THE ISLAND by Adrian McKinty (BOOK REVIEW)
Adrian was born and grew up in a working-class housing project in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the worst decades of the Troubles. He attended Oxford University on a full scholarship to study philosophy. He fell in love with a girl there and followed her to New York City where he worked as an illegal in bars and building sites and as a Teamster driver for three years before marrying the girl and becoming a US citizen. He taught high school in Denver and Boulder before moving to Melbourne Australia where he decided to write full time.
McKinty’s latest triumph The Island is the thriller we all were waiting for. Thriving off contemporary suburban fears, (much like Horror Writer Stephen King likes to), McKinty dares to answer our deep-anxiety-riddled question of …what if? What if everything went wrong? What if we were stranded? What if our phones didn’t work? What if someone died?….
IT WAS JUST SUPPOSED TO BE A FAMILY VACATION.
A TERRIBLE ACCIDENT CHANGED EVERYTHING.
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF UNTIL THEY COME FOR YOUR FAMILY.
Heather is only in her twenties, and has recently married an older man, Tom. His wife died a year ago, so it a bit soon for the union, according his neurotic teenage children Olivia and Owen. Tom decides it’s time for a family holiday, to bond and let his children come around to the idea of Heather. When an opportunity to present at a conference in Australia comes up, he takes the chance, deciding to take the entire family with him. But it doesn’t go to plan.
Toms’ teenage children do not treat Heather very kindly and spend a lot of the trip whining about various things. Including not seeing enough wild animals. That is until they meet Jacko and Matt…
“We’re from across the bay there – private island – and there’s koalas bloody everywhere. And wallabies, echidnas, wombats – it’s like Jurassic bloody Park, mate,’ Jacko said.
Their discussions about their private island and bold statement of ‘no visitors allowed,’ leads to discussions of money, with Tom fishing out his wallet… no one could have predicted what would happen next.
“She’s the monster. The bunyip. She’ll destroy us unless we destroy her.”
The novel has a momentum that I have never experienced, gripping you in a ridged vice that you cannot escape. As the story progresses from friendly family holiday to fiendish family horror story, you become more and more engrossed, unable to put the book down or leave the next page unturned.
As the story turns nasty, pangs of familiarity arise. Echoes from previous horrors leak into your mind, such as Australian horror movie ‘Wolf Creek,’ ghoulishly disturbing ‘I Spit on Your Grave,’ or the Rob Zombie 2003 American black comedy horror ‘House of 1000 Corpses,’ the never-ending battle of perennial torment, chase and attack of this novel feel just as familiar as they do terrifying.
“Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an American”
Ignoring the horror and terror, there is some lovely historical context mixed into the narrative, and cute mythological mentions – such as the creature bunyip – there is also talk of the aboriginal history of the island as well as various topographical history.
“The federal government had a prison just down the road here from the 1910s to the 1980s. They paid us rent and we sort of live off the remains of that cash. They tried to run it as a tourist attraction after it closed, but Ma put a stop to all that”
McKinty makes apt sneaky nods at other authors work, most notably of Waiting for the Barbarians by South African writer J.M. Coetzee. The joke in the title of Coetzee’s novel being quite a morbid one, pointing out that the problematic name of ‘barbarian,’ is a constructed falsity built into colonial discourse. The joke in McKinty’s text suggesting that it isn’t race or culture that makes you barbaric, it is your behaviour.
“It was night, and the barbarians were coming”
This novel should have a warning brandished on the title page, stating that ‘your heart will pound for Heather, your blood will boil for Owen and Olivia, and you will gasp and gasp at Tom.’ A thoroughly enjoyable read that I have recommended to nearly all of my friends who are going on holiday. I am excited to read more of McKinty’s work and hope to see more thrillers written by him flying off the shelves.