Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, February 5, 2009


by Aldous Huxley
295 pages

When I sign up for a reading challenge that has a list of books to choose from (this one was from the LOST challenge list) I don’t do much research before making my selections. Usually I look at the titles and authors and pick ones that are appealing for some reason or another. For the most part that strategy has been a success for me … until now.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d put this book aside for a while and one commenter wanted to know why. Since my response to her is basically a book review in itself, I’m going to include it here:
*I* think [this book] is horrible, but it IS a classic after all so there must be some redeeming qualities. Here's my basic summary of the book:
  • Will arrives on Indonesian island (called Pala) that is usually closed to foreigners
  • He meets the very friendly and intelligent locals
  • He begins to learn about their culture, morals, education, social life, etc., etc., etc., etc.
  • He learns more about their unique belief system
  • and more about it
  • and more
  • more
I have less than a quarter of the book left to go and I just can't bring myself to pick it up for now. I'd even been skimming the last few chapters before I finally put it aside for now.

To me, it seems like an attack on traditional society and [organized] religion thinly veiled as a book. Are you familiar with the term "info dump" in books? If not, it's where the author uses the characters to give you all sorts of background that is necessary to your understanding of the book, and usually does it through conversations between characters. That is all this book seems to me [to be] - one huge info dump about how to create the perfect society and how wrong everyone else is.

I'd really like to know what people who like this book see in it. And I'd really like to get to the end so I can find out if anything actually happens in it.
I finally did get to the end. I forced myself to read the remaining pages all in one night so I could finally say I’m done with it. And you know what? Not much happens. In fact *nothing* happens that justifies the time I took to finish the book.

The very last page of my copy of ISLAND gives a bit of info about the author. One line states “his later work reflects an interest in mysticism and the effect of the consciousness-expanding drugs.” That single sentence goes a long way to explain ISLAND.

Boy did I ever hate this book.

*** Miscellany ***

There are two random things that I want to mention here.
  • First, the word "manichean" ... A while back, a guy in my office mentioned that his Spanish instructor used the word manichean in class and no one knew what it meant. The teacher was surprised because she said it is based on an English word. No one in our office had ever heard of it either. Here's the definition from
    an adherent of the dualistic religious system of Manes, a combination of Gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with a basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark, matter being regarded as dark and evil.
    More simply put, it is the idea of a clear dualism between two opposites. Anyway, the point is the this word is used several times in ISLAND. The Palanese belief system is very critical of what is calls the "Manichees" of organized religion. Funny where you learn these tidbits of info, huh?

  • Second, the person of "Savanarola" ... As I read ISLAND, one character was repeatedly referred to as being like Savanarola. I had no idea who this guy was. Then I was reading the press release for the new novel SIGNORI DI VINCI and Savanarola is mentioned there as well. I figured that was my clue that I should look him up. Come to find out, he was a Dominican friar in the late 1400s who wanted to rid the Church of some of its vices. He was responsible for many "bonfires of the vanities" and was eventually excommunicated. I'm not exactly sure how all this ties into the guy in ISLAND though, unless they are referring to his particular fanaticism ....

*** Connections to LOST ***

The whole purpose of reading ISLAND was to discover something important about the show LOST. I mean, it *is* one of the books that inspired the show after all, and hence on the LOST Book Reading Challenge list. Here are the connections I found:
  • The island of Pala is closed to foreigners – and so is LOST island.
  • The people of Pala have a unique belief system that is threatened by the rest of the world. Yeah, this reminds me of The Others on LOST island ... do you agree?
  • And I found out through Lostpedia that the ferry The Others use (docked at the pier where Michael and Walt are set free) is called the Pala Ferry. I assume this alludes to the first two items in my list as I don’t see any other connections here.
In the end I didn’t get much out of ISLAND but a headache.


Ti said...

I haven't read it and it doesn't look like I will anytime soon. So sorry it gave you a headache!

I don't have time for books that I don't care for. I ditch 'em within 50 pages and don't bat an eye while doing it.

Look at it this way, your next read HAS to be better :)

Ti said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amanda said...

O wow. I briefly thought about picking this one up but am glad I didn't. I don't like odd/mystical/religious books like this. The drug think kind of cracks me up. Sometimes when you learn about things like that, the oddness of the story you're reading makes more sense :)

Florinda said...

"Info dump" - hadn't heard the term before, but it's very useful, especially for describing the very worst parts of The Da Vinci Code.

I'm glad you did make it through this book, so you could tell us about it. I don't think I'll be picking this one up.

Serena said...

I haven't read this book, but I really hate those books that info dump on you the reader. That just drives me batty! I don't think I would have finished this book. I congratulate you on finishing it even though it didn't give you much in return for your efforts.

Amy said...

Thanks for the heads up I'll be avoiding this one!

Michelle said...

Sorry for not replying to your email!

I really liked this review though. The added information at the end and the relevance to Lost were interesting.

It really doesn't sound like a great book and definately one I won't be picking up anytime soon! But like another commenter said, the next book you pick up is going to be that much better in comparison to this one!

Heather J. said...

Ti - I've dumped books before, but I was really holding out hope for this one ...

Amanda - you and I usually agree on books so I'd say DEFINITELY stay away from this one!

Florinda - Info dump is perfect for Da Vinci Code for sure.

Serena - you know, I think I deserve some kind of award just for finally getting through this one. ~LOL~

Amy - yes, I think I did a service to everyone in the LOST books challenge by reading this and warning them all away. :)

Michelle - I'm glad you enjoyed the review. I had more fun writing it than I did reading the book, that's for sure!

Writer said...

I did not know the book went to the show. I know I have never watched the show and now I probably will not read the book if I come across it.

Brad said...

Oh my god! This is my favorite book! Even my friend who never reads thought it was really interesting. It's genius!

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