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 why he has remained one of the country's most prized novelists.
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An intriguing, enigmatic trip
Narrator making the very best of a difficult story
I have read several books by Priest in print and like them. The Islanders is one of his more complicated narratives however and I realized belatedly that it is one of those books that should really be read in print to enjoy all of its nuances. The audio version simply does not give listeners the possibility of going back in the text and dwelling longer on some more significant passage. That is not to say that there are no coherent narratives in the novel; there are quite a few. The point is however that the book has additional dimensions when readers start to compare these narratives. In any case, Maloney really makes a good job with a difficult material. So, despite my reservations about the audiobook, I would easily recommend Priest's novel in print, and Maloney's performance in general.
- Andreas Henriksson