The Summer Isles

  • by Ian R. MacLeod
  • Narrated by Steve Hodson
  • 13 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Nominated for the John C Campbell Memorial Award. Sidewise Award for Alternate History. World Fantasy Award.
In this fine work of full-length fiction by award-winning author Ian R. MacLeod, a chilling alternate history unfolds.... An elderly English historian, swept along with the rest of his country by the march of history, sways between reminiscences of his life's true love and his efforts - in his own fumbling way - to change his nation's course.
In this tale, Britain has lost the First World War and turned to fascism. As a homosexual, the narrator suffers both the fear of repression and the loss of his lover to the fascist government, while the ordinary people of the rest of the country enjoy shiny modernity and, with it, briefly, the envy of other nations.
MacLeod's tale shows convincingly that no one individual or country is immune from totalitarianism, and the identity of his British dictator forms a twist that, both beguilingly and deceptively, never stops turning.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Outstanding, the surprise find of the year

Well, what a good book! And beautifully read. I've never read this author before and I've never heard of this book. I downloaded it on the strength of the reviews. What a good story idea based on a strongly drawn central character. This character simply accepts that his England is the way it should be and tells his personal story, which is in itself interesting. He lives in a dictatorship where - almost without him realising it - he has been protected and given a sort of secluded privilege. Gradually, the (alternative history) England he lives in becomes clear to the reader and the truth of what has been happening around him emerges.
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- Peter

Extraordinary, and beautifully read

I came across this book by accident, attracted to it by the reader, whose work in radio drama I'm familiar with. From the very beginning I was drawn into the novel's slow burn. MacLeod does not immediately lay out the 'alternate' history: that Britain has lost the Great War, suffered economic meltdown (a wheelbarrow of notes would buy a cabbage) and turned to a very English kind of fascism. Instead, we follow Geoffrey Brook (or is it Griffin Brooke-with-an-e?) as he secretly pursues his desires and persists in his surprising academic success. Sinister developments - the trashing of a suburban house and disappearance of seemingly ordinary citizens, the blank on the map where trains pulling cattle-wagons shuffle towards an unknown destination - are described coolly, steadily. As readers, our emotions are never exploited, our sense of 'real' history never assumed. Steve Hodson's narration is by turns wryly ironic and restrainedly emotional; calm and warm, distant and analytical. Some of the scenes must have been extremely difficult to read: they are certainly difficult to listen to. I finished the book, with its many astonishing twists, feeling that it should be compulsory reading for all historians, all politicians, all citizens who talk about 'British values' as if they were immutably wholesome.
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- Alison

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-02-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios