Have you ever read a sequel that is better than the original?
Well, The Islar by Mark Saxton, I feel is such a book. It is sequel to the underground utopian classic novel, Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright.
For those who don’t know, Austin Tappan Wright was a Harvard-educated
lawyer, who in is his free time created an imaginative world, Islandia, that
is as detailed as Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
Wright died in a car accident at the age of 48 with his work unpublished.
However his daughter, Sylvia, got an editor to look over what her
father wrote to see if it was publishable.
Well, the editor for the novel that became Islandia was Mark
Saxton and he got it published in 1942. Islandia has never got the
recognition like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of
Narnia but has had a small, devoted following over the years and the writer
of this review is a member of that group.
I found out that Saxton got permission from Wright’s daughter to
write sequels in Islandian universe.
So what is The Islar about?
The Islar tells the story of John Lang III, who is the grandson of John
Lang, the protagonist from Islandia. John Lang was the first American to
travel to Islandia and live amongst the natives and learn about the culture.
Well, Lang decides to stay in Islandia. He gets married and becomes the
American connection for the leaders of that country.
In The Islar, Lang III has become a prominent member of the current
government and their attempts for Islandia to become a member of the United
Nations. However, for the UN to accept Islandia as a member they have
requested the country to become modernized.
Because of that, there is a coup to take back Islandia before it can come a
member of the UN. Islandia is a primitive, arcadian culture and the leaders
of the coup want the country to remain that way.
Since Lang III has an American heritage, the current Islandia leaders have
asked him to go America to seek their help in order to defeat the coup.
The novel is written in first-person from Lang III’s viewpoint and I got a
real sense of the history of Islandia and his reluctance to get totally
involved with the country being at crossroads in its history.
Should Islandia modernize in order to be accepted into the UN? Or should it remain the same and hang on to its culture as long as it can?
That question is answered in the novel with a surprising outcome.
The Islar is an excellent sequel and enjoyable to read. You can read this novel
without reading Islandia.
This novel deserves a wider audience and should be recognized as one of the major works of fantasy and utopian literature.