The Dream Archipelago Slow Read 2021 - Introduction and Schedule



I don't remember when I first read The Islanders, but it was my introduction to author Christopher Priest and to his lovely, imaginary world called The Dream Archipelago. What I do remember is that I was on vacation, and that I was on an island - specifically, the island of Saba, in the Caribbean. Saba is a volcanic plug of an island, thrust from the sea by geological force and surrounded by steep cliffs. It looks very much like the small, rounded, islands depicted on the covers of several of the books set within the archipelago. From the terrace of the cottage we had rented, we could see other islands receding into the distance to the south - St. Eustacia, St. Kitts, and Nevis. If you drove around the bend, as if to go to the airport, there were St. Martin, St. Barts, and Anguilla stretching northeastward.

For sure, I thought to myself at the time, The Dream Archipelago is based on the Caribbean. And maybe it is. But as I read further I thought its surely also based on The Greek Isles, The British Isles, The San Juan Islands, or New Zealand. And now that I've travelled more widely, I can't help but think it's at least partly based on Newfoundland. Like Thomas More's Utopia, The Dream Archipelago is both every place and no place. It is wonderfully realized and feels like a living place - a bizarre, scary, beautiful, living place, inhabited by people like us, though maybe they are just a bit unlike us. If found that was true on Saba, too - the locals were familiar, but something else entirely. One could never be one of them, but one could perhaps dream. The world is like ours - they have jet planes and cell phones, just like we do. But they also have some bizarre natural phenomena, one of which is known as 'mutability' - at times, and in certain places, the world can change in unexpected ways. Our world can too, as we saw in 2020, but as you'll see, it's not quite the same thing.

Like 2020, 2021 will be a pandemic year, and all our lives are different. We all miss things from the way the world was - for me, the thing I miss most is travelling. In any other year, I would look forward to travelling - to Montreal, the Caribbean, or Scotland, for example - all archipelagos. Last year I could not go. This year, travel also seems unlikely. But reading allows our minds do the travelling for us, and The Dream Archipelago is a wonderful place to go. I hope you'll join me this year in exploring it!

We'll be reading the following books, in this order:
1. The Islanders - a fictional guidebook to a fictional place, written by a fictional author. This book is a great introduction, with a gazetteer of places within the archipelago and some short stories to set the mood.
2. The Dream Archipelago - a collection of short stories set on various islands. Mysterious, dangerous, and sometimes racy.
3. The Gradual - a novel set within the archipelago, one of several written by Priest (the others, not covered by this slow read, are The Affirmation and, released just a few months ago, The Evidence).


Here is the discussion schedule for The Islanders, with which we'll start the series. I will post schedules for the other books later - I'm waiting for my print copies to see how I can best break them up. If we stick to the pace of about 20 pages per week on average, we'll end our slow read just before New Year. It's possible we'll end sooner than that, though.

THE ISLANDERS (Link to Google Calendar: )
Week 1: Tuesday, February 2
1. Introduction
2. Island of Winds
total of 24 pages

Week 2: Tuesday, February 9
3. Calm Place
4. Jaem Aubrac
total of 17 pages

Week 3: Tuesday, February 16
5. Rain Shadow
6. Silent Rain
7. Sharp Rocks
8. Large Home / Serene Depths
total of 26 pages

Week 4: Tuesday, February 23
9. Dark Home / Her Home / Evening Wind
10. All Free
11. Spoiled Sand
12. Hanging Head
13. Be Welcome
14. Fragrant Spring
total of 31pp

Week 5: Tuesday, March 2
15. Chill Wind (THE SEACAPTAIN)
Total of 32 pages

Week 6: Tuesday, March 9
16. Peace Earned
17. Grey Soreness
18. Two Horse
19. Remembered Love
20. Half Completed/Half Started
Total of 14pp

Week 7: Tuesday, March 16
21. Bearer of Messages/Fast Wanderer (THE DRONE)
Total of 36 pages

Week 8: Tuesday, March 23
22. Drifting Water
23. Red Jungle / Threshold of Love / Big Island / Yard of Bones
24. Slow Tide
25. Steep Hillside
Total of 14pp

Week 9: Tuesday, March 30
26. Followed Path
27. Path Followed
Total of 23 pages

Week 10: Tuesday, April 6
28. Declare / Sing
29. Spoor (THE TRACE)
30. Hissing Waters
Total of 21 pages

Week 11: Tuesday, April 13
31. Dead Tower (THE GLASS)
Total of 46 pages

Week 12: Tuesday, April 20
32. High / Brother
33. Whistling One
34. Old Ruin / Stick for Stirring / Cave With Echo
35. Cathedral
Total of 20 pages

Week 13: Tuesday, April 27
36. Dark Green / Sir (THE DESCANT)
Total of 22 pages

Week 14: Tuesday, May 4
Reading break - re-cap/discussion of The Islanders

Week 15: Tuesday, May 11
Discussion of The Dream Archipelago begins - see next entry for schedule.


  • 1
    edited January 28


    This is a book of short stories. The stories really vary in length, from under 10 pages up to about 70. This schedule is an attempt to break things up in manageable chunks. Unfortunately, the longer stories don't have numbered chapters, so I've elected to break these up where there is a blank line in the text indicating a break in the story. I've marked these locations with a page number (found in my paperback version) and by copying the sentences before and after the break.

    Hopefully this will work, but if not we can adjust the schedule as needed.

    Week 15: Tuesday, May 11, 2021
    Story 1: EQUATORIAL MOMENT complete story
    Story 2: THE NEGATION part 1 - read up to "In explaining her novel to him, had Moylita Kaine been trying to tell him something?" on page 26 (in the paperback version.)
    Total of 26 pages

    Week 16: Tuesday, May 18, 2021
    Story 2: THE NEGATION conclusion - from "Walking up the warmway to the sawmill" on page 26 to the end.
    18 pages

    Week 17: Tuesday, May 25, 2021
    Story 3: WHORES complete story
    20 pages

    Week 18: Tuesday, June 1, 2021
    Story 4: THE TRACE OF HIM complete story
    8 pages

    Week 19: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
    Story 5: THE MIRACULOUS CAIRN part 1 - up to "Ever since Seri" on page 100.
    26 pages

    Week 20: Tuesday, June 15, 2021
    Story 5: THE MIRACULOUS CAIRN part 2 - from "The ticking clock on Alvie's bed..." on page 100,
    to "I stepped back from the door, puzzled and confused." on page 117
    17 pages

    Week 21: Tuesday, June 22, 2021
    Story 5: THE MIRACULOUS CAIRN conclusion - starting on page 117 with "We were in a part of the seminary to which I had never been." to the end.
    23 pages

    Week 22: Tuesday, June 29, 2021
    Story 6: THE CREMATION part 1 - up to "He returned to the junction of the three, close to the clifftop, and stood there in agonized indecision." on page 162.
    21 pages

    Week 23: Tuesday, July 6, 2021
    Story 6: THE CREMATION conclusion - starting from "As he passed in front of the cabin he saw Alanya standing..." on page 162
    19 pages

    Week 24: Tuesday, July 13, 2021
    Story 7: THE WATCHED part 1 - up to "...induced by the smell of the Qataari rose." on page 208
    26 pages

    Week 25: Tuesday, July 20, 2021
    Story 7: THE WATCHED part 2 - from "Jacj Parren and his wife were staying in one of the hotels down by the harbour in Tumo Town" on page 208,
    to "She had been offered to him and Ordier knew that she was his for the taking." on page 232
    24 pages

    Week 26: Tuesday, July 27, 2021
    Story 7: THE WATCHED conclusion - starting from "On the morning of the fifth day Ordier awoke to a new realization..." on page 232 to the end.
    23 pages

    Week 27: Tuesday, August 3, 2021
    Story 8: THE DISCHARGE part 1 - up to "The next morning the ship sailed from Muriseay Town and once again we headed south towards the war." on page 276
    20 pages

    Week 28: Tuesday, August 10, 2021
    Story 8: THE DISCHARGE conclusion - from "After Muriseay, my view of the islands was different." on page 276 to the end.
    25 pages

    Week 29: Tuesday, August 17, 2021
    Reading Break
    Recap and overall discussion of The Dream Archipelago

  • 1
    edited January 28


    This is the novel in our trio of books. The chapters are quite small, and each week will have us reading several of them.

    Week 30: Tuesday, August 24, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 1 to 6
    30 pages

    Week 31: Tuesday, August 31, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 7-14
    31 pages

    Week 32: Tuesday, September 7, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 15-22
    29 pages

    Week 33: Tuesday, September 14, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 23-29
    30 pages

    Week 34: Tuesday, September 21, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 30-35
    30 pages

    Week 35: Tuesday, September 28, 2021
    THE GRADUAL chapters 36-40
    27 pages

    Week 36: Tuesday, October 5, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 41-45
    26 pages

    Week 37: Tuesday, October 12, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 45-51
    31 pages

    Week 38: Tuesday, October 19, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 52-57
    29 pages

    Week 39: Tuesday, October 26, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 58-64
    30 pages

    Week 40: Tuesday, November 2, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 65-70
    28 pages

    Week 41: Tuesday, November 9, 2021
    THE GRADUAL Chapters 71-79 (the end)
    24 pages

    Week 42: Tuesday, November 16, 2021
    Recap, conclusions, and 'What's next?'

  • 2

    Thank you for the Google calendar.

  • 2

    Paul Di Fillipo reviews the latest in the series. It doesn’t look like there are any spoilers for previous books.

  • 1
    When did you plan to start the discussion? Or have you already?
  • 1
    Sweet I guess I’m a week ahead for once.
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