THE ISLAND by Peter Benchley
Kirkus Star


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Until nearly the halfway point in this tropical sea adventure, it seems as if the author of Jaws may indeed be doing it again. Tension builds expertly--and so does a measure of empathy--as divorced newsmagazine editor Blair Maynard, frustrated with his dead-end routine in the ""Trends"" department, becomes excited by the story possibilities in the unexplained disappearances of boats in the seas around the Bahamas--610 boats, 2000 people vanished in three years! Undaunted by his boss' lack of enthusiasm, Maynard heads for Washington on a weekend to interview a Coast Guard expert, and he takes along his twelve-year-old son Justin. Then, on a wild impulse, he and Justin are heading south to the scene of most of those disappearances, the fly-infested Caicos Islands (""just about as much like Nassau as Entebbe is like New York""). Don't go out in a boat!--that's what we keep thinking once they get there, especially since Benchley has been teasing us with vignettes of various pleasure-cruisers being suddenly attacked by. . . something. But teasing can't go on indefinitely, so Maynard and Justin do go out in a boat--and it happens. Unfortunately, it is ridiculous, and so is everything that ensues for the next 150 pages. Pirates, folks. Yes--vicious buccaneers who've been living in their secret grotto cut off from civilization for centuries, talking Long-John-Silverese, capturing passers-by, killing the adults and indoctrinating the young. Maynard is not killed immediately, however, because a childless female in the tribe wants him to impregnate her (she also forces enemas on him--yucch). And most, idiotically, Justin undergoes an apparently instant brainwash and becomes a bloodthirsty minipirate--killing, fornicating, even foiling his own dad's escape plan. Lots of violent action as a semi-happy ending is contrived, but it will take every smidgin of Benchley's reputation to draw a big audience to this laughable but nevertheless unpleasant comic-book melodrama. (The movie, however, will be a natural for the raucous teenage Saturday afternoon crowd.)

Pub Date: May 4th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday