Dennis Haritou: Sam Taylor is a violent man. I don’t think he would take a swipe at anyone. ST is ideationally violent. It’s like he takes your head and forces it into a bucket of ice water. When he pulls it out with you gasping for breath, he tells you that your best friend Mary has arrived to take care of you. Thank goodness for Mary. I’ll be all right now that she is here. It’s too bad she doesn’t really exist. But Sam Taylor has convinced me that she does.
Island at the End of the World is a small, bitter pill of a story…it’s a contemporary folk tale, really, for children who want to grow up. It’s about that last family to survive the Great Flood which happened because we were all so wicked. Fortunately, our surviving family, led by it’s own self-tortured and repulsive Noah, escaped just in time from that epicenter of depravity, Southern California, by building their own ark. Tragically, the children lost their mother in the great journey when she went down in the waves. But they still have their father to misdirect them. The children consist of only son Finn and his two sisters, his younger sister Daisy and his older sister, Alice, who is obviously too smart for her own good. As for Finn, he is too distracted talking to his dead cat, Snowy, who his father kicked the shit out of, to cause any trouble. I especially love how the great Sam Taylor does a series of first person POV’s, starting with Finn and concluding with Alice and our Noah wannabe. As the POV shifts, you sense the ground reeling under your feet. I also was intrigued by the Island language that the children created for themselves. Our identities are lexical. Change the grammar and you change the species…and probably not for the better. Island at the End of the World is an awesome contemporary nightmare. Now where is that bucket? I’m ready for wherever Sam Taylor wants to take me.
Jason Chambers: Keep it up Dennis and people will be wondering where you’ve been dunking yourself over the holidays. Taylor does have a way with twisting orthography, manipulating diction, and creating bizarre shadows of language just slightly askew from what we expect. We saw a comparable language-breaking in Republic, where the teens created an Orwellian speech pattern to delineate their “nation.” Here, too, the children bend normal orthography in their POV, but I didn’t find it as effective or important as in the earlier book, but rather a simple reflection of the removal of societal standards for the childrens’ upbringing. What was interesting to me was the reintroduction of the escape from society seen in Republic. However, whereas that was borne of innocence and secularity, the secession in Island was the result of religious fanaticism and madness (though he would not be the first to feel that way about L.A).
Parts of this new novel defy belief. The father strips his kids from Sodom and takes them where? Paradise? Funded and furnished by the same Sodom they left? I guess it’s okay if they don’t know about it. I can accept that his madness rationalized the transaction. But what about the mother? Would she have really agreed to let the kids go? I find it implausible. It doesn’t really matter too much though, thanks to Taylor’s authorial gymnastics. At root, The Island at the End of the World, is a horror novel, the Swiss Family Robinson meets the Shining, or something like that, where the real monster is within. It’s a hell of a riveting read and quite disturbing. Every time Taylor sheds a layer of cover from his story, the outrage just grows. And there sure as hell is no ambiguous ending here.
Jason Rice: I think you’re both reading into this tale too deeply, although it does present a few interesting ideas, namely that Sam Taylor loves the movies, and Paul Auster. Island at the End of the World echoes the film The Mosquito Coast, based on Paul Theroux’s novel. I think the Paul Auster reference is more precise since it seemed to me that the father in this book is trying to educate his children outside the system of the world that he claims has vanished in the “great flood”. The Locked Room by Auster is essentially the same idea, but in this book it seems like I’m making that narrative leap. The idea in The Mosquito Coast is that the world has come to an end by it’s own hand, and Alie Fox, (played by Harrison Ford, in one of his two good movies, the guy is a drip, lets be honest) has convinced his wife and two children to flee the modern world to a part of the world where they will start again, and they’ll be the only one’s in this paradise. But in Island, Taylor takes it one step further, or backwards, with the Father keeping his intellectual self secret from his children, when it seems to me he just wanted to get away from it all and have time to read his books and write in his journal. All lunatics must have a fear of being discovered (he’s not a lunatic, but he certainly doesn’t fit into the corporate world, that means taking orders, and doing things for other people), and when a new person shows up on the island and is added to the mix it seems like things should go wrong. Finn’s narrating in an illiterate voice (I know it’s not exactly like that, but I felt like it was) makes perfect sense for a kid who is telling things as he sees them (and hasn’t had primary education, or maybe he’s lazy, and just is a sloppy writer), and by doing it in this voice he makes the reader pay close attention to what it happening. People who give up on modern society tend to have a plan, it’s not a good one, it’s usually very shallow and doesn’t get past the first six months (at least in the fiction I’ve read), due in part to a severe lack of discipline, but in this story discipline is ruined by weak people, if that makes any sense. Things happen very quickly in this book and to gloss over Finn and his point of view, you tend to miss certain things. I think that this book is a sequel to Republic, a new world can be discovered if you leave the world you know behind. But who has the tools to build this new world? I thought that this narrative showed just how mature and confident a writer Sam Taylor has become since writing Republic.