Home > Book, Genre, Review, thriller > Book Review: Death Island by Joan Conning Afman

Book Review: Death Island by Joan Conning Afman

Skeleton hanging from a tree.Summary:
In future America the prisons are so overcrowded that the government needed to come up with a new idea.  So they started sending the worst criminals to a remote island to live out their lives (or deaths).  Naturally, this Lord of the Flies style punishment is also a nationally televised weekly reality tv show.  When Danny is wrongfully accused of serial killing five women with an axe, including his own wife, this reality tv show becomes his stark….reality.

Review:
At this point, the idea of a reality televised punishment type thing run by the government is relatively passe.  A trope of the dystopian scifi genre, even.  However, Afman does bring a unique twist to this basic idea that keeps the book fresh and engaging.

For instance, the inhabitants of the island are not forced to pit themselves against each other.  They sort of naturally divided up into the Village, the Tribe, and the loners.  The Village consists of those men who feel badly about their crimes and are trying to live out their lives with some semblance of normalcy.  A lot of them have formed couples and shacked up.  The Tribe are basically the psychopathic killers who periodically get drunk on their homemade rum and randomly attack others on the island.  The loners are relatively self-explanatory.  Having this type of conflict naturally happen instead of forcing it upon the participants is a nice throwback to The Lord of the Flies.

On the other hand, the fact that Danny proclaims his innocence and is innocent makes the plot far less appealing to me.  There’s no real moral ambiguity at the center that would drive the reader to question her own belief system or the concept of justice in general.  It’s odd to me that Afman chose Danny as the main character when there is a minor character on the island who admittedly committed a crime but perhaps for the right reasons.  This is where the meat of a real story would lie.  Choosing Danny instead makes it sort of like those tv shows people put on for background noise but don’t pay any real attention to.

Of course, Danny is not the entire plot.  We also have the minister’s wife, Charlie, who firmly believes in Danny’s innocence and works toward freeing him.  She provides the connection to the real axe murderer and a really odd romance layer to the book.  Seeing the program how those in America do is interesting, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to travel around to various viewing parties in the US?  Perhaps to those who are blood-thirsty to the casual viewers to family members of those sent to the island, even.  Instead, every time Charlie’s plot interrupts Danny’s it’s distracting.

All of those things said, it’s not that the book is badly written.  It’s not.  It’s just not amazing or even very good.  It’s just good.  It entertains for a couple of hours and then is easily tossed aside.  Perhaps for some people that’s enough.  Personally I was hoping for more.

Overall, I recommend this book to those who are a fan of the concept looking for a light, quick read.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: LibraryThing’s EarlyReviewers

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