Fugue for a Darkening Island

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Fugue for a Darkening Island
Fugue for a darkening island cover.jpg
First edition
Author Christopher Priest
Cover artist Judith Ann Lawrence
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Science Fiction
Publisher Faber and Faber
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 147
ISBN 0-571-09794-4

Fugue for a Darkening Island (published in the US as Darkening Island) is a dystopian science fiction novel by Christopher Priest.[1] First published in 1972, it deals with a man's struggle to protect his family and himself in a near future England ravaged by civil war brought about by the failings of a Conservative government and a massive influx of African refugees.

Plot and style[edit]

The novel's story is told in an achronological fashion, jumping back and forth between several time periods. The protagonist, a former professor of English named Alan Whitman, is initially concerned only with protecting his wife and daughter, but is gradually drawn further into the broader conflict over the course of events. The narrative consists of three broad time periods: the early days of the conflict, in which Whitman goes about his life while being casually aware of the burgeoning crisis, a later period in which he and his family have been displaced from London and are travelling the countryside in search of safety and a final period in which he is travelling through heavily war-torn countryside with a group of male refugees, a setting which initially makes no mention of the fate of his wife and daughter. The narrative jumps back and forth between the different time periods rapidly, creating a stark contrast between the different stages of conflict and the nature of Whitman's character at these different points, as well as generating tension by not illustrating how the increasingly degraded state of affairs has come to pass.


Fugue for a Darkening Island was well received both upon release and in later years, coming third in the 1973 John W. Campbell Memorial Award,[2] while a 2011 review in Starburst magazine stated that it is 'positively prescient in its foretelling'.[3]

2011 Revised Edition[edit]

The novel was re-published by Gollancz in 2011 in revised form, with the text updated and changed by the author.[4]


  1. ^ Fugue for a Darkening Island at christoperpriest.co.uk (retrieved 14 November 2011)
  2. ^ Center For The Study Of Science Fiction, The John W. Campbell Memorial Award (retrieved 14 November 2011)
  3. ^ Niall Alexander, "Book Review: Fugue For A Darkening Island", Starburst, 19 July 2011 (retrieved 14 November 2011)
  4. ^ Fugue for a Darkening Island: A New, Revised Edition of the Classic Catastrophe Novel, Gollancz, 2011. "Foreword" by Christopher Priest, page viii.