Title: Island of Icarus
Author: Christine Danse
Publisher: Carina Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Historical, steampunk
Length: Novella (28,000 words)
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
In a nutshell: Pleasant while reading but ultimately forgettable, with a hint of steampunk.
Field Journal of Jonathan Orms, 1893
En route to polite exile in the Galapagos Islands (field work, to quote the dean of my university), I have found myself marooned on a deserted tropical paradise. Deserted, that is, except for my savior, a mysterious American called Marcus. He is an inventor—and the proof of his greatness is the marvelous new clockwork arm he has created to replace the unsightly one that was ruined in my shipboard mishap.
Marcus has a truly brilliant mind and the gentlest hands, which cause me to quiver in an unfamiliar but rather pleasant way. Surely it is only my craving for human companionship that draws me to this man, nothing more? He says a ship will pass this way in a few months, but I am welcome to stay as long as I like. The thought of leaving Marcus becomes more untenable with each passing day, though staying would be fatal to my career…
I have been planning to write this review for several weeks but one thing after another got in the way. When I sat down today to work on this, I realized I had to re-read the book because I could only remember the most general details: the first person narrator gets stranded on an island with only one inhabitant and after this and that, they develop an attraction for each other which causes the narrator, Jonathan, to be honest with himself about who he is for the first time in his life. The End.
As I worked my way through the story a second time, it occurred to me again that the writing is quite good, which is a strength. I just wish there was more of a story. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that in a story advertised as M/M with two guys on a deserted island—they are going to end up together. Even though the author tried to spice it up with a little tension around the issue of Jonathan leaving, it was too little too late to really qualify as a conflict—something a story needs to be interesting, in my view.
The other element of the story was the steampunk dimension, an area in which I have not done much reading. Jonathan had a mechanical arm (after losing his real arm in a tragic accident) and Marcus was trying to build a set of mechanical wings so he could fly. I know there are people who are huge fans of steampunk and maybe I am missing something and thus not doing this story justice but, I have to say, the mechanical arm and wings weren’t all that enthralling to me. In fact, in some ways I found the mechanical stuff distracting because I kept thinking, “Where would a person on a deserted island get all this equipment to build these things?” Marcus explained to Jonathan that ships came around every now and then and brought supplies, but the amount of stuff he had seemed more like Gilligan’s Island versus Castaway. Maybe I am being too literal and should have just let myself become more absorbed in the story—but that cycles around to my original objection in that there wasn’t all that much story to become absorbed in!
All in all, if you are looking for a short, pleasant diversion with decent writing, likeable characters, and nice descriptions of a tropical island with a bit of steampunk fantasy thrown in for good measure, this might be the book for you. On the other hand, if you want a story that will stick with you after you have read the last page, this novella will not fill the bill—at least it didn’t for me. But that’s my opinion and others may disagree. Comments, as always, are welcome.