X-isle by Steve Augarde
Review by Floresiensis
Ever since the floods came and washed the world away, survivors have been desperate to win a place on X-isle, the island where life is rumoured to be easier than on what's left of the mainland. Only young boys are in with a chance, the smaller and lighter the better. Baz and Ray are two of the lucky few to be chosen, but they soon discover that X-isle is a far cry from paradise. Ruled by Preacher John, a dangerous religious fanatic, it's a violent, unpredictable place where terrible things can happen at any moment. The boys hatch an extraordinary plan in order to protect themselves - the construction of a mighty weapon of defence. But can they complete this weapon in time, and are they really prepared to use it in order to secure their freedom?
The Lord of the Flies is one of my favourite books; The Day After Tomorrow is a film that I have enjoyed watching many times. When I read that X-isle contained elements of both book and film I felt sure that I was onto a winner… and so it proved.
After overcoming initial difficulties with the lead’s name being Baz – who, in my head goes on to meet a girl called Sharon, they salvage a Ford Capri from the murky depths and sail the world in a car / boat – I quickly become engrossed in this intriguing tale of a group of teenage boys’ fight for survival on the brutal and unforgiving X-isle.
This is an excellent book; everything that Steve Augarde does is to a high standard. The characterisation, world building, narrative and pacing are all spot on and the result is a fantasy thriller that will appeal to teenagers all around the world.
The story itself is refreshingly simple. The world has been flooded, many have died and the survivors are left to fight it out over what little resources are left. There is an island (X-isle) on which the Eck family lives; they have access to deep sea diving apparatus which allows them to salvage submerged supermarkets for non-perishable food items - this puts them in a position of power, a position which they ruthlessly abuse.
One of my favourite moments from the book was when Baz had to deliver the evening meal to the reclusive, fanatical and very frightening Preacher John:
“The huge bulk loomed before him, awful in its silence. Then it began to alter shape, shifting, diminishing, as it moved back through the door frame. Preacher John’s face became visible, cracked and weather-worn, the orange hairs of his beard glowing like electric filaments in the flickering light.”
X-isle: Chapter 16
X-isle is an appealing and inventive book that constantly surprises, it never becomes formulaic and as such always leaves the reader guessing. The trials and tribulations of Baz and Ray enable you to genuinely feel and root for them whilst the way that the author portrays the adults and nasty older kids leaves you hoping that they get their deserved comeuppance. I won’t give too much away about what happens on the isle itself but one thing is for sure, it is no picnic. What do you think they do with the kids when they are too old, and too big to be controlled?
Augarde closes the book perfectly. If this is a stand-alone novel then you will be more than satisfied with how things are tied up… but the clever thing is that he also left it beautifully poised, with just enough unanswered questions and future possibilities, to leave us hoping that there may be more to come (maybe a Ford Capri will make an appearance in the sequel? I certainly hope so).
X-isle is a captivating and well written book of rare depth. Highly recommended for young adults, both male and female.
About the author
Steve Augarde was born in Birmingham, but spent most of his life in the West Country, working as an illustrator, paper-engineer, and semi-pro jazz musician. He has written and illustrated over 70 picture books for younger children, and has produced the paper engineering for many pop-up books as well as providing the artwork and music for two animated BBC television series. His first book for older children, The Various, won a Silver Smarties Award in 2003.
Samara from Lincoln
I love this book. I'm reading it right now. My favorite part of the book was when Ray dropped the cans and crap on Steiner. Hah, that was hilarious.
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