Publishers Weekly, 1994-11-28 Evoking a world made lethal by environmental contamination, this first novel, set on a mysterious, barren island, is part classic coming-of-age tale, part post-apocalyptic parable. A disabled boy named Benny struggles with whether he should search for his brother, who had dared to leave the island-and its few cave-dwelling, primitive inhabitants-despite the threat of vicious ``strangers'' beyond. The story's concrete narrative style lends itself to the harshness of O'Flaherty's fully imagined island life. The rotted environment's often gruesome effects are described in remarkably matter-of-fact detail as Benny catalogues the growths on a bully's skin with the same exacting, methodical eye with which he chronicles changes in the weather, the remnants of civilization the tides wash ashore and how the island itself is dying. But the nuance of the physical landscape doesn't extend to delineations of Benny's inner world. His emotions are described in the bluntest of terms, growing melodramatic as the action picks up. Very linear in its structure, the plot unfolds like a mystery, or an old-fashioned adventure story-What happened to Benny's brother? What might he have found beyond the island?-and it works best as a distinctively poetic page-turner. (Jan.)
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