This allegorical tale is a clear comment on the frequent ridiculousness of political systems and the public’s fickleness in embracing ideas.
Politicians have been known to use an array of tactics to distract the public from the real issues at hand, but blaming the weather takes political posturing to a whole new level. That’s exactly what happens in Melvin Rea’s satire, The Island They Towed Away: A Modern Fairy Story.
The book opens in the island nation of Albion with a scandal involving the country’s milk supply. The milkmen are on strike and an election is about to take place. When the vote doesn’t result in a clear winner, the two major political parties hold a second election. Attempting to engage a less-than-enthusiastic public, one crafty politician gets everyone’s attention by linking all of the country’s problems to its cold, rainy weather, and suggests that towing the island away to warmer climates would make everything right. A feasibility plan is put in place, and the towing begins. Albion’s new location is at first appealing to its citizens, but the island begins to drift, shifts 180 degrees, and ends up back in cooler waters—and more problems arise.
Reminiscent of Douglas Adams’s stories, this allegorical tale is a clear comment on the frequent ridiculousness of political systems and the public’s fickleness in embracing ideas. While it’s a fairy tale, it delivers a powerful message on political themes, including government infighting, the relationship of politics and the press, campaign promises, and bureaucratic irrationality.
Told in four parts, the story is a little dialogue-heavy in places, and would have benefited from more narrative and description to move the story forward more effectively. With the many political characters that come and go, it’s difficult to remember who’s who, and it takes some flipping back to earlier parts of the story to distinguish everyone. However, many of the characters have interesting Dickensian names, like Sir Reginald Blunderforce and Lord Scornswark.
Probably the most important character in The Island They Towed Away is the collectivity of the residents of Albion, which demonstrates how everyday people are constantly affected by those in power. In real countries, people sometimes buy into politicians’ platforms and promises, and later come to regret their voting decisions (or continue defending them no matter what). The same is true in Albion, where residents come to understand the implications of the phrase, “be careful what you wish for.” They also illustrate the dangers of political apathy and inactivity when faced with seemingly ridiculous ideas by the powers that be.
The Island They Towed Away is a perfect tale for anyone with a clever sense of humor who appreciates satire and considers themselves a political junkie. It’s not too difficult to find real-life examples of the story’s themes on the front page of any current daily newspaper. Those who know the grass isn’t always greener will get a kick out of The Island They Towed Away.
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