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  • Writer's pictureTina S Beier

Book Review: Lighthouse Island

By Paulette Jiles

The novel is a fantastic example of world-building and has a tense quest-like narrative, but the romance was stilted, the dialogue tags drove me bonkers, and the last quarter of the novel was very dry.

In a dystopian future where countries have exploded into a massive urban sprawl, the government is a controlling mass that seeks to quell discontent with fear-inducing mass media. Nadia goes on the run and is aided by James, a wheelchair-bound government worker.

As I've said, I really liked the world. A massive urban sprawl with no resources and a bureaucratic fascist state. The government agents and propaganda were wonderfully corrupt and menacing. I loved Nadia's journey through the different zones and the different people she meets. I'm very fond of quest stories that follow an ambling narrative, which this has in abundance. I also enjoyed the writing style (aside from the lack of dialogue tags), as I found it lyrical and poetic, albeit sometimes hyperbolic.

Nadia's character wasn't consistent. I felt disconnected from her entirely. The perspective did not allow for us to really get to know her - it was almost as if she were keeping herself from the reader. And as soon as James came into the picture she turned into this fairly useless side character. Nadia had a tough upbringing and her purpose for heading to the Lighthouse was an escape from persecution, but James' rationale was flimsy at best. And their love story was such a let down. He gives her information and all of sudden they are in love. As soon as they do get together, James is clearly established as this knowledgeable, almost paternal figure where she is this lost little girl he has to save. This makes no sense, because she proves herself to be competent and resourceful. It was very frustrating.

There was also a huge coincidence that was so incredibly unbelievable given the population numbers.

The last quarter was also frustrating, because if felt tacked on. There is a very brief introduction to five new characters that seemed to come out of nowhere. In truth, it felt like a bit of a cop-out. If their story had been interspersed throughout the rest of the novel it might have worked, but as it stands now, it feels rushed.

There were also a few things I found were anachronistic to something supposedly 100 years in the future. Genders roles and the complete lack of LGBT characters, for one. Forced marriage, for another. At times I felt I was reading a novel written in the 1970s about a possible future.

Overall, an interesting novel that had its moments, but I wouldn't read it again.

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