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The Islanders

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,538 ratings  ·  230 reviews
Reality is illusory and magical in the stunning new literary SF novel from the multiple award-winning author of The Prestige—for fans of Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell
 
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 an
...more
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by Gollancz (first published September 22nd 2011)
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Þór Carlssom Wait..what? what are the other 2 books? I read this and loved it, didn't know it was part of a series…moreWait..what? what are the other 2 books? I read this and loved it, didn't know it was part of a series(less)

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Average rating 3.69  · 
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Glenn Russell
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing



Christopher Priest is a world builder along the lines of Frank Herbert and his Dune series, only with Priest his world is an Earth-like planet composed of many hundreds of islands rather than our seven continents. Included in the author's series are, to date, The Affirmation, The Dream Archipelago, The Gradual and this 2011 novel under review, The Islanders, a breathtaking tour de force of invention and imagination.

The majority of chapters are written in the form of a tourist guidebook for a sp
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Alexandra
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
Some advice on reading The Islanders, by Christopher Priest.



1. Read the introduction.

No, really. Even if you're an "I never read the introduction" kinda person, read this introduction. It's part of the story, and without it you are likely to be terrible confused, because...

2. Don't think this is a novel.

At least, not in the conventional, linear (or even non-linear) plot sense. Things happen, but not in any sort of chronological order. This is, as the introduction suggests, more of a gazette: an
...more
Bradley
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Priest is one hell of a writer.

What first appears to be a rather dry travelogue of islands, fauna, and different societies, traditions, and mirroring interconnectedness in physical location is, in fact, a novel of tricky space-time confusions, and many-layered lies told both among the inhabitants of the islands and also of lies between the two big continents that are waging an endless (and staged) war, supposedly leaving the Islands like a fascinating Switzerland between them.

But wa
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Mayim de Vries
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“None of this is real because reality lies in a different, more evanescent realm.”

If you plan to challenge yourself this year and read one book that is outside your traditional pastures genres, beyond what you normally read and enjoy, a book that is a little bit weird, somewhat unsettling and incomprehensible at first, yet fiendishly smart and hauntingly beautiful, can I beg (too snivelling) implore (reads like a crowdfunding petition) threaten (you are not the evil overlord as of yet, Mayim) pr
...more
Bettie
Read by Michael Maloney

Description: Reality is illusory and magical in the stunning new literary SF novel from the multiple award-winning author of The Prestige.

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
...more
Nathan
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: x06-june-2017
Very cool world-building and narrative structure. I didn't connect very strongly on a character level, but I enjoyed it! I probably just went too fast. ...more
David Hebblethwaite
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Christopher Priest’s work has given me some of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had, so I opened The Islanders – his first novel in nine years – with no small amount of anticipation. For this book, Priest returns to the world of the Dream Archipelago, setting for a number of short stories and, in part, 1981’s The Affirmation (rest assured that The Islanders stands alone, though readers of the earlier works will recognise a few names and concepts). The Dream Archipelago is a great, world-sp ...more
Larou
This book surprised me – Priest is very much a cerebral author, and from the reviews I had read I expected this, his first novel in eight years if I remember correctly, to be an interesting, but somewhat dry affair. Instead, it turned out to be a veritable page turner that had me glued to my Kindle with only grudging interruptions for things like the occasional food intake or sleep. Definitely not what you would expect from a book that for the most part (with the exception of some more conventio ...more
Genevieve
The pact we make as readers of fiction is willful suspension of disbelief. In The Islanders, Christopher Priest has come up with new ways to make even that literary pact suspect. As one friend put it, "he's not just f*cking with you but with your ontological certainty." Trying to write a thoughtful review of this Rubik's Cube of a book was as difficult as trying to unravel the narrative itself. As I was reading, I kept hearing the Twilight Zone theme song in my head, and I had this low-grade par ...more
Liviu
review on re-read 2016

Inspired by reading the recent Dream Archipelago sequence novel, The Gradual, I decided to reread The Islanders (and browse through the other 3 Archipelago sequence novels/collections) and this time (maybe knowing the structure which threw me off somewhat on original read as below), I enjoyed it tremendously from page 1 and I could appreciate the many subtleties that are intertwined through the description of the islands - just to mention, the story of novelist Chaster Kamm
...more
Linda
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
3.5 stars

I've mulled this over for a day wondering what to rate this book. This is the third book in Christopher Priest's Dream Archipelago world, and it's a world that is becoming familiar and which I enjoy returning to.

However, having read the first two books - The Affirmation and the Dream Archipelago - and found them to be page-turners for me, this book did not have quite the same effect. I found it a little bit difficult to get really immersed in for the first third or so, possibly because
...more
Beige
If I was rating solely on creativity, I'd have to give this 5 stars. However, I rate for enjoyment, so 4 it is.

Mr. Priest is a literary maverick. The format is brilliant; a travel guide for another world of mostly islands that dips into historical letters and essays. Most of which can be found on display in museums around the Archipelagos. Through them, we learn of the work and mysterious personal lives of vartiety of artists, writers and scientists.

My favourite part were the descriptions of t
...more
S̶e̶a̶n̶
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it

The Islanders is a fascinating gazetteer to Priest's fictional Dream Archipelago—the sprawling network of islands first introduced in The Affirmation. It's a curious blend of rather straightforward travel writing with narrative in the form of 'true crime,' biography, memoir, and journal. As we are guided through the various islands by a diverse chorus of voices, tangential connections grow like tendrils between the entries. Characters develop, disappear, and reappear. A mystery slowly materializ
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Anton
Jan 27, 2020 marked it as attempted
a tour-de-force of worldbuilding and excellent writing...but for my tastes somewhat aimless. I found myself nodding off after the first 40%. so... moving on. Tried, not for me.
Charles Dee Mitchell
On whatever world it exists, the Dream Archipelago is a band of thousands of islands circumnavigating the equator and extending into both the northern and southern temperate zones. Many of the islands are unnamed, and the naming conventions can be misleading since each island has both a standard name and a name in the local patois. Mapping the islands is essentially impossible due to something called the temporal vortices. The vortices were first discovered when sea and air travelers came to rea ...more
John
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Echoing Le Guin and Calvino Is This Novel Cloaked as a Travel Guide

“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.
...more
J.P.
Jun 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This is for certain a strangely written book. Most of the time I can tell by a publisher’s blurb if I should rush and buy it. But every now and then a novel comes out that keeps me humble and I think afterwards I could have waited. This is one of them.
For the most part, The Islanders reads like a bunch of travel brochures. Some parts just deal with the climate of the islands. Others focus only on certain features. So there is little continuity and it feels more like a short story collection. T
...more
Simon
Apr 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I can happily pick up anything by this author and know I'm going to get something out of it. So, at a loose end one day for something to read, I picked this up with high expectations.

The book has a somewhat strange narrative structure that is a travel guide to the imaginary sprawling archipelago in an ocean between two warring continents. These island guides are punctuated by a series of interconnected stories of featuring a range of interesting, artistic and enigmatic characters.

The archipelago
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Jason
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
2.5 Stars

This is a very unusual book, and a tough one to review. It is really a book of short stories that all feature Islands. There are some very good stories in here that focus on lots of wind. Or, they feature crazy and cool killer insects. Or, they feature lots of wind. There is a lot of history told and some are good, but in the end, I found much of this book to be forgettable... Read it for the amazing writing, but leave your expectations at the door.
Bryan Murphy
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author has constructed a labyrinth. It disorients you to start with, but once you begin to get the lie of the land, it becomes fascinating. You get pointed in various directions, which the author's narrative and world-building skills make you happy to follow, even though you realise you are being toyed with, until he finally lets you out, and you think “Well, that was fun, but is that it?” I think it is worth the final disappointment to enjoy the fun. ...more
Ryan
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
The Islanders
Christopher Priest
Read it in used Hardback off Amazon, like new condition, for 86 cents, which should have probably been a big red flag. Weighing in at 342 pages.

OTC Book clubs March selection, the first selection by a new member this year, cheers all around to her. In the spirit of our book club, she selected a title that she hadn't read and knew only at surface level, and under 400 pages; The Islanders by Christopher Priest. Mr. Priest is a distinguished author with a lot of very
...more
Alan
Aug 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Would-be travelers
Recommended to Alan by: A Belmont library staff pick
Chaster Kammeston, the island of Piqay's most renowned novelist, disclaims in his Introduction to Christopher Priest's The Islanders that
As for this book, I declare that it will do no harm.
It is in fact to be commended. It is a typical island enterprise: it is incomplete, a bit muddled, and it wants to be liked.
—p.6
I did like The Islanders, though perhaps not quite as much as it wanted to be liked. Like a ferry trip through the Dream Archipelago it describes, this book is often slow going, or at
...more
Marion
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was my very first Christopher Priest read.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Priest in June 2012, he was invited to a book festival I worked at, and he was presenting his new book (The Islanders). Being a broke student, I couldn't afford the 20€ the bookseller was requiring of me to buy the book (you'd think working pro bono for the festival I'd have some kind of discount right? But nooo). I was really annoyed at it, so when a few months ago I found the book for 9€, I grabbed it and didn't le
...more
Ben De Bono
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Even by Christopher Priest standards this one is tough to review. On the one hand, it's a book you don't want to know too much about going in as the process of discovery is a large part of its greatness. On the other, without some word of explanation about what you're reading potential readers, especially those new to Priest, may be turned off.

Perhaps the best thing to say is that whether you're a veteran to Priest's work or a newcomer, it's imperative to go into The Islanders with an open mind
...more
Susie
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely, mind-bendingly, suspensefully, inexplicably fantastic. This novel was unique in such a way that I have nothing to truly compare it to. It's more like a cerebral movie, the kind that everyone tells you is better the second time around because you might understand it then. I rarely re-read books, but this work merits digestion and possibly another read-through to see what I've missed, or what I can put together.

I'm not entirely sure how to explain The Islanders. It certainly shares a
...more
Tori Heroux
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Whoa, dude.

I'm a sucker for experimental SF, I guess, when it's well done. This was my first from Priest, but the Prestige is high on the list of my favorite films so I'll have to check out his others. This one struck me as different from the others, most likely.
Exceptionally non-linear. (As a side note, if you like this book you should try William T. Vollman, e.g. The Ice Shirt.) Reads like a travel guide, except for the longer chapters which spiral outward into a looking glass you can fall ri
...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
An excellent, albeit colder and detached in tone, companion to the mind blowing The Dream Archipelago. The Islanders' individual chapters complete the incompleteness that the stories from The Dream Archipelago only hinted at. An incompleteness, full of mysteries, dreams, shadows, doubts, abandonment and great distances in both time and space, that feels completely right to the reader. ...more
Atlas
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Weird. Fascinating. Interesting. Unsatisfying ending.
Raya Dimitrova
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The experience this “guide”-shaped book offers is: the joy of travelling and exploring new and exotic landscapes, the dipping into the lives of the greatest minds of a chaotic but attractive world, the overwhelm of its many colors, the unending seeking of new and yet undiscovered islands & the challenge to connect their stories by putting together the little pieces found on each island.

Somewhere along reading the introduction, a thought popped up in my head: this book is going to be about contra
...more
Julian Leatherdale
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a masterfully written book that uses the conceit of a gazetteer (an encyclopedic list) of the cultural, economic, geographical features of islands in a Dream Archipelago. This self-consciously informational, scientific approach to describing these islands is frustrated and compromised by the vagaries of language (variations of dialect and meaning, disagreement and duplication of naming) as well as elusive aspects of the islands themselves : unreliable coordinates and temporal vortices sp ...more
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795 followers
Christopher Priest was born in Cheshire, England. He began writing soon after leaving school and has been a full-time freelance writer since 1968.

He has published eleven novels, four short story collections and a number of other books, including critical works, biographies, novelizations and children’s non-fiction.

He has written drama for radio (BBC Radio 4) and television (Thames TV and HTV). In
...more

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“None of it is real, though, because reality lies in a different, more evanescent realm. These are only the names of some of the places in the archipelago of dreams. The true reality is the one you perceive around you, or that which you are fortunate enough to imagine for yourself.” 8 likes
“The dream-state of the Archipelago, which is what we islanders most respond to, and least wish to see changed, seems likely to continue without interference for a long time to come.” 3 likes
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