The Mysterious Islands and Other Stories is a collection of stories that feels like dream within a dream within a nightmare. A.W. DeAnnuntis uses eloquent language and out of this realm imagery to give life to a world that that skirts back and forth between reality and imagination. The stories in this collection will leave you wondering if you can trust the sanctity of your own mind.
On the “Island of Doubt” a shipmate is lost and the crew is desperate to find him. They see a fire raging on the island at night, but there seems to be a force holding them back when they try to approach. In the daylight they find no sign of Henry, and when they return to the ship a horrible storm pushes them a few miles away. The storm subsides and on deck the crew looks around, perplexed, because the island is nowhere to be seen. “We sailed for home doubtful of all we had witnessed and compelled to embrace that doubt and all that it failed to contain.” The crew abandons their mate and their tight grip on reality.
A group of explorers questions their memory on the “Island of the Lost Sailor.” The man who’d led them up a steep ledge has gone missing. They follow a tunnel searching for him, but at the end they are puzzled to have found nothing: “Attempting to recall our path, we each described different recollections of its direction, but we agreed that this path resembled none of them.” The captain is furious they’ve lost a shipmate and orders them to sail home and he will return alone to find the man. Until, of course, he is lost at sea never to be found again.
The most confusing of these islands, though, has to be the “Island of False Dreams.” From the moment the ship gets near the island things start going awry, “When our longboat reached the shore, even that little which we believed we knew fell away like a dissipating fog as insufficient if not deviant.” There is little that makes sense on this island, and there is no way of telling what is real. The sailors are captured in what they believe to be a dream, but what seems to be more akin to a nightmare. They cannot understand what they are seeing, much less explain it, and eventually they have to find their way back to reality.
The Mysterious Islands and Other Stories are wildly imaginative and bordering on the creepy. Readers will find themselves relating to the confusion that the characters are feeling as well as the panic when their companions go missing. A.W. DeAnnuntis is a master of language. You will float through the pages on board each of these excursions, battling these fantastical, yet utterly relatable, battles.