Saturday, May 31, 2008

17. Sweeney's Island by John Christopher

Sweeney's Island pictureFrom the few biographical snippets I've read about John Christopher, he was a very prolific writer in the early part of his career. It really was a career for him and until the success of the Tripods trilogy, he had to write as much as possible. He cranked out several books a year, in several genres. He also never did any rewriting beyond the first chapter, supposedly. I don't know, his books read pretty well to me. Sweeney's Island is one of those, written in 1964. It's about a group of London bourgeois hangers-on of a very wealthy and connected guy named Sweeney. During one of his cocktail parties, Sweeney asks them to stay after where he proposes an impromptu trip on a new yacht he has just bought. He has clearly planned this very carefully, knowing that each of them either is dependent on his future generosity or is free enough to be able to just take off for a few weeks of ocean paradise.

However, it becomes apparent that Sweeney's plans are a little more elaborate than that when the ship ends up going into untrafficked routes far into the Pacific and then stops at an uninhabited tropical island far from any shipping lanes. Well, seemingly uninhabited. There are signs of previous habitation and even surprisingly organized agriculture. A constant cloud hangs over the islands larger two peaks, hiding it from view and there are other disturbing signs which I won't reveal.

The core of this book is about the people, the power and personality struggles that arise among them. Normally, I am not so interested in that path being emphasized but Christopher takes things to a pretty awesome extreme here. Shit gets really twisted. In some ways, this is very much like a Lord of the Flies with adults. Or more specifically, Lord of the Flies with british bourgeois adults from the mid-60s, a social group that Christopher rips to pieces in this book. Very satisfying.

I really enjoyed this book. The element of isolation and the social hierarchy reshaping itself once released from the strictures of authority and civilized society put this very much in the Post-Apocalyptic tradition, even though there isn't actually an apocalypse. Even if that genre isn't interesting to you, this is still a really entertaining and enjoyable book. It's turned up the intensity of my appreciation of John Christopher. I was at first only interested in checking out his PA books, but now I'm grabbing anything I can get my hands on.


Buzby said...

You're on a real reading rampage! Nice work. This book sounds cool. It's getting on my list.

Lantzvillager said...

Nice find. This is a title I have never even heard of. I'll have to borrow at some point.

Jarrett said...

yeah, put me on the mailing list if this one gets passed around.

And you moved ahead of me, damn you!

Olman Feelyus said...

Sorry guys, it's a library book! But Buzby found a copy.

Lantzvillager said...

I just picked up a copy. I'll mail it around after I read it.