Pros: Original combination of ideas with some great tongue-in-cheek humor
Cons: Hangs together a little loosely in some places
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ike Hamill’s Island King is a fun little adventure with some interesting tongue-in-cheek humor about reality TV. (Unlike Fiero’s Pizza [review], the humor worked in this one). Matt and Tien were part of a reality TV show called “Island King,” and they’re returning to the island of Tapiberu for a reunion episode. Tien was the winner of their season, although Matt feels he should have won. When they arrive on the island, Tien is surprised that they aren’t greeted by a camera crew and the producers. Matt thinks this is just the start of whatever curve balls will be thrown at them and determines to immediately find shelter, food, and water. Meanwhile, Audra and Odell are looking for some sort of treasure, and they’ve found a scuttled ship that now holds… nothing. Odell is sure the treasure’s been buried on the island. When the captain of their boat gets a message that there’s some local unrest and says he’s leaving, Odell talks Audra into going to the island with him. On the other side of the island, on the neighboring, larger island, Brooke witnesses an explosion and a wave of people cutting off heads and capturing her fellow tourists. An athlete, she swims to nearby Tapiberu to try to get away from the deadly attack.
The question of whether any given thing was arranged by the producers goes on for a while; apparently the production company has a history of throwing monkey wrenches into things and even breaking the fourth wall occasionally. So when the various people come together, and encounter Don and Hillary and their camera crew, and witness what appears to be the destruction of the boat on which the rest of the TV crew was waiting, no one’s quite sure what’s real and what’s fake. Don and Hillary start suspecting each other of being in on something the higher-ups are up to. Matt seems to have gone a little bit ’round the twist, and views everything that happens as part of some sort of TV show plot. He’s sure that Brooke is an actress, and that the mysterious tunnels Audra and Odell find are there for him and Tien to explore. This is a lot of fun, even as you want to give Matt a shake and tell him to snap out of it.
There are tunnels with traps and puzzles. There’s a paranormal presence on the island that only eventually becomes clear. There are some sort of terrorists(?) running around making things much more dangerous. It makes for an intriguing adventure novel.
It feels a little loose around the edges. There are details that only kind-of get explained. We’re left wondering for quite some time why the bad guys seem to be so set on chasing down Brooke, to the point where they even ignore some of the other people for a while. The ending has a bit of a problem of scale, where something really large seems dependent on something really small (trying not to spoil anything here). Some of the details could have been tightened up a little.
Hamill’s books cover a wide range of subjects and formats. They vary widely in quality, but I keep coming back to them because his books are always interesting.