‘The lslanders’ by Christopher Priest

Gollancz – 2011

I have long been an enormous fan of the fiction of Christopher Priest.

I am about a quarter through this new novel.  Although this ‘review’ is a not a classical DF Lewis ‘real-time review’ as such, I do intend to give my final comments when I finish this entrancing work – on this page below.  Meantime, it is a book that would lend itself to this real-time approach very readily, I guess, but it’s merely contrariness on my part that encourages me not to move along that obvious grain in this physical paper hardback. 

It seems to be a piecemeal ‘Gazetteer’ of Priest’s Dream Archipelago – whereby my normal stated method of forming a ‘gestalt’ (a word with an uncanny comparison with the word ‘gazetteer’?) from the ‘leitmotifs’ of the text (as they evolve in real-time) is exactly the required method by dint of this text’s nature, i.e. its cumulative formulation of some ‘paintings’ of meaning in mystery-craquelure like fiction-music or fiction-geography / geomancy within ‘dream sickness’?? (Cf ‘Nemonymous Night’ and ‘Weirdtongue’) etc etc.  These are my current speculations and my peremptory expressions rather than the book’s – and ‘dream sickness’ has not been mentioned so far…. testing the real-time water of this ‘in media res’ reading-process.

Island-hopping meaning… 

I shall need to say more later. But this book is promising to be a work of sheer genius at this stage.

NB: My 2007 comparison of CP’s ‘The Affirmation’ with TV’s ‘Life on Mars’ here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/life-on-mars/ 

Up to the point I’ve reached in ‘The Islanders’, we learn of a female character who has written a novel called ‘The Affirmation’… (24/9/11)

 –> page 149: Cf: the TV series ‘LOST’ and tunnelling as the ‘hawling’ in ‘Nemonymous Night’. (26/9/11)

—>page 167: Drones (or Google Earth ‘crabs’??) mapping the book itself as well as its inner and outer geography: like ‘real-time reviewing’ or mapping a multi-authored anthology or archipelago (of stories) or author collection or a patchwork novel or a ‘pattern of islands’.  Here we are formulating a murder mystery and romantic ‘blind spots’ in the territory of this ‘roman littoral’.  I sense this is to be a major work when it is completely read, halfway as I currently am within its whole length and within the length of the current long ‘chapter’ (each chapter an island in itself (each about a dream island) or a series of seas between my own islands of thought?)… (27/9/11)

–>page 226 – As a readerly aside, I have been reminded that, many years ago, I visited Sark that has a La Seigneurie, An Island with intrinsic Islandness or Islandicity.  Trapped in its own fiction world. My tale written on that Sark holiday with my wife was published in Chaosium’s ‘Song of Cthulhu’: Fall From Grace.  Meanwhile, Priest’s ‘Islanders’ makes me think that I have badly missed Priest’s work in the last few years without realising it. 

[For the last 17 years, I have lived on the coast of the Tendring Peninsula, the nearest one can get to a blend of an island and a mainland, I guess.] (28/9/11)

–>page 286. Astonishing material. Hawling-tunnels, of a sort, and Stephen-Kingian ‘dark towers’ with a ‘dream sickness’. I am determined to finish this great novel today, before it inexorably finishes me in the same period. One of those life-changers. A spoor of traces. The ‘roman littoral’.  (28/9/11 – three hours later)

–>page 339 (end) – Each of the book’s named characters a leitmotif in a geomantic gestalt – completed by Yo (You?) and Oy (I?) [Cf: OY a major character in King (my real-time review of his ‘Dark Tower’)] – as the Wagnerian land is actually made music of by the ‘curse winds’?  The “synchronised shards of random truth & fiction” – here with each shard being a mimer’s plate glass… Or a miner’s or hawler’s.  A wonderful wonderful book. Highly recommended. Romantic, mysterious, aesthetic, geomantic, interconnective, just ripe for a reader like me (Oy) – and you (Yo). An inverse Falklands / Argentina  (Failanders / Archipelagians). Currency: rare and refined words.

“But Meequa was for her an island like a thousand others in the Archipelago, harbouring a seashore mentality, a littoral culture, turning its back on the engine of military intention and strategy that powered the island economies from inland, looking instead outwards to the unmapped seas, carelessly idle in the warmth, languorous under the sun, dreaming in the days.” (28/9/11 – another 4 hours later)


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4 responses to “‘The lslanders’ by Christopher Priest


  2. Pingback: Clarke Award | The Nemonicon

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