eBook, 416 pages
My Thoughts:In the coming centuries, Earth's population has exploded and covered the planet with endless cities. It is an unwelcoming world for Nadia Stepan, abandoned at age four and left with only a drawing of the Big Dipper and her mother's parting words: "Look to the North Star, and we will always be there." Nadia grows up dreaming of the vacation spot called Lighthouse Island, in a place called the Pacific Northwest where she believes her long-lost parents must be.In the meantime, this bright and witty orphan finds refuge in neglected books, and the voice of Big Radio that emanates from an abandoned satellite, patiently reading the great classical books of the world.When an opportunity for escape appears, Nadia strikes out in search of a dream. She faces every contingency with inventiveness and meets a man who changes the course of her life. Together, they head north toward a place of wild beauty that lies far beyond the megalopolis: Lighthouse Island.
Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jilesis a highly recommended (with a codicil) dystopian novel set in the future.
The earth is an endless, borderless city where water is scare and people are disposable. Lighthouse Island opens: "The winds carried dust to every part of the great cities; left it on roofs and windowsills and uneven streets. It scoured glass to an iridescent glaze. The city covered the entire earth, if people think of the earth as 'where I live.'”(Page 1) "As far as anyone knew, the world had become nothing but city and the rains had failed for a century. (Page 3)
Raisa was abandoned by her parents at age 4: "Her parents had given her a coin purse of red leather—in it were five coins—and a note, and another piece of paper on which were drawn the constellations of the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia’s Chair, and the North Star. Her mother handed her the paper and said, Look to the North Star and we will always be there. You’ll be lonely for a while but things will get better. (Page 2). Raisa became a PD--a Parentless Dependent, and was renamed Nadia Stepan at the orphanage where she grew up.
Nadia, who temporarily went blind as a child, listened to the television but, even after her sight returned, she avoided watching it, preferring to read and memorize poetry. The one thing she heard about on TV that enchanted her was Lighthouse Island and, even though she is not sure it is real, she wants to visit it. When she grows up, events send her running for her life and in search of Lighthouse Island.
James Orotov is a demolitions expert who became a paraplegic. He is fascinated by geography and cartography, even though most old maps have been destroyed and are outlawed. He and Nadia meet and he instantly knows he must help her for he also knows he will be running for his life shortly too.
Lighthouse Island is a beautifully written novel. Jiles does an exceptional job describing her setting, the barren, dusty, decaying, over-populated earth. In a way, Jiles novel brought to my mind China Miéville's Bas-Lag novels and his city of New Crobunzon, like Perdido Street Station. Although they are also very different novels, I think the connection is due to the incredible ability both authors have demonstrated in creating their dirty, dusty, crowded, urban police state cities, although Jiles' Lighthouse Island is definitely set on earth in the future. They both have some steampunk influence.
That brings me to the codicil on my rating. Lighthouse Island started out strong and held my rapt attention for much of the novel. There are some brilliant moments and observations throughout the novel. But, as other reviewers have pointed out, while the writing is beautiful, Jiles also needlessly does some repetition of descriptions, and the plot does move at a very slow pace. Then, in the last third of the book or so, the tone of the novel changes dramatically and it felt like a different novel with an ending that is... interesting, but not conclusive, and it feels somewhat rushed and incomplete.
Thanks to TLC for providing me with a review copy for my Kindle.