Steve Augarde’s new Young Adult book X Isle is set after floods have washed the world as we know it away. Those who survive are desperate to win a place on X Isle, an island where the living is supposedly easy. But two young boys amongst the lucky few to be chosen soon discover that the reality of life under the rule of religious fanatic Preacher John is far from paradise...
Given the book’s setting, we thought we’d ask the author to list some other dystopian or fantastical books that have inspired him. Here’s what he came up with:
“When SFX asked if I’d put together a piece on my top five dystopian/flood/fantasy books, my initial reaction was that this could take a while. I’d struggle to even come up with five such titles, let alone choose five favourites. Yes folks, you have a quisling in your midst, an alien even, someone who has actually read very little of what might be termed SF or fantasy. But then again, maybe I have... The origin of species goes way back, and I find that the broad themes of modern fantasy were in place right from the beginning, an inevitable influence on all who would follow – including me. So here are my picks.
Have to start with The Bible , of course, and the Old Testament in particular, great granddaddy of them all, with more disaster scenarios than you can shake a rod and staff at. The story of the flood, and Noah’s Ark, has so much resonance. It’s been years since I read it, but the idea of a drowned world still grips the imagination, doesn’t it? I very consciously drew upon this when I was writing X Isle, and the character of Preacher John is steeped in Biblical tradition – albeit in an evil and twisted way.
Shakespeare’s The Tempest . Who hasn’t imagined themselves as a castaway? Daniel Defoe, HG Wells, and William Golding each gave us their own take on it. Even dear old Roy Plomley’s Desert Island Discs, still airing after nearly seven decades, gives an indication of how powerful the concept is. So my own combination of an island setting in a flooded world is a far from original idea.
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey . Some of the greatest fantasy adventures ever written, their themes plundered and recycled endlessly. As a child I particularly liked the story of Circe, who inhabited an enchanted isle, and turned Odysseus’s companions into pigs. Maybe Mr Golding liked that one too.
1001 Arabian Nights . A book of boundless imagination and depth – stories within stories, marvel upon marvel. So we have Sheherezade, relating her tales each night to the Sultan Shahryar, her very life at stake, and within those tales we find Sindbad recounting the wonders of his own seven voyages, which in themselves are as richly layered as filou pastry. This kind of multiple point of view is a staple of modern fiction, and we’ve all made use of it to some extent.
The Ingoldsby Legends . Pretty much forgotten now, Richard Harris Barham’s book was a collection of myths and poems and ghost stories, hugely popular in the mid-19th century. Almost certainly an influence upon Kipling and Rider Haggard and HG Wells – great fantasists themselves. As a young illustrator I so admired Arthur Rackham’s later colour plates for this classic. Still do. See them for yourself by clicking here .
A rather odd list of favourites, then, for a so-called fantasy author to cite, but then I’ve never actually considered myself to be a fantasy author. I’m just this bloke who happens to have a head full of weird stuff and big green wings sprouting from his shoulder blades..."
X Isle is released by David Fickling Books on 1 October.