The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle

‘We will not live long enough to live forever .’

In a post-energy-crisis world, hovering on the brink of collapse, Pitcairn Island is sinking into the Pacific Ocean. In this world, where catastrophe is reality, it is also our most popular form of entertainment. Meet Max Galleon. Married with two children, Max is not just a filmmaker, but the world’s foremost director of immersive virtual-reality catastrophe blockbusters: an auteur. But for all this, Max lives a life he cannot remember. And, if you can’t remember your life, then how can you tell what is real? Every experience is new, or is it?

EcoLaw is enforced, through its avatars such as Pow-Pow the Power-Saving Panda, assisted by armies of children just like Max’s daughter Lilly. This is close enough to our reality to be uncomfortably recognisable, just far enough away for the edges to be blurred. Max’s son Jonas, spends much of his time playing a simulation game set on Pitcairn Island with a friend online. And what about Max’s wife Eloise?

‘Goodbye, Max Galleon,’ farewells the elevator. ‘Always remember, sustainability is the key. You are a man who can make a difference.’

‘I leave no footprints as I step out into the world .’

Don’t expect every aspect of this novel to make sense: it doesn’t. But keep reading, because the absence of sense is a little like Max’s memory: apparently unnecessary. Especially when you are as networked as Max is.

‘It’s always much easier to measure complexity than it is to understand it .’

The story shifts between present and past, real and imagined. It’s complicated by what Max thinks he knows, by the film he is trying to make with Jean, his attempts to engage with his wife and children. And, in the meantime, while Max is trying to help his brother who is in a coma, obsessing about the state of his marriage and editing his out-sourced memories, the water level continues to rise.

Jonas is concerned:

‘We’ve lost another 0.00012,’ he says. ‘The world is ending and all you want to do is watch movies .’

How will it end? You’ll need to read it for yourself to find out. It’s a dystopian comedy of sorts, a look at a world where actual reality is so dire that escapism into imagined catastrophe is somehow better. How ironic. Or is it?

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2018

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