Review- Invisible Islands by Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski
(The Independent) 3 September 2006
This is Scottish author Campbell's first book in English, his previous work being written in Gaelic. It was a wise decision, enabling a wider audience to revel in his extraordinary imaginative writing.
Although reality is frequently distorted in these 21 stories, each based on a different mythical island created by Campbell, it would be wrong to call them surreal. There's always a political consciousness at work, right down to the islands' Gaelic names that never allow a reader to forget the author's background. That isn't to say Campbell is loath to entertain his readers; some of the stories have great moments of humour. On Colathaigh, for example, the eccentric population take their rituals and superstitions to extremes. "Not only did they observe the Sabbath completely... but they did so sun-wise... In other words, what they did on Sunday, and, for that matter, every day of the week, was always done moving from left to right on the meridian, or from east to west on the compass." Having behaved like this for centuries, the Colathaighich had developed internal compasses so finely tuned that they instinctively realised if they were moving an inch in the wrong direction.
There are a few quirks in Campbell's style that might have been better pruned away by a hard-nosed editor (dashes, parentheses and commas flow rather too liberally), but this really is a very special little book.