam-room to cold shower, or maybe a banquet of small plates, the spicier interspersed with the more soothing to the palate. The feisty obsessive who wants to turn 'every island in the Dream Archipelago into a gigantic wind-chime' has the ring (or chime) of authenticity. (This is, as it turns out, in large part a meditation about art. Art as metaphor in extremis.) 'Every day the tune would change, she said, but it would bring harmony to the entire world. She died not long after..' Does she owe something to the eccentric, not to say bonkers, Gilbert Clavel's Herzogian excavatory endeavours? (Siegfried Kracauer's essay Felsenwahn in Positano will fill the gap)

What's striking about this alternative world, what makes it so enchanting, is the apparent absence of TV - although there are laptops. Shopping and plumbing are likewise left magically imprecise; that's fiction for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Vastly over-rated. Most of the book was concerned with describing the imaginary islands in great detail,which became very boring after a time. The whole thing came over as somewhat pretentious, which often happens when you try to weave artistic themes into what is supposedly science fiction. The main plot wasn't very exciting either. Won't be buying any more of this eries.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a novel , or a collection of short stories, but a meander through the dream archipeligo. In the course of the journey we come across various stories, and different aspects of them in different paces. There are tragedies and affirmations, revenge and sweetness, and more explanation of what is actually happening in the archipeligo and how it got there .
It almost answers questions asked in the original collection of stories , and that really should be read first , to get the most out of this book.
Even on its own though , this is a complex and rewarding book that is best read over several days rather than in one sitting , as its episodic structure lends itself best to that and the vagueness of memory.
I read hundreds of books in a year and few stand out - this one did and still does ; it is a genuine masterwork.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The subtitle of Christopher Priest's The Islanders `All men are islands' cocks a snook at Donne's `No Man is an Islande' which points out interconnectedness. Priest's supposed `gazetteer' of the islands of The Dream Archipelago both reinforces Donne and his own subtitle, which hints at the also truth of isolation, inward looking, self-reflective nature of islands and island dwellers

This is a book to mangle minds. Told by several unreliable narrators - including the writer himself, who turns out to have dedicated his book to one of his mysterious characters, and thereby does that `up yours' gesture to the reader who wonders how much the writer of the foreword, Chaster Kammeston, is, or is not, Priest himself - this book systematically pulls rugs out from under the readers' feet, up-ending and wickedly landing them on the floor.

Those familiar with Priest's writing will be no strangers to his ability to severely disorientate and deliberately unsettle the reader, turning his dream landscapes to nightmare, whisking what seemed safe ground away to reveal the yawning chasms of danger beneath. Echoes of his earlier works are scattered throughout the text. Indeed the islands themselves are part of The Dream Archipelago, the title of a previous work.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Islanders" is a remarkable realistic speculative fiction tale about a murder, artistic rivalry and literary deception written by one of the finest writers writing now in any genre in the English language; eminent Briton Christopher Priest. This is a Rubik's Cube of a novel, recounting the main plot points in a literary style reminiscent, in places, of Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon", and one that evokes early Ursula Le Guin (e. g. "Earthsea" and early "Ekumen" novels such as "The Left Hand of Darkness") and Italo Calvino ("Invisible Cities") in its expressive, descriptive, usage of language. Priest's prose may also remind readers of Thomas Bernhard's, especially with regards to its emphasis on visual art and art history. Pretending to be a "travel guide" to the Dream Archipelago, what Priest has wrought instead is a short story collection, with each tale merely a chapter in his intricately detailed novel, with a rather deceptive introduction to this "travel guide" from one of the protagonists, who may have a secret history pertaining to the murder itself. Readers will encounter scenes replete with unspeakable horror and memorable romance during their "visits" to each of the Dream Archipelago islands, in literary styles ranging from first person to almost impersonal third person narrative. Without a doubt, "The Islanders" demonstrates why Priest is one of the most elegant literary stylists writing today in the English language, and reaffirms his status as among the most noteworthy contributors to contemporary Anglo-American fiction irrespective of genre.
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