Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Review: "The Islands at the End of the World" by Austin Aslan

"The Islands at the End of the World" by Austin Aslan
First published in 2014
355 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
Fulfills the sci-fi requirement for my Reading Outside the Box Challenge

(image source)

"The Islands at the End of the World" reminded me a lot of the end-of-the-world movie "2012" -- it started out strong and got progressively weirder and less believable.

Hawaii is a fantastic setting for a disaster novel. It's entirely plausible that the islands could lose communication with the rest of the world. And thousands of tourists would be stranded there. And it faces the threat of tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. I was super-excited to pick up this book because we lived in Hawaii for three wonderful years, and it's always fun to read about places you've been.

Unfortunately, I didn't really love "The Islands at the End of the World," the story of Leilani and her father and their quest to get from Oahu back to the Big Island as disaster befalls the planet. Leilani has epilepsy, and she and her father have just arrived in Honolulu for an experimental drug trial when things start to get strange -- namely, electronics stop working and a giant green cloud appears in the nigh sky and a tsunami pummels the eastern coast of the island chain.

With the power out, electronics fried, gasoline and fresh water in short supply and communication with the Mainland impossible, violence, looting and panic quickly become widespread. Leilani and her father race to find a way off Oahu so they can start making their way south to the Big Island, where her mom, brother and grandpa are hopefully still alive.

All that sounds interesting and totally was. It was definitely an action-packed adventure that had me turning pages at lightning speed. But I was not impressed by the big reveal -- when we finally find out the cause of the disaster. And everything that happens after that is dampened by our bizarre new knowledge of the Emerald Orchid, the green cloud behind all the problems. Things quickly took a turn for the unlikely and paved the way for some confusing plot holes.

I give this book props for causing me to spend an entire morning doing absolutely nothing but racing through pages -- and I really did enjoy the first two-thirds. But I wonder if I would have liked it much at all if it hadn't been set in Hawaii, one of my favorite places on earth and a locale that I'm extremely familiar with. The author is working on a sequel, but I doubt I'll pick it up. I'm sad to say this book started with a very promising premise that could have been executed much more skillfully.

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